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Denver’s best podcasts for 2022 include alien conspiracies, stoner culture, police reform and more

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Denver’s best podcasts for 2022 include alien conspiracies, stoner culture, police reform and more

Emmy-winning director and playwright donnie l. betts ignored the pull of podcasts for nearly a decade — despite knowing his 23-year-old, nationally acclaimed radio show would likely go digital at some point.

“To me, the magic of it is doing it in front of a live audience,” said betts, whose “Destination Freedom: Black Radio Days” this month released an MLK Day-relevant episode about the 1955 Mississippi lynching of Emmett Till.

“One of our last, pre-pandemic shows at the Newman Center (at the University of Denver) was about gun violence,” said betts, referring to “Tale of the Bullet,” which featured professional musicians and actors. “We had (Colorado State Rep.) Tom Sullivan, one of the parents of an Aurora theater shooting victim, on to talk about it, and other people touched by it who have never really had the chance to discuss the loss of their loved one.”

“Destination Freedom” has continued to evolve since joining the podcasting world in 2013, with downloads and streams replacing most of the 170 public and commercial radio stations it once aired on.

It’s only one of several projects from betts — he’s working on the “Stop Resisting” documentary on policing in America — that’s eliciting national attention, alongside a host of newly relevant Colorado podcasts that have carved out audiences during the pandemic.

“Guardians of the River,” a deeply reported series from Denver writer and producer Cat Jaffee, last year won the Tribeca Film Festival’s Best Narrative Nonfiction Podcast, amid others. It required more than two years of reporting and thousands of miles of travel to paint its nuanced portrait of the pristine Okavango water system and the modern threats it faces.

Fortunately, Jaffee had support from big-name collaborators National Geographic and the Wild Bird Trust.

AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Podcaster donnie l. betts poses for a portrait while discussing his career behind the mic on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022. His “Destination Freedom” podcast recounts Civil Rights movement struggles and looks forward to greater social and racial justice. Though a radio drama, betts does have a portion of the show dedicated to interviewing who he describes as, “people who get sh*t done.”

“I had to drive the length of the African continent seven times, I got malaria and dengue fever, and I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer (while in Africa),” said Jaffee, the founder of Denver’s House of Pod incubator, which has worked to bring women and marginalized groups into podcasting. “But even as podcasting means so many different people, there are these broad assumptions about it. … You’re having unbelievably, meticulously researched work coming out next to someone who recorded their show in an hour.”

That’s not a bad thing, Jaffee said, as House of Pod stands for open access to this media. But audience assumptions about podcasting can work against budding hosts.

Jaffe estimated the cost of a professionally produced podcast at $10,000 per episode, although industry averages are closer to $20,000, she said, given the complexity of writing, fact-checking, editing, music, design and other considerations. Most people don’t have those budgets, and her House of Pod has supported dozens of podcasts since opening in 2018.

In October, Jaffee warned supporters that House of Pod might close due to a mixture of pandemic and funding challenges. That has since been revised, fortunately, as her five-member staff shifted to contract work and her brick-and-mortar location, at 2565 Curtis St., began renting out its studio and focusing on production.

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House of Pod founder Cat Jaffee, left, records field interviews in African while researching her award-winning podcast, “Guardians of the River,” a collaboration with National Geographic and the Wild Bird Trust. (Provided by House of Pod)

Creating podcasts that stand the test of time  — unknowable until that time has passed — gives listeners a stockpile of bingeable material. But there are early candidates. Last fall, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver’s insightful “How Art is Born” podcast allowed Regis University professor and writer R. Alan Brooks to interview different artists (not just comics artists) after he created dozens of episodes of his Black-comics podcast, “Motherf***** in a Cape,” which was formerly recorded live at Munity Information Cafe.

“There are people in the podcasting world who wouldn’t have shows anywhere else right now,” said Brooks, also a  guest on podcasts that have combined feminism and pop-culture nerdery, Black culture and social justice, and lesbian issues and comics. “There’s such a low barrier to entry that you don’t have these gatekeepers trying to box you out. But the audience has definitely become more fractured.”

