Phoebe Judge & Lauren Spohrer AKA Criminal

Stories of people who've done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON September 25, 2015

Discussion

Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
Hi! We are Phoebe Judge and Lauren Spohrer, creators of the true-crime podcast, Criminal. We started the show in January of 2014, and funded it out of pocket for the first year. We'd edit and record before and after going to our day jobs. In January 2015, we joined Radiotopia from PRX. Just this month, we've increased production to twice a month, and finally quit our jobs to make the show full-time. We've both worked in public radio for a long time, and are very excited to be our own bosses. Ask us anything.
Lauren Rosenthal@laurenthal · radio producer / freelance whale
@laurenspohrer Hey, guys! I've been a huge fan of your show from the beginning, and never quite understood how you pulled it off while still holding down day jobs in radio. Do you have any tips for station-based producers who want to launch their own podcasts on the side (other than "just do it (tm)")??
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@laurenthal Hey Lauren! Thanks so much for listening! I don't really know how we did it either, in hindsight, but I will say that there were 3 of us and we only put out one episode a month. So, I'd suggest starting with a conservative goal. We gave up a lot of weekends and nights and even some early, early mornings to meet and edit, and I think we were compelled to work that hard because we were excited about the idea for the show.
Major the Bull@majorthebull · Debutante
@laurenspohrer Hi there.. long time listener, first time chatter. Has involving yourself in someone else's crime story ever caused you personal problems? Do you worry about this?
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@majorthebull Hi Debutante! So far, we haven't had any issues like this, but I do occasionally wonder if it's kind of weird for me to be spending X number of hours a night googling horrible things. Sometimes I imagine what my search history would look like to the NSA :)
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
Thanks everyone. We've got to run off.
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
Thanks so much! See you next time.
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
Hello
Major the Bull@majorthebull · Debutante
@phoebevjudge Do you have a pre-recording vocal regimine that keeps you sounding so smooth?
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@majorthebull @phoebevjudge Ha. Yes--seltzer and lots of blowing my nose.
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
What do you guys think we should be covering? Or could do better?
Dan Franks@dmfranks · Podcast Movement
Would you all ever attempt to cover a very well know case? Maura Murray, as an example?
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
Yeah, certainly, but we'd want to find some new way into it -- like the Michael Peterson case from episode one was really well known (especially where we live in NC), and there was a big documentary about it called The Staircase, but we felt that Larry Pollard and his owl theory let us come to it in a new way.
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
Hi @laurenspohrer! How did you both become so interested in crime? =)
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@alexcartaz Hi Alex. I didn't even know how interested I was in crime until I realized I had collected a ton of old noir novels and then one summer I watched every single episode of Law & Order SVU in a huge binge. But the idea for the show was pretty simple -- we wanted to make something that wasn't already being done in a public radio style (this was pre-Serial).
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
Hey guys. Phoebe is on her way.
Erik Torenberg@eriktorenberg · Former Product Hunt
Hey Guys! What is your process for making an episode and how has it evolved? BTW Lauren you want to reply under the person's question where it says "reply"
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@eriktorenberg Hey Erik, the process is pretty long. We spend a lot of our time looking for stories that really surprise us, or that get us thinking in a new way, and then we usually contact the person and have a pretty long phone conversation with them to see if they'd be a good fit for the show. If they are, we record the interview, and then we transcribe it. We use our favorite parts of the transcript to construct a script, and then we have a bunch of rounds of ruthless edits. I wrote a lot about our process here: https://catapult.co/stories/what...
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi! What prominent unsolved crime most intrigues each of you?
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@ems_hodge I would like to know who really killed JFK.
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@phoebevjudge @ems_hodge Just kidding. I don't know there are so many crimes that I am totally intrigued by. We are working on a missing persons case right now in a tiny little town and no one but the people in the town have ever heard of it and that is what I am thinking about a lot lately.
