San Antonio journalist Sam Sanders launches new podcasts

At some point during the pandemic, it emerged journalist Sam Sanders that while he loved what he did on NPR, his professional home for more than a decade, he didn’t necessarily need to stay there.

“A lot of what we’ve all been through during the pandemic has been sort of figuring out what balance we want to have with our jobs and our lives, and I think a lot of the jolt with that for me has The summer of letting work be part of my life is a little less rigid, a little less constrained and as open as the rest of my life,” Sanders, a graduate of Clemens High School in Schertz, said in a phone interview.

“There was a version of my career where I thought it had to have a very clear, linear path, which meant that I would only be in public radio, climbing that ladder for 30 or 40 years. And I just had that moment where I realized, during the pandemic, no, you can do a lot of different things in a lot of different places, and that’s okay.”

So Sanders, a Seguin native who spent his teenage years in San Antonio, decided to leave NPR and chart a different path for himself.

Luckily for fans of his work on “It’s Been a Minute,” the NPR podcast and radio show he helped create and host for five years, that path has led to two new podcasts. “Into It,” part of pop culture and entertainment site Vulture, focuses on all things pop culture. “Vibe Check,” which is a little broader, grew out of a pandemic group text Sanders had with two close friends.

The first three episodes of “Into It” should appeal to NPR fans of Sanders.

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There’s his thoughtful approach to interviews, as well as his contagious laugh. And there’s the obvious joy he takes in discussing topics like independent film distributor A24, Beyoncé’s latest album, and some content creators’ reluctance to let franchises end. There’s one thing, however, that fans might find lacking: In early episodes, there’s no appearance from Sanders’ Aunt Betty, whose warm voice introduced most episodes of “It’s Been a Minute”.

That changes with this week’s episode.

“Before I got this call, I was finishing up a copy for a segment that’s going to run this week on the ‘Yellowstone’ show politics controversy, and we have my Aunt Betty hosting this segment because she’s the biggest ‘Yellowstone’ fan,” Sanders said. “So ‘Into It’ listeners will hear Aunt Betty on the August 18 episode, and will likely hear her even more after that.

“I know she’s the biggest attraction in all the sounds I make. And I’ll always have her in the mix.”

The guiding idea behind “Into It” is to give pop culture the kind of attention Sanders thinks it deserves.

“We learn to interpret our identities and our roles in this world through the scripts, visuals and models presented to us through popular culture,” he said. “They are how we teach ourselves to behave as a culture, as a society.”

Each episode ends with “Culturegeist,” a segment in which Vulture staffers and others share TV, movies, music, and other things that currently haunt them, for better or worse. Soon, listeners will be able to share their own obsessions, Sanders said.

His personal and recurring culturegeist is the cultural impact of the explosion of content from a vast array of sources.

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“If you think back to 20 or 30 years ago, there were three big networks, and there were these sitcoms and shows that were behemoths, shows like ‘Friends’ got 40 million viewers per episode. There was bigger and more gargantuan successes because there were fewer players,” he said. “And now, in the age of streaming, there’s so much to consume that it almost feels like climbing the Tower of Babel some days. There’s too much to watch, nothing sticks, and fewer and fewer things seem great.

“I am constantly obsessed with what this change does to the very idea of ​​major movie stars.”

Pop culture is also the focus of “Vibe Check,” presented by the Stitcher podcast network. The podcast, which debuted this week, features in-depth discussions between Sanders and two of his friends: writer and poet Saeed Jones, whose work includes the award-winning memoir “How We Fight for Our Lives,” and Zach Stafford. , the former editor of The Advocate and co-producer of the Broadway musical “A Strange Loop.”

“The beauty of this show is that in many ways we share similar minds,” Sanders said. “We are three same-age black queer journalists obsessed with popular culture and all things culture. All three of us were born and raised in the South, and we are able to find a sense of community and camaraderie in our shared experiences, life stories and upbringing, but with everything we talk about it, we bring a different perspective and a different frame of observation.

“If I wasn’t making this podcast to get out into the world, I’d be recording these conversations just for me. I think they’re so good.”

Sanders is based in Los Angeles these days but is returning to Texas as soon as he can. He hopes to eventually split his time evenly between the West Coast and San Antonio, which he considers his hometown. He came close during the pandemic, when he spent six months in Alamo City. He feels that this experience has added a dimension to his work.

“I still think I would like to have a foot in more than one place,” he said. “It will light up the work a bit more and help me see the whole country better and not just a really fun, sunny bubble in Los Angeles.”

[email protected] | Twitter: @DeborahMartinFR