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How Hutchinson News’ Agland podcast creates a high-touch journalism experience

If you ever get the privilege of working at The Hutchinson News, negotiate a desk next to Kathy Hanks and Amy Bickel.

Oh, the stories they’ll tell and you’ll absorb.

Kathy covers everything and everyone. Amy is the Kansas Agland editor, which means her reporting happens on rural roads that Google Maps barely knows.

On those treasured occasions when Kathy and Amy are both in the office, they do what all community journalists do and swap tales.

Ron Sylvester, the News’ editor, happened upon one of their conversations and had an idea. Two $8 microphones later, the Agland podcast became the world’s way to eavesdrop on Kansas farm life.

Agland is the name of the podcast and part of a well-branded, well-layered effort by The Hutchinson News to connect readers with its agriculture coverage. There is an Agland quarterly magazine, a website, Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel.


You can find the Agland podcast on the web or search for it in the iTunes store. Agland was a 2016 EPPY winner for best podcast. Tap play and you’ll know why.

Even if your idea of rural living is buying veggies at a Saturday farmers’ market, how can you walk away from a podcast with such enticing titles as:

Kathy and Amy are skilled storytellers, and it comes through in their warm, unscripted banter. Ron edits the podcast and applies the music transitions to create a quality experience reflective of high-touch journalism.

Each community has an identity that connects every resident. Understanding and tapping into that connective identity is key to high-touch journalism, i.e., journalism with impact.

Even the term “Agland” captures the essence of this high-touch journalism issue.

What’s the criteria to do journalism with impact?

It needs to:

  1. Be a high-interest topic with a compelling local identity.
  2. Spur high engagement among new and returning readers/listeners.
  3. Offer innovative opportunities for high-level watchdog journalism and storytelling.
  4. Have high frequency in print and digital.
  5. Position the local news brand as a community thought leader.

Don’t dismiss Hutch or Salt City — the locals’ affectionate nicknames for their hometown — as Any Small City, USA.

Does your community college basketball team draw standing-room crowds?

Do you have a hometown museum with a mine shaft and underground storage for a Superman costume?

And do you have a Kathy Hanks and Amy Bickel in your newsroom — outstanding reporters and storytellers who understand journalism with impact has a voice?

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