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@phoebevjudge @ems_hodge I secretly wished this was the focus of serial season #2!
Lauren Rosenthal@laurenthal · radio producer / freelance whale
@phoebevjudge @ems_hodge Do you ever encounter any resistance when you try to report on crime in small or rural communities? If you do -- or I guess, even if you don't -- what do you to make people feel comfortable opening up?
Ky Vy Le Duc@kyvy · filmmaker
Hey there. I love your podcast. :) I want to know more on how you find the stories to work on. How do you begin? What are usually the starting point?
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@kyvy We are always searching for stories. We were both producers on a daily public radio show at one time so we are pretty good at keeping our eyes out for interesting things.
Jacqueline von Tesmar@jacqvon · Community at Product Hunt ⚡️
Hey Ladies! Thanks for being here :) I've met so many people over the past few months that LOVE criminal, including myself. If you had to recommend just a few episodes for a new listener to start with, what would they be?
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@jacqvon I think we both have totally different favorite episodes. I always tell people that Ep. 1 is a pretty good start because the topic is just so wild. I really love Ep. 4 about the mother/daughter coroner team. I also think the episode we did called The Fifth Suspect is pretty powerful. And we did an episode this summer about Petrified Wood theft in Arizona that people seemed to like a lot.
Aurelia@uhhhreally
How does one become their own boss? I started blogging on a true crime podcast. I definitely prefer and envision myself working in that freelance setting. I would like to do something peripherally related to Criminal, even if it's just a blog, that garners a devoted attraction. Since I'm inexperienced, what's your advice on working hard?
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@uhhhreally Hi Aurelia - what's your blog called? Share the link! We never, ever thought Criminal would become our full-time jobs, so we're still getting the hang of it. It's great in some ways, but being your own boss also means that you can drive yourself up the wall asking "is it good enough?" We don't have an editor or boss-figure who stamps it "complete," the way we did in our public radio jobs. So I'd say that if you find the thing that you're really, really excited about -- you will want to work around the clock to make it as good as you imagine it can be.
Aurelia@uhhhreally
@laurenspohrer https://aureliaisblogging.wordpr... All entries minus one about online dating (lol) focus on Missing Maura Murray. My blog is called Aurelia is Blogging.
Mike Coutermarsh@mscccc · Code @ GitHub
Hey! What has been the most memorable or moving moment associated with Criminal since creating the podcast? 😃
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@mscccc Hi. I think for me it was interviewing Will Corporon. His father and nephew were murdered by the KKK member Frazier Glenn Cross last April in Kansas. I spoke with him really soon after that whole thing happened and I found what he had to say very moving.
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@phoebevjudge @mscccc That's is an episode called We Lost Them
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
What type of crime have you not yet covered but hope to?
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@ems_hodge Hi Emily. I've been trying to find a first-person ransomware story. I also have a fantasy about an affable dispute between a drug dealer and customer. What kind of crimes do you think we should cover?
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@laurenspohrer As a follow up to how do you find a story, do you ya'll have lots of unfinished leads that may or may not become stories? Is it hard to find great stories and is it a big time sink? Thanks!
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@alexcartaz we do have a lot of leads that don't pan out. Sometimes we just don't feel that "interested" (for lack of a better term) and sometimes we can't find a first-person storyteller. That's important to us -- we try to avoid experts and instead find people who can speak about something that happened to them or that they did. As the show gets more popular, people email us story ideas all the time. This makes the process a little easier and it's fun to hear from listeners.
Alex Carter@alexcartaz · Operations @ 60dB. Ex-PH Podcasts 😻
@phoebevjudge @laurenspohrer Has producing Criminal changed or informed your opinion of the criminal justice system in America in any major way? If so, how?
Lauren Spohrer@laurenspohrer
@alexcartaz I feel sometimes like I have a clearer understanding of the legal issues in play when I read any given news story, and sometimes I am struck by how often similar types of crime take place and we don't hear about them. Like after we did the episode about the woman who was romance-scammed, we got tons of emails from people whose mothers had been similarly scammed.
Phoebe Judge@phoebevjudge
@alexcartaz I certainly think it has made me realize how complicated the justice system is. I have been really fascinated to think about the differences in state and federal jurisdictions and the nightmare scenarios navigating both can create.