How ABC News Digital is reaching a new generation 25 years later

ABC News' Digital teams up with the podcast 'Start Here.'

May 12, 2022, 5:49 AM

It's a sign of the times.

As ABC News Digital celebrates its 25th anniversary delivering news around the clock, some of its strongest features have found a new home on the new news frontier, the streaming world.

Each weekday morning, ABC News' flagship daily news podcast, "Start Here," features original reporting on the day's top headlines and one of the ways it has crafted more than 1,000 episodes over the past four years is through its collaboration with the Digital team.

"Some of the best, most deeply reported journalism at ABC News comes from the team at ABC Digital for all of the different ways in which Digital covers the news," said "Start Here" host Brad Mielke.

"Start Here" generally features four varied stories in a 20-minute episode -- for a "smorgasbord of stories," producer Kelly Terez said.

"Every day the listener is getting something new," she said.

Compared to other forms of media, the podcast format provides a more intimate experience with the audience, Mielke said.

"It's something where you are becoming part of somebody's daily routine in a way where they feel like they know you," he said. "And to do that it has to reek of authenticity."

PHOTO: Brad Mielke, host of ABC's daily news podcast "Start Here."
Brad Mielke, host of ABC's daily news podcast "Start Here."
Lorenzo Bevilaqua/ABC

When scouring ABC News' website for potential stories to feature on "Start Here," original elements from multimedia pieces stand out to Terez in bringing that sense of authenticity and intimacy.

"From my producer point of view, it's like, oh, maybe the person who wrote up the story has been recording Zooms with some of the players they've been talking to," she said.

An ideal "Start Here" story is one that goes "two and three layers deeper" beyond the headline, and tells you not just the facts but "why you should care," Mielke said.

"I feel like that's what makes a good 'Start Here' story, and that's what Digital reporters bring," he said.

For over two years, the news cycle has been dominated by COVID-19 -- one area in particular that the two teams have collaborated on, the host said.

"I think our COVID coverage was profoundly shaped by the number of real people that Digital reporters were talking to," Mielke said.

Digital's race and culture reporting is another source, Terez said. For instance, ABC News Digital race and culture reporter Kiara Alfonseca's coverage on newly discovered unmarked graves found near a former boarding school for Indigenous children in Canada was instrumental in helping shape "Start Here's tackling of similar schools in the United States, according to Mielke.

"We did a whole special, essentially a long story on the American version of the schools," Mielke said. "But without Kiara's reporting early on and her being a voice on that segment, I don't think we would have been, frankly, as clued in when the story on the U.S. side of the border presented itself."

For Digital reporters, appearing on "Start Here" provides the chance to reach a whole new audience.

"In a very packed news environment, these are journalists who are eager to get people's stories in front of new audiences," Mielke said.

PHOTO: Mike Patty, grandfather of slain teenager Libby German, speaks to reporters in Delphi, Ind., March 9, 2017.
Mike Patty, grandfather of slain teenager Libby German, speaks to reporters in Delphi, Ind., March 9, 2017.
Lindsey Jacobson/ABC News

ABC News Digital senior breaking news reporter Emily Shapiro appeared on "Start Here" earlier this year to discuss the latest developments in the unsolved double murder of two eighth-grade girls in Delphi, Indiana, in 2017 -- a case she has covered for years.

"I've spent time on the ground in Delphi and have spoken with the families and investigators involved, so I really appreciated how 'Start Here' gave me a chance to provide more details from my perspective on the case, including my own theories on where the investigation is going next," she said.

As a former ABC Audio staffer, where she spent two years before joining ABC News Digital in 2015, "I love whenever Digital can combine forces with other platforms and shows," she added.

PHOTO: ABC News Digital 25th Anniversary Timeline
ABC News Digital 25th Anniversary Timeline
ABC News Photo Illustration

Since launching four years ago, "Start Here" has won an Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Innovation and become a top-ranked news podcast by Podtrac. Working with teams like ABC Digital have been a large part of that success, Mielke said.

"Our production team is able to add and pack information in through all of our different tools," he said. "We manage to have the best of newsgathering and interviews, but also the best in production and timeliness. And that together makes it really worth your time."

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