Podcast Idea: Not Dead Yet

A podcast about almost ghost towns, and the people trying to keep them alive.

Description: There is no official definition for a ghost town. It’s some combination of economic failure, exodus and forgetting. Ghost towns draw tourists from all over the world, to walk through a kind of eerie parallel universe; to imagine the people who once lived here, where they are now, and what this place might be like if the town hadn’t died. But before you become a ghost town, you have to die. And on Not Dead Yet, we visit ten towns on the verge of entering the dead-zone. What is it like to live in a place on the edge of life? Can you save a town from becoming a ghost? Why should you even try?

Host: Breana Knight*

Executive Producer: Rose Eveleth**

Comps: Quiet Town meets this very old episode of This American Life

Sample Episode 1: Cherry, Illinois was never a big town. At its peak, in 1920, only about 1,000 people lived there. But today, the population is about half that, hovering at around 450. But Cherry is notable for one big reason: it’s the site of the third most deadly accident in coal mining history. In 1909, a fire shot through the mine killing 259 men and boys working there. The accident led to changes in the law around workers compensation and coal mining as well as child labor laws. Today, plenty of people who live in Cherry have ancestors who worked in that mine, but there’s not much else there. So why stay? Why live in a place that is listed as a “mass grave” on some roadside attraction websites?

Sample Episode 2: Donaldson, Minnesota is home to 42 people, and one of them is famous. Josh Donaldson (yes, his last name is the same name as the town) was recently drafted to play baseball with the Minnesota Twins for a deal that will net him about $92 million dollars. As Michael Clair points out, “there are not enough people in the city to field two complete baseball teams,” and yet it produced one of the most sought after young players this year. You might think that in a town of 42, where the median income is $26,875, a $92 million deal might have everybody (literally everybody) talking, but when Clair called up some folks in town, plenty of them said “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Does a big baseball star change a town’s identity? Can Josh Donaldson save his home town from going to the ghosts? Do they want him to?

Audience: People interested in “small town America” but want a show that goes beyond the tropes presented in major coastal newspapers papers about what that looks like.

If you have a podcast idea that you’d like to see me turn into a Podcast Idea, send it my way! rose.eveleth@protonmail.com, or just reply to this email.

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* Hosts and guests have not signed on in any way. I’m making stuff up here!

** This newsletter is for fun. Ideas belong to their initial creator, credited here as Executive Producer. Don’t be a dick and don’t steal these ideas. If you love a show, and really want to get it made, get in touch with the person who came up with it.

Vector art in the logos this week provided by Vecteezy, because I’m not actually an illustrator.

Long live independent podcasts. Long live bad ideas.