On Saturday, Brian Smith releases the 100th episode of Connecticut East This Week, an award-winning weekly news podcast that Smith describes as an effort to bring back long-form storytelling and longer-form reporting to listeners in eastern Connecticut.
The 30-minute episodes – which have included interviews recently with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the group Puppies Behind Bars, artist Bill Dougal, and a smattering of local politicos – are aired by the Hall Radio Group, and can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts.
“I’m asking the questions that I think people would want to ask if they can have access to those people,” explained Smith in a recent visit with CT Examiner, “and I’m not putting my opinions in.”
Smith, who trained in the United Kingdom as a journalist after working a corporate job in public relations for the insurance industry, brings a polite but aggressive style that stands out, asking tough questions in an English accent at press conferences where the local reporters more often tiptoe around.
“I started working at the BBC, and in local radio in the United Kingdom and that’s it and then just basically took off from there.”
Recently, Smith spent an entire eight-hour shift with the New London police to get a better sense of what it’s like for a police officer, and came away with a better sense, he said, of everything thrown at them, including 40 percent of calls which dealt with mental health issues.
“You know, on a shift, seeing exactly how they have to deal with everything that’s thrown at them — not just New London police, but the police in general have been, you know, they’re the go-to place for all of society issues, and that’s not what they’re trained for.”
Over the last year, it’s an approach that has earned Smith five awards, most recently a gold medal AVA Digital Award for radio production and podcasts, and gold for podcast series by Hermes Creative Awards.
As a one-man outfit frequently hustling for a story against competition that is larger and better-funded, Smith calls the awards validation.
“News has become very niche, and you know I think gone are the days of huge audiences and, you know, if we were to look at, you know, the national news forecasts, their audience share probably has dipped considerably,” said Smith, who thinks that smaller outlets can appeal to Americans who have grown distrustful of the news.
“I think independent news organizations like a CT Examiner, like CT News Junkie, like Connecticut East This Week, sit very well for people who are like, ‘Yeah, I don’t want it from there anymore, you know I’m fed up with that sphere or that opinion. So I’m going to going to try something different,” said Smith.