Author: Megan Schaffner, junior
After meeting through the Rose Hill Honors Program, seniors Kacie Candela and Andrew Seger started working together on their WFUV podcast, Prickly Politics. The podcast covers a range of topics, providing crucial information for the everyday listener to become an informed voter in New York elections. With two complete seasons, Prickly Politics has gained attention and traction, receiving shout-outs from multiple New York reporters and WFUV alumni. Kacie and Andrew recently spoke to me about the podcast’s beginnings, both past and future projects, and how their work on Prickly Politics has shaped their experiences in Honors.
Q: Can you introduce us to the podcast?
Kacie: The podcast is called Prickly Politics– prickly like a cactus. It started two years ago and I was one of the original co-hosts. Andrew came on for the second season, and we were covering Mayor De Blasio’s 2017 election for his second term. Then this last election season, we covered the midterms in New York, focusing on Governor Cuomo’s race, the Democratic Primary with Cynthia Nixon, the Attorney General race — which was a surprise race because Schneiderman had to step down last year –and other crazy midterm and state legislature [elections].
Q: So how did the podcast get started? Kacie, you said you were an original member?
Kacie: We definitely saw a need at the [WFUV] station for a politics podcast, because a lot of our day-to-day coverage, which Andrew and I have been doing for years, is day-of or day-to-day press conferences. It’s not really a zoomed-out guide for voters to be educated moving into an election season. So, for example, if you care about the environment, [we cover] what you need to know about the candidates’ stances on the environment for you to be an educated voter. We spent an entire episode talking about that, talking about the [environmental] issues in New York state, and talking to a Green Party candidate.
Andrew: I think the big idea was to be a go-to resource for all things on the election, whereas if we were doing day-of reporting on, say, Governor Cuomo talking about an issue, this kind of [big picture] stuff gets swept under the news cycle. [We wanted to have], like Kacie said, episodes devoted to topics, [such as] months of a candidate’s policy stances and speeches — just being able to be the resource for people wanting to know what’s going on in the election.
Kacie: It’s for the everyday person. A lot of talk shows are geared towards insiders who are following the day to day, political nitty-gritty, and we were hoping to reach a wider audience of people who may not know anything about local politics and just want to be able to make a good decision on election day.
Q: Has the podcast grown or changed in any ways you weren’t expecting?
Andrew: I think we got a solid following this season. That didn’t [necessarily] surprise me, but I was impressed by how much of a reach we had and how many influential reporters or political heads listened to us. We got a lot of shout-outs on Twitter from big New York politics reporters. Scott Detrow, a WFUV alum and the NPR congressional correspondent, is a big deal and for him to shout us out on Twitter, it’s a really rewarding feeling to know that people are listening and people are taking stuff away from this.
Kacie: And on that note, FUV has provided us with a network of really amazing, supportive reporters who have maybe stayed in New York, maybe went national, who want to support people who work at FUV and our work. We’ve had a handful of FUV alums who are still covering New York politics join us on the show about what they’re covering right now. Having their support, their Twitter retweets, things like that, has made us feel like we’re part of this wider community.
Q: Has being involved in this podcast shaped any of your course decisions or the way you approach Honors course readings or classwork?
Andrew: Actually yes! It’s been very helpful tying in current events to different course topics, especially studying the Modern period [in the Honors curriculum]. For example, in an economics and ethics class with Professor Mary Beth Combs we focused on contemporary issues that we know are affecting New York. Or, in [our modern religion class], knowing what’s going on in New York’s Jewish community and the political turmoil surrounding that. In the craziest circumstances, I can say “Oh, this is going on in New York right now!” and it relates so perfectly to what we’re talking about in classes now at the end of the Honors curriculum.
Kacie: I have a lot of distinct memories of incorporating things that I’ve experienced working at FUV in my Honors classes and I think that more than half the time, the professor [had no idea]. It’s so interdisciplinary because the things we learn about in Honors are applicable to Society [as a concept], and things we cover at FUV are societal problems of poverty, healthcare, immigration and education [at a local level]. Things that we’ve learned about in a global, historical context still relate to New York.
Q: What’s next for Prickly Politics?
Andrew: So we’re working on a new season of the podcast which is a little different than the way the other two have worked. They’ve been elections and political coverage, and now we’re doing a deep-dive investigative series into the problem of sexual harassment and misconduct in Albany. Within the State Senate and Assembly, there’s historically been this culture and tolerance of corruption and misconduct, so we’re doing a little bit historical, but mostly recent, overview talking with survivors who have lived through this harrassment, either in Albany or in different district offices around New York City and New York state. We have already talked to legislators who have served alongside these perpetrators and [we are hoping to] also talk to new faces who are bring change to the issue — either new politicians who are entering their first time in office or advocates who are taking a stand against the sexual harassment in Albany.
Kacie: The incidents we are looking at are from the last 20 years or so, basically the start of the century until now. Some things have changed, but some things haven’t, and our hope for the project is that we can shine a light on how the institution of the New York State Legislature and ethics bodies have really failed survivors of workplace harassment and misconduct and how efforts at reform have been successful thus far, looking to the future. It’s probably my favorite thing I’ve ever worked on – and that’s saying something because I love covering elections.
Andrew: We’re looking forward to it! It’s exciting, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
Kacie Candela is an IPE (International Political Economy) double major and Philosophy minor. She will be attending law school after graduation.
Andrew Seger is an IPE major and Philosophy minor. He hopes that his two past internships at CNN will help him land a job there in May and plans to pursue a career in news production.