2SER welcomes you to the Wide Open Air Exchange, bringing you accessible introductions to subjects from across academic disciplines and special interest areas.
Host Christine Gallagher has appeared on various programs on 2SER as a trusted voice on a variety of issues, most recently as a regular guest on Friday Drive with Danny Chifley. Christine has worked in the media extensively, mostly behind the scenes as a radio producer. She has been getting behind the mic herself as host of the Wide Open Air Exchange podcast for a couple of years now, and we’re very excited she is now adapting the podcast as a 2SER program.
The conversations featured on the Wide Open Air Exchange continue to be guided by sincere curiosity and informed by an approach of seeking to make information and ideas accessible to non-specialists. It is a form of non-confrontational journalism with a thought that gentle efforts to understand different ways of thinking are as valuable as aggressively interrogating or pushing back on ideas.
We interviewed Christine to find out a little more about this fantastic new program.
Wide Open Air Exchange is a new program for 2SER, but you have been producing the program as a podcast for some time now, can you please tell us about what made you make the leap to start your own program?
I started the Wide Open Air Exchange as a way of seeking out the kinds of one-on-one conversations I personally enjoy. When I was in my 20s and nightclubbing, you could find me on a couch by the side of the dance floor chatting with a random person who had stopped by. Those were often enlightening conversations. And when I lived and worked in a country pub the patrons who would sit across from me at the bar and chat while I poured them beers taught me a lot. As life went on there were less opportunities to meet new people and learn from candid conversations.
Around five years ago, when I was studying in Oxford, the kinds of social conversations I was having were quite extraordinary. The cohort in my scholarship program were mostly doctoral researchers so the “getting to know you” conversations at dinners covered things like quantum computers, autonomous cars, clinical medical science, art, literature, and philosophy. I had already been thinking about producing a podcast for a few years by that time and had given my recording gear a test run with friends in Sydney, then being in this fairly small place and meeting lots of great thinkers was the catalyst for actually starting the Wide Open Air Exchange.
It’s not a program about academia, and right from the start guests have been anyone who has knowledge and insights and experiences they’re willing to share. There have been conversations with music lovers and politics enthusiasts with no qualifications other than having a profound interest in a topic. Having a podcast is kind of like creating a space for the couch conversations at the side of the dance floor, or across the bar, or those moments when you have a great connection with someone at a dinner.
The program is very broad in its approach to who you interview and the topics you discuss, but