Slow Journalism from the Green Mountain State

 

Erica Heilman’s podcast Rumblestrip Vermont is a gem. She brings listeners on an intimate journey into the lives of her neighbors, of her Vermont community. Our world would certainly be a better place if we could all stop and listen to each other like she does.

Since I discovered this podcast, I’ve found dozens that are my favorites. Like these two stories about food shelves or pantries in Vermont–”Hunger is Boring” and “When the Food Runs Out.” I had my students listen to them after we read George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, a reminder that we still have hunger and that, as Orwell wrote, it’s still boring and still stupid in a world that could feed everyone.

There’s also a ton of joy. “Cheerleader” is all about the pure joy of being young and full of spirit–the sound of a school gym rocking. Or any of the episodes with Scott Carrier reading the police reports (they have runaway cows in Vermont!)…But this particular episode, “One of those Teachers,” a quiet interview with a former school teacher, hits all of the right notes. With the ambient evening noises of Vermont in the background, Heilman’s neighbor speaks, tells her story, and we are all the better for having listened.

Last summer, somewhere near the Vermont border (just after an ice cream stop so the kids were happy), I spotted the above photo. Taggers are very sophisticated in Vermont. My read: it all matters. Life is complicated. Stories are complicated or should be. If the storyteller or the documentary maker gets it right then she appeals to all of these–ethics, emotions, logic.

The podcast’s tagline line is “Good stories take time.” True. These stories demand your attention and demand that you pause. In that regard, Erica Heilman’s slow journalism is good for your health.