Seventy-four seconds — the time that elapsed between the late Philando Castile being stopped while driving in Falcon Heights last summer and the last of seven shots fired into his car by police officer Jeronimo Yanez — is the focus of a new Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) News podcast.
Reporters Jon Collins and Riham Feshir tell the backstories of the two real-life protagonists: Castile and Yanez, whose manslaughter trial begins this week, in the first two episodes of :74 Seconds that premiered May 22.
The first episode, “Who was Philando Castile?” recalls the young man’s last day, leading up to that fateful night on Larpenteur Avenue.
The second, “An Officer Charged,” talks about the St. Anthony police officer’s background, including when Yanez first stopped Castile on another traffic stop.
Both episodes are less than a half-hour long and are done in documentary style. They serve as “prelude” to MPR’s coverage of the Yanez trial, said Managing Director Nancy Cassutt in a MSR phone interview. “We thought we could introduce[Castile and Yanez], their stories, and what led up to the [shooting]. You can’t get that in three minutes of radio.”
The podcast title came from reading accounts of the shooting. “That’s why we ended up calling it :74 Seconds. [It] happened in a blink of an eye,” said Cassutt.
She explained, “There are a couple of reasons why we wanted to do this. One, it’s the first case in Minnesota where a police officer was charged with manslaughter.”
Also, the Castile case got national attention and finding the best way to cover the Yanez trial to a “fractured” audience was important, Cassutt pointed out. “We have the radio audience, our web audience and now we have a podcast audience. We wanted to try a different platform so we chose the podcast.”
Although this is MPR’s first podcast largely based on a trial, such coverage using podcasts has been done by other public radio stations around the country, noted Cassutt. “This format has been created [elsewhere]. If something crops up in the trial that needs more time, we are going to [do] a pop-up podcast. We have been very sensitive to the fact that this is a trial, and we want to really paint a picture and get an idea of what’s at stake here.”
MPR is celebrating its 50th year on the air this year, and the podcasts present yet another way to grow its audience, said Cassutt. “Our strategy is to reach more people. If we are doing it on multiple platforms, then we are able to do that. If we just continue to do radio, then we are not going to be relevant.”
“When you are on the radio, audiences tune in and tune out. On the web, you can lay it out a little more but not everybody uses our website,” she continued. The podcasts therefore are “another way for our regional audience” as well as an expected national audience, to be informed. “We are in unprecedented news time[s], and people are really listening a lot,” she said.
Finally, could :74 Seconds, which is produced by Tracy Mumford and Hans Buetow, turn into a permanent feature similar to ABC’s Nightline that first premiered in 1979 to cover the Iraq hostage crisis, but later turned into a late nightly news program on weeknights?
“This is a hard news, seriously reported, in-depth, long-form reporting process. Yes I can see us doing this again,” concluded Cassutt. “We may do it with another trial in the future or [we] might do it with a daily news wrap.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can listen to a preview of the podcast here and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.