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Recording of one of the episodes of "Florida in Depth."

Tampa Bay Times Weather and Breaking News Reporter Michaela Mulligan (left) speaks with Journalism Instructor Elliott Wiser (right) and USF St. Petersburg student Jordan Kalajian (center) during a recording of an episode of "Florida in Depth."

Podcast series teams up Tampa Bay Times reporters with aspiring journalists

By Matthew Cimitile, University Communications and Marketing

A vital way to learn journalism is by doing journalism. That’s the spirit that imbues a new podcast series created by USF St. Petersburg’s journalism program and the Tampa Bay Times.

“Florida in Depth” delves into some of the biggest issues impacting the region, from climate change to the new Rays baseball stadium, via insightful interviews with Tampa Bay Times reporters covering the stories on the ground. Hosted by Journalism Instructor Elliott Wiser, the podcast not only gives listeners greater access into how such stories come together, it’s also providing essential skills for journalism students. 

"The exciting aspect of the podcast is the opportunity for our students to get real world experience.  They are producing a product that can be heard around the world,” Wiser said. 

The first three episodes of “Florida in Depth” are out now, each focused on a different aspect of how climate change is afflicting the state. To develop each episode, a journalism student meets with a Tampa Bay Times reporter to learn more about the issue to be discussed on the podcast. Students then conduct their own research and develop questions that will be asked on the podcast to dig deeper into the issue. 

“My experience working with reporter Michaela Mulligan for our episode on tropical storms helped me develop better research strategies,” said Jordan Kalajian, a senior at USF St. Petersburg. “I learned more about the topic and came up with questions and organized them in a way that would produce something compelling to listen to.” 

Students also help with scheduling and coordination leading up to the podcast and then work on various studio tasks to produce the final product.

“I hope to get into video production at a news company after graduating and I was able to get some audio engineering experience through this class,” said Alexander Louge, a senior at USF St. Petersburg.

Wiser teaches a senior seminar class, a required course for all journalism students. The class prepares students in finding a job upon graduation. 

To complement the class, Wiser came up with the idea to produce a podcast series with the news organization. He saw it as a creative way for students to learn from reporters directly as well as get crucial experience and resume-building skills as they near graduation. 

Based on responses from the students who helped produce the first three episodes, his idea is paying dividends.

“I personally love the Tampa Bay Times and want a photography position in the future with them, so was looking for some sort of opportunity like this,” said Kelsey Foresta, a student in the class. “Working on the podcast series allowed me to meet reporters, network and improve my resume.” 

Each podcast is directed by Journalism Instructor Chris Campbell with help from Production Assistant Lauren McCue. Nine episodes will be produced this semester and another nine the following semester.

“We’re excited about this new podcast and our partnership with USF,” said Mark Katches, editor and vice president of the Times. “Florida in Depth will be another way that the state’s most essential and largest news organization can reach a broader audience with our most consequential journalism.”

“Florida in Depth” is available on Apple, Spotify and other major audio platforms, with new episodes airing on Monday. 

Florida in Depth Episodes Available Now

Episode 1 – Hot Weather: Tropical Storms with weather and breaking news reporter Michaela Mulligan discusses how warmer water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico are fueling more powerful storms.

Episode 2 – Hot Weather: Beach Erosion with Pinellas County reporter Jack Evans details how erosion has grown more severe and costly for the state’s premier tourist destination.

Episode 3 – Hot Weather: Coral Reefs with environmental reporter Max Chesnes highlights growing heat stress that is leading to unprecedented bleaching events and why the fate of these ecosystems means so much to Floridians. 

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