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The Finch: local high school students tackle complex issues in podcast

Will Fang (l) and Alex Benoit

By Alex Benoit

I am a full-time dual enrollment student at the University of Georgia and Oconee County High School.

A couple months ago, alongside a friend of mine, Cedar Shoals High School student Will Fang, I began The Finch Podcast. We seek to dissect complex issues with a multidisciplinary approach. We began the podcast with coverage of COVID-19. The news was infiltrated by two things: (a) fallacious information and (b) when information was provided, it often came from one of three sources- public health experts, politicians, and economists.

Will and I wanted to change that. So in 16 different episodes, we interviewed a wide range of experts, from philosophers to epidemiologists to historians to psychologists. All about COVID-19. As we began to grow, we decided to branch out. We began our Extempore series, in which we cover topical issues like Police Brutality, Yemen, and Voter Suppression. We also began our Heritage series, where we talk to local business owners and community members in and around Athens, GA. We got our name from Darwin's finches. Seemingly normal birds that held the keys to evolution. We constantly evolve at The Finch, and we believe issues are not always what they appear to be.

While our show started out of Georgia, we now have listeners in 25 states and 12 countries. Another interesting element of our show. It is an entirely student-led team of over 40 dedicated artists, writers, producers, and outreach members. Together, we create art and writing for each episode, have designed a website, created community support and sponsorships, and invited some of the most prominent researchers and elected officials from around the nation. All in 3 months. All from the comfort of our respective homes. Will and I have no experience in media and journalism, but creating this documentary series has made us reevaluate our worldviews.

Our recent guests include Dr. Brian Williams, associate professor of public policy at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia; Dr. John Rappaport, assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago's School of Law; Scott Paul, humanitarian policy lead of Oxfam America; Dr. Martha Mundy, professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science; Dr. Neal Priest, Chief of Emergency Medicine at St. Mary's Hospital; Dr. Michelle vanDellen, associate professor of the Behavioral and Brain Science Program at the University of Georgia; Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz; Dr. John Drake, director of the Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia; Dr. David Bradford, Busbee Chair and professor at UGA's School of Public and International Affairs; and many others.

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