In 2019, County Cable Montgomery employee Derrick Kenny was looking for a new, creative way to get information out to residents of Montgomery County.
Twenty-three episodes and more than 850 total downloads later, the “What’s Happening MoCo?” podcast, which launched last year, has become a way for Kenny to discuss important county-related topics and connect people with local resources.
Kenny, CCM’s digital media manager, has produced episodes on topics ranging from the county council budget to the 2020 Census. The goal of the podcast is to make government information easier to understand—and thus more accessible to residents, he says.
“I think it’s important for listeners to be able to trust what’s being said, and that it’s not a piece of propaganda,” Kenny says. “It’s real people, answering real questions in real time.”
At first, “What’s Happening MoCo?” was largely made up of pre-produced content. But since the coronavirus pandemic began, the show has taken on more of an interview format, often with county officials. Those conversations can range from a few minutes to under an hour.
“I’m trying to keep things organic and authentic. So, if the conversation requires 50 minutes, I wanna give it 50 minutes,” he says. “Since it’s a podcast, we’re not limited.”
Kenny, who studied broadcast journalism at Howard University, says he’s enjoyed conducting interviews and hopes to continue the process in future episodes.
“I’m starting to appreciate the interview format and the journalism part, and just bringing people information. That’s an important charge these days—bringing people information that is accurate and honest and sincere,” he says.
However, some interviews have gone beyond local government officials. In a recent episode, Kenny sat down with Marcus Johnson, an award-winning jazz musician and entrepreneur who grew up in the county.
All in all, each episode takes Kenny about three hours to produce, including the interview portion. He uses the software ECam to record and stream his interviews to YouTube and Facebook, and he hopes to be able to livestream the interviews to Facebook twice per month.
In the future, Kenny hopes to talk about how COVID-19 has impacted county businesses, a topic that several residents have told him they’d like to hear more about. Additionally, he’d like to meet up and have conversations with residents in places such as parks and restaurants, when it is safe to do so.
“When the county opens back up and the opportunities are there, I’d love to go out and record live remotely, and cover topics that people care about,” Kenny says.
Kenny’s not afraid to get real about serious topics on the podcast. In October, he did an episode on suicide prevention. He interviewed Rachel Larkin, director of crisis prevention and intervention services with EveryMind, which provides mental health services in the county.
The two discussed how the pandemic has affected mental health—especially among young people—and shared resources for county residents who want to seek help.
“One of the most important things in that podcast was not only providing tools to help understand some of the signs of someone that might be contemplating suicide, but what are the resources to look to if you have someone, or if you’re contemplating it?” Kenny says. “This is another way that we can share that important information with residents.”
As the podcast grows, Kenny’s goal is to see more engagement with residents on social media and to hear their suggestions about which topics he should dive into.
“My call to action will always be to ask the question, ‘What’s happening, MoCo?,’ because you deserve the answers,” Kenny says. “I don’t wanna just feed people stuff, I want to give them what they want to hear.”