Podcasts aim to increase empathy for
opinions of others
A Civic Caucus
Review of Minnesota’s Public
Interview May 12, 2017
Present John Adams, Steve Anderson,
Anne Carlson, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Paul
Gilje, Paul Ostrow (chair), Bill Rudelius, Dana Schroeder (associate
director), Clarence Shallbetter, T. Williams. By phone: Audrey Clay,
Attorney, digital media specialist and
podcast producer Anne Carlson describes her podcast series, "
One Thing We Can Agree On,"
as an attempt to increase the level of empathy for other people's
opinions. In the series, Carlson has interviewed people who voted in
the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton,
Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, as well as some nonvoters.
She started the interview podcasts because
she realized on election night that she hadn't talked to people who
voted for Trump and that it was dangerous not to speak to people who
don't think the way she does. In the podcasts, she's interviewed
people about the election, why they voted as they did, and what
their beliefs and values are.
Carlson expresses concern about how many
voters in the 2016 election based their decisions on who they
perceived the candidates to be as persons, rather than on their
She has completed 35 episodes in her
podcast series, with a total of more than 1,400 downloads. She
speculates that most listeners are probably younger than 40 years
Anne Carlson is an attorney with Tessneer
Law Office in Cambridge, Minn. She is also a digital media
specialist, Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professional and
podcast producer. Since January 2017, she has been producing a
podcast series called
Carlson earned a J.D. degree from Mitchell
Hamline School of Law in May 2016 and a B.A. degree from Concordia
College in Moorhead. She grew up in Lindstrom, Minnesota.
Since September 2015, the Civic Caucus has
been undertaking a review of
quality of Minnesota's past, present and future public-policy
process for anticipating, defining and resolving major community
problems. On Nov. 27, 2016, the Caucus issued its report based on
that review, Looking Back,
Thinking Ahead: Strengthening Minnesota's Public-Policy Process.The
Civic Caucus interviewed Anne Carlson, attorney and digital media
specialist, about use of social media and other digital platforms to
disseminate public-policy information to a broader audience.
Carlson began producing her podcast
One Thing We Can Agree On,"
in January 2017. Carlson said
before the November 2016 presidential election, she was confident
Trump would not be elected. She realized on election night that she
hadn't talked to people who voted for Trump. "I didn't feel until
Nov. 8, 2016, that I had anything to learn from talking with them,"
she said. "It was dangerous of me not to speak to people who didn't
think the way I do."
Carlson said after the presidential
election, she started reaching out through Facebook to people who
voted for Trump. She decided to host a series of podcasts, which are
radio shows available to download from the internet onto smartphones
or computers. Her first podcasts were 20 minutes long, but she's
lengthened them to 60 minutes. She has interviewed people about the
election, why they voted as they did, and what their beliefs and
"My goal in the podcasts was to increase
the level of empathy for other people's opinions," she said.
"Otherwise, people will move to surround themselves with like-minded
people. On Facebook, you can click to not listen to people or media
you disagree with. Hillary Clinton voters didn't think they
could learn anything from Trump voters. But if they listen to the
podcast, they'll understand where a person who voted for Trump is
She decided to start with Trump voters and
told them that whatever they said would be considered correct; she
wouldn't fact-check them. She said the first Trump voters she
contacted were anxious to participate in the podcasts.
She's had seven podcast conversations with
Trump voters. "They all made arguments that, even if I didn't agree
with them, I could understand," she said. Many said they thought
Hillary Clinton was untrustworthy. She continued the podcasts with
Jill Stein voters, Gary Johnson voters, Hillary Clinton voters--both
people who liked her and people who hated voting for her--and
nonvoters. Some interviewees were friends of hers and others she
reached out to through Facebook.
Carlson learned that the campaign didn't
inspire some people to vote, because they saw Trump and Clinton as
very similar. "No one was promising that life would be any better,"
A Civic Caucus interviewer asked how much
people based their voting decisions on whether they liked the
candidates. Carlson responded that the issue of likability did come
up, especially with Clinton. Some people wouldn't vote for Hillary
Clinton because of the Monica Lewinski scandal with Bill Clinton.
"The sins of Bill Clinton became the sins of Hillary," Carlson said.
Of the 11 Hillary Clinton voters she's talked to, all but one said
they voted for her only because she wasn't Donald Trump.
So far, Carlson has completed 35 episodes
in her podcast series, with a total of more than 1,400 downloads.
She speculated that most listeners are probably younger than 40
Is there a relationship between the
weakening of political parties and the individualistic way of
looking at things? A Civic Caucus interviewer posed that
question and said he's concerned about the polarity of what Carlson
has described and the idea of political parties, which used to
collect a view that was shared widely. "Parties have less relevance
today about how we move ahead," he said. "Our culture is moving
toward more angry, chaotic, individualistic views."
"You're suggesting that the parties don't
have relevance," Carlson responded. "I would say in this last
election, it really did come down to who is Hillary Clinton as a
person and who is Donald Trump as a person." The interviewer
interjected, "This is exactly the direction the world seems to go,
without any discussion of the platform."
Carlson said, "I agree and it's dangerous.
I see that. I think the 2016 election embodied that. I hope we move
in the direction of talking about policy."
Carlson spends roughly 10 hours editing
each podcast before it appears on her website. She said she
edits out things that don't add to the conversation, like "verbal
crutches," such as "um" or "like." Each conversation lasts up to two
hours and she ends up cutting out about half of it. On her website,
she writes a headline for each podcast and includes several quotes
from the conversation to show what the listener will be hearing
about. She gives each interviewee 24 hours to review the podcast
before posting it on her website.
When asked whether anyone else is doing
anything like her podcast series, Carlson said she hasn't seen
anything like it, although there could be something out there.
It's valuable to interview someone who's
knowledgeable about an issue to get a real understanding of it.
A Civic Caucus interviewer made that remark and pointed to
Minnesota Issues, a weekly public-affairs program on Twin Cities
Public Television that ran from 1976 to 1987.
University of Minnesota
Professor and former Minneapolis Mayor Art Naftalin produced and
hosted 500 installments of the program during those years.
The interviewer said
it was a very interesting way to learn
how the major players felt about various issues. He said Naftalin
clipped newspapers and carefully prepared questions for the program.
"Trying to work out a method for getting well-informed people is
very valuable," the interviewer said.
"I'm not suggesting that all of the people
I'm speaking with are well-informed," Carlson said of her podcast
series. "But it's also worth listening to those people."
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. The Interview Group
includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and
business. Click here
to see a short personal background of each.
S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay (executive director), Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje, Dwight Johnson, Randy Johnson, Sallie
Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
Dan Loritz, Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow
Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmermany,