Will Davis, who teaches podcasting at UTC and is outreach manager for the UTC PodLab, and the “Storytelling with Podcasts” class that produced the “Tennessee Valley Across the Table” series
A series produced by students in an honors-level University of Tennessee at Chattanooga “Storytelling with Podcasts” course shows we’re not as different as we might think.
“Tennessee Valley Across the Table,” a series of 22 edited conversations between area residents of differing views and backgrounds, will debut on Tuesday, June 6, on WUTC-FM 88.1—the National Public Radio station on the UTC campus.
UTC students in the “Storytelling with Podcasts” course were given 22 hours of conversations and edited them into a series of 22, four-minute segments that will air—one each week—on WUTC-FM on Tuesdays at 7:45 a.m.
and 9:45 a.m. during “Morning Edition” and at 4:45 p.m. during “All Things Considered.”
“It was two people that, on paper, should oppose each other. Two people who would never meet each other because they're never going to be in the same place at the same time,” said Will Davis, who teaches podcasting at UTC and is outreach manager for the UTC PodLab, where the conversations were recorded.
“Most of the time they were strangers to each other and just talking about what matters most to them,” he said.
“Tennessee Valley Across the Table” follows the same format as “One Small Step,” setting up conversations between two people whose ideas—be they political, social, religious or otherwise—suggest the pair have diametrically opposed viewpoints. The only rule for participation was that conversation must remain civil.
“One Small Step” is an initiative from StoryCorps, the National Public Radio-affiliated nonprofit that records, preserves and shares stories from everyday Americans. In 2022, Chattanooga was one of six sites chosen across the country to record conversations for “One Small Step.”
Between July and December 2022, multiple conversations were recorded and sent to StoryCorps. All are now stored in the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Only a few are chosen to be aired nationally on NPR.
Mr. Davis made use of every minute of the audio recorded for “One Small Step” in Chattanooga in his “Storytelling with Podcasts” class. “Tennessee Valley Across the Table” is the result. Of the six sites around the country to host “One Small Step,” UTC is the only one turning the recorded conversations into a brand-new program.
In the conversations, the two participants sometimes discussed their differences, as would be expected. Other times, they talked about what they had in common, not bringing up differences at all, Mr. Davis said.
Airing the show on WUTC is another way the radio station is a vital part of the Chattanooga community, said Ray Bassett, editorial director for WUTC and host of “Scenic Roots,” which airs weekdays at 3 p.m. on the station.
“Not only does it aspire to be reflective of the community—both the project itself and us carrying it—but also it's another sign of how this university engages the community in as many ways as it can. Trying to meet the community where it can, as many ways as it can,” Mr. Bassett said.