BYU alum Dianna Douglas uses podcasts to tell stories and educate listeners
Dianna Douglas has worked as a journalist for NPR, as a writer for the University of Chicago and now as a freelance podcaster. Douglas’s extensive work experience in radio and writing helped prepare her for her current occupation, creating podcasts. Before her life in the professional world, she was a BYU student working at the Daily Universe.
“At the Daily Universe, you get to make your worst mistakes in a safe environment where the stakes are low and there are really supportive adults around to help you,” said Douglas. “I’m grateful that I was required to work there as a student.”
Douglas graduated from BYU in 2002 with a major in print journalism and a minor in English. When she graduated, Douglas already had some radio experience working as an intern for KUER public radio in Salt Lake City.
“I really like public radio. I like the mission, the people, the ethos of its journalism,” said Douglas. “Radio is a very intimate medium.”
After her time at KUER, Douglas worked as an intern at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. During her eight years with NPR, Douglas traveled to Baghdad and Afghanistan to cover the wars from the front lines. She also chased national news stories around the country, like elections and the Olympics. After getting married in 2010, Douglas moved to Illinois with her husband and wrote for the University of Chicago.
“So many of my colleagues at the university had been reporters at the Chicago Tribune,” said Douglas. “Working with them helped me become a better writer for long-form writing. It was a wonderful experience.”
After living in Chicago, Douglas and her family moved to Dallas, where she worked in the public radio network again as an education reporter at KERA. When her family moved back to Washington D.C. Douglas began creating podcasts for some of the national media companies based in the D.C. area, including The Atlantic, Slate and the Washington Post. Her most recent podcast was for the Deseret News.
“Podcasting has been a really great way for me to stay in journalism while raising four kids,” said Douglas. “I think the general feeling of collaboration and cooperation among podcasters is beautiful.”
Although Douglas has found a love for the podcasting world, the pursuit hasn’t come without trials. For Douglas, the hardest part about being a freelance podcaster is accepting rejection.
“I decided 2019 was going to be my year of 100 rejections. I felt like that would be a good way to get over the sting of rejection and move forward,” said Douglas. “Sometimes you pitch things and you don’t even get rejected — they just don’t even bother to respond. I was pitching almost every day, and every time I got a rejection I felt like the biggest loser in the world.”
During her “year of 100 rejections,” Douglas finished creating a podcast about the history of women’s voting rights. The podcast, called Zion’s Suffragists, focused specifically on women in Utah leading the country in voter equality.
“It was a history that was totally unknown to me, and it was challenging for me to find a way to retell in a way that was acceptable to most people,” said Douglas.
The challenge didn’t hold Douglas back from creating the podcast. The Deseret News picked up the podcast and published it earlier this year as Utah celebrated the 150th anniversary of women first voting.
“I wanted to find a way to make this topic really accessible for people who aren’t historians. A historical podcast is a challenge because unless it relates to people right now, people aren’t going to listen,” said Douglas. “I wanted to make it listenable, accessible and interesting for everybody — not just women, historians or feminists.”
For her next project, Douglas is working on a podcast to help children learn Spanish.
“During this pandemic, when every parent is looking for wholesome ways to entertain and teach their kids, I’m really hoping that there will be more programming that is educational, wholesome and high-quality for kids of all ages,” she said. “My kids love podcasts, but they run out of options.”
For Douglas, the most inspiring aspect of working in the podcasting industry is the community of people she has met.
“The community of women that I came in contact with for the suffragists podcast included some really incredible people, including a lot of BYU graduates,” said Douglas. “Their creativity, dedication, passion and success helped me to power ahead. They helped me feel like what I was doing with this story mattered.”