There are too many Denver-based newsletters, public-radio deep-dives and grassroots cultural titles to list here. But we’ve got a few favorites. If you don’t see yours here, check out past podcast guides and features.

“He’s Just 23 Chromosomes“ Colorado College student Anya Steinberg last year won National Public Radio’s grand prize in the Student Podcast Challenge: College Edition, for this savvy, short-format work. It follows the search for her birth father and its surprising results, according to Corey Hutchins, an instructor at Colorado College’s Journalism Institute. Steinberg also created the “New Narratives” podcast, which showed up on a recent list of the best Asian-American podcasts.

“Within“ How many podcasts are recorded inside prisons? (Not many, we’d wager.) This award-winning show is “committed to shifting the conversation on who is in prison, specifically within the Colorado Department of Corrections,” according to the DU Prison Arts Initiative. The brilliantly humanizing, entertaining series is usually recorded at a trio of Colorado correctional facilities, with Season 1 available as of September 2019, and the virtually crafted Season 2 arriving in September.

“Systemic“ There are plenty of worthy, public-radio podcasts emanating from Colorado that dissect the social, cultural and legislative issues of our time. But there’s only one that’s laser-focused on police reform and other issues facing Black Americans. Host and producer Jo Erickson steers clear of pat explanations in this fascinating, four-part Colorado Public Radio look at historical and contemporary racial injustice, police violence and reform, which launched last spring.

“The Confessional“ Denver-based New York Times best-selling author (thrice, even), recovering alcoholic and Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber finds drama and catharsis in “The Confessional,” an interview-based show that offers “a carwash for people’s shame and secrets.” Religion-themed podcasts are often choir-preaching affairs, but “The Confessional” is a frank, sometimes profane interrogation of faith and second chances that can be a strong complement to 12-step programs and therapy (trust me) — or just make for riveting listening.

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Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell wants to be more than ‘just an offensive coach’

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Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell wants to be more than ‘just an offensive coach’

Kevin O’Connell was an NFL quarterback and an offensive assistant in the league for seven years before being named head coach of the Vikings. But he doesn’t want to be pigeonholed.

“( want to) be visible to the defense, let them know that I’m learning their side of the ball just as much as they are,” the first-year head coach said Wednesday during the first week of organized team activities. ”I can complement them on detailed things they can do within our coverages, within a pressure, how we stop the run, and they can look at me as not just an offensive head coach.”

O’Connell replaced Mike Zimmer, who came from the defensive side of the ball and in eight seasons gave his offensive coordinator lots of leeway. O’Connell, who turns 37 next Wednesday, said it’s “really important” to him for defensive players and those on special teams to know he’s also invested in those aspects of the game.

With that in mind, Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was asked if he thinks of O’Connell as more than just an offensive coach.

“He definitely knows what’s going on, but I don’t think he can fairly say that,” Kendricks said with a laugh. “He’s definitely an offensive coach. He definitely wants to light us up on defense, but that’s only going to get us better on defense.”

Kendricks said O’Connell can be valuable working with the defense.

“I notice from him watching film and him going over film on the defensive side of things, he kind of goes over what the offense’s mindset or mind frame is as he’s talking about the defense,” Kendricks said.

DIVERSITY SUMMIT

From Wednesday through Friday, the Vikings are hosting a diversity coaching summit at the TCO Performance Center. It is being attended by 12 young coaches, 11 from colleges, with the intention being to groom them for possible future NFL jobs.

“It’s really a chance for us to get exposed to them from the standpoint of how do they carry themselves?” said Vikings assistant head coach Mike Pettine, who is heading the summit. “We’re going to do mock interviews, film everything and give them feedback on it. They get a chance to be in our meetings. We’ll talk to them as well (about) the NFL culture and expectations.”

Pettine wanted to have such a summit when he Green Bay’s defensive coordinator from 2019-2020 but the coronavirus pandemic hit and then he was fired from his job.

