Say Yes First: It’s How I Learn New Things
“I really hope to give a platform to marginalized voices… marginalized platforms in our community. These (podcasts) are not going to be the people who we necessarily run into at official events and talk to,” says Laura Ellis, director of social podcasting & special projects at Louisville Public Media (LPM).
‘Right place…right time…right attitude!’ is exactly what the Arts Insider scribbled and circled across the top of her notepad halfway through interviewing Laura Ellis, who was recently named director of Podcasting & Special Projects at Louisville Public Media (LPM), and whose creative talents I was already familiar with from her work as a local audio producer, singer, actor, and sound designer.
To the best of her knowledge, Laura’s new job at LPM is the first position of its kind, “with the exception of PRX Podcast Garage in Boston, Massachusetts,” she says. “[It’s the first] definitely in Louisville, and probably in Kentucky,” Laura says.
“I absolutely love trying new things, learning new skills, and taking on new challenges,” enthuses the Peabody Award-winning producer, who started at LPM in 2004 as a talk show assistant. “When I’m doing a sound design and the director asks, ‘Would it be possible to ___?’ I always want to come out of the gate with a ‘yes,’ and reverse engineer how to make it happen. Not only does it make you a great collaborator, but that’s how I learn new things.”
Laura says many of her professional choices have started with good timing. “Up until the last couple years I’ve definitely been a ‘right place, right time’ person. But once I land in that place at that time, I try to be a sponge and soak up as much knowledge as I can.
“People ask how I got into radio,” Laura continues,“and it’s a classic ‘right place, right time’ story: I was in a band with someone who was leaving for the Peace Corps, and his day job was as a talk show assistant at WFPL. I stepped into his role when he left.
“But all the luck in the world won’t help if you don’t work hard and be a good teammate once you get there. I think showing up with the right attitude does make people want to work with you again. In a city like Louisville, a bad impression goes far. I try to remember that and be somebody people want to have on their team.”
With Laura’s new position at LPM, “I (already) produce a lot of WFPL/Louisville Public Media station’s podcasts,” she says, “and there are just so many great stories to tell in Louisville. A part of that is my 2021 launch and running of a podcast incubator, which was borne out of the realization that we can’t tell all the stories ‘in house’ — we don’t have the personnel. Also, not every story is ours to tell, and some should be told by the people who have lived them. The podcast incubator gives those folks the expertise to craft those stories in podcast form, and we’ll provide a platform for getting them out into the world.”
Recurring podcast story pitches have focused on “bringing voices that we don’t often hear to the forefront,” she says, “amplifying stories of people who might not necessarily be sought out for traditional profiles or interviews, which is exactly what I hoped for.
“These people just need the final training wheels to come off and get their podcast projects out into the world,” Laura says.
Mental Health Check: “I can be kind of reactive by nature, so I try to stick by the 24-hour rule. If something makes me mad, I try to sit with whatever my initial reaction is and wait 24 hours before responding. Hardly anything feels as severe 24 hours later (and if it does, it’s probably really worth going to bat about). A full 24 hours isn’t possible in every situation, of course, but do what you can. Even 24 minutes is better than firing off a rash response after 24 seconds!”