Among the 12 invitees is one woman, Roseanna Smith, director of football operations/running backs coach at Division III Oberlin (Ohio) College.

BRIEFLY

— The Vikings’ top three draft picks all could end up starting but O’Connell is not rushing anything. First-round selection Lewis Cine has been working behind Camryn Bynum at safety, second-round pick Andrew Booth Jr. has been sidelined as the cornerback recovers from groin surgery and second-rounder Ed Ingram is getting reserve snaps at guard. O’Connell said the Vikings have a “teaching progression” for rookies but they “can earn” spots for sure.

— O’Connell has been impressed with how second-quarterback Kellen Mond has looked during offseason drills. “Kellen’s having a good spring so far, working hard, digesting the system,” O’Connell said. During Tuesday’s second session of OTAs,  O’Connell said Mond “made a couple of checks at the line of scrimmage that he wasn’t prepared play-by-play for” but that he “instinctively” adjusted.

— Tight end Irv Smith Jr., who missed all of last season with a knee injury, did some work on the field Tuesday but O’Connell said the Vikings will continue to bring him back slowly. “He’s going to be a major part of what we do,” O’Connell said. “It’s just making sure that we’re doing it in a really responsible way.”

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Jim Hagedorn family suing widow Jennifer Carnahan for medical expenses

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Jim Hagedorn family suing widow Jennifer Carnahan for medical expenses

Family members of the late U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota say his widow, Jennifer Carnahan, who is running to replace her husband in Congress, hasn’t come through on a promise to pay them back medical expenses related to his cancer treatments.

Carnahan calls it a political stunt.

Two lawsuits filed Monday by Hagedorn’s mother, stepfather and sister allege they helped pay for cancer treatments he received at Envita Medical Centers in Arizona. Carnahan made a “clear and definite promise” to use inheritance she was to receive after his death to reimburse his family members, according to the complaints.

Carnahan said Hagedorn’s estate is required to go through the probate process in the courts to determine how to divide up his assets and there is nothing more she can do at this time.

“Grief affects everyone differently. Handling the affairs of my husband’s estate should be a private matter,” Carnahan said in a statement. “It’s unfortunate a very simple process has been turned into a political stunt.”

Hagedorn died after a long battle with kidney cancer on Feb. 17. He was told in January that there were no more treatments available for him at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which is his congressional district, so he sought additional treatments at the facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Star Tribune reported.

A suit filed by Hagedorn’s mother, Kathleen Kreklau, and stepfather said they used $10,000 of a $25,000 home equity loan to help cover medical costs. In a separate complaint, Hagedorn’s sister, Tricia Lucas, said she charged $10,000 on a credit card to help cover the costs of his treatment and was promised repayment by Carnahan.

Both lawsuits allege Carnahan was to receive a $174,000 death benefit from the United States government after Hagedorn died, as well $174,000 from his life insurance policy.

Carnahan closed her statement by saying she wishes “Jim’s family well and know this time has been very difficult for all of us.”

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Explainer: Why is Wall Street close to a bear market?

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Explainer: Why is Wall Street close to a bear market?

NEW YORK — The bears are rumbling toward Wall Street.

The stock market’s skid this year has pulled the S&P 500 close to what’s known as a bear market. Rising interest rates, high inflation, the war in Ukraine and a slowdown in China’s economy have caused investors to reconsider the prices they’re willing to pay for a wide range of stocks, from high-flying tech companies to traditional automakers.

The last bear market happened just two years ago, but this would still be a first for those investors that got their start trading on their phones during the pandemic. For years, thanks in large part to extraordinary actions by the Federal Reserve, stocks often seemed to go in only one direction: up. Now, the familiar rallying cry to “buy the dip” after every market wobble is giving way fear that the dip is turning into a crater.

Here are some common questions asked about bear markets:

WHY IS IT CALLED A BEAR MARKET?

A bear market is a term used by Wall Street when an index like the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, or even an individual stock, has fallen 20% or more from a recent high for a sustained period of time.

The S&P 500 index slid 165.17 points Wednesday to 3,923.68 It’s now down 18.2% from its high of 4,796.56 on Jan. 3. The Nasdaq is already in a bear market, down 29% from its peak of 16,057.44 on Nov. 19. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is 14.4% below its most recent peak.

The most recent bear market for the S&P 500 ran from February 19, 2020 through March 23, 2020. The index fell 34% in that one-month period. It’s the shortest bear market ever.

WHAT’S BOTHERING INVESTORS?

Market enemy No. 1 is interest rates, which are rising quickly as a result of the high inflation battering the economy. Low rates act like steroids for stocks and other investments, and Wall Street is now going through withdrawal.

The Federal Reserve has made an aggressive pivot away from propping up financial markets and the economy with record-low rates and is focused on fighting inflation. The central bank has already raised its key short-term interest rate from its record low near zero, which had encouraged investors to move their money into riskier assets like stocks or cryptocurrencies to get better returns.

Last week, the Fed signaled additional rate increases of double the usual amount are likely in upcoming months. Consumer prices are at the highest level in four decades, and rose 8.3% in April compared with a year ago.

The moves by design will slow the economy by making it more expensive to borrow. The risk is the Fed could cause a recession if it raises rates too high or too quickly.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has also put upward pressure on inflation by pushing up commodities prices. And worries about China’s economy, the world’s second largest, have added to the gloom.

SO, WE JUST NEED TO AVOID A RECESSION?

Even if the Fed can pull off the delicate task of tamping down inflation without triggering a downturn, higher interest rates still put downward pressure on stocks.

If customers are paying more to borrow money, they can’t buy as much stuff, so less revenue flows to a company’s bottom line. Stocks tend to track profits over time. Higher rates also make investors less willing to pay elevated prices for stocks, which are riskier than bonds, when bonds are suddenly paying more in interest thanks to the Fed.

Critics said the overall stock market came into the year looking pricey versus history. Big technology stocks and other winners of the pandemic were seen as the most expensive, and those stocks have been the most punished as rates have risen.

Stocks have declined almost 35% on average when a bear market coincides with a recession, compared with a nearly 24% drop when the economy avoids a recession, according to Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist at LPL Financial.

SO I SHOULD SELL EVERYTHING NOW, RIGHT?

If you need the money now or want to lock in the losses, yes. Otherwise, many advisers suggest riding through the ups and downs while remembering the swings are the price of admission for the stronger returns that stocks have provided over the long term.

While dumping stocks would stop the bleeding, it would also prevent any potential gains. Many of the best days for Wall Street have occurred either during a bear market or just after the end of one. That includes two separate days in the middle of the 2007-2009 bear market where the S&P 500 surged roughly 11%, as well as leaps of better than 9% during and shortly after the roughly monthlong 2020 bear market.

Advisers suggest putting money into stocks only if it won’t be needed for several years. The S&P 500 has come back from every one of its prior bear markets to eventually rise to another all-time high. The down decade for the stock market following the 2000 bursting of the dot-com bubble was a notoriously brutal stretch, but stocks have often been able to regain their highs within a few years.

HOW LONG DO BEAR MARKETS LAST AND HOW DEEP DO THEY GO?

On average, bear markets have taken 13 months to go from peak to trough and 27 months to get back to breakeven since World War II. The S&P 500 index has fallen an average of 33% during bear markets in that time. The biggest decline since 1945 occurred in the 2007-2009 bear market when the S&P 500 fell 57%.

History shows that the faster an index enters into a bear market, the shallower they tend to be. Historically, stocks have taken 251 days (8.3 months) to fall into a bear market. When the S&P 500 has fallen 20% at a faster clip, the index has averaged a loss of 28%.

The longest bear market lasted 61 months and ended in March 1942 and cut the index by 60%.

HOW DO WE KNOW WHEN A BEAR MARKET HAS ENDED?

Generally, investors look for a 20% gain from a low point as well as sustained gains over at least a six-month period. It took less than three weeks for stocks to rise 20% from their low in March 2020.

___

Veiga reported from Los Angeles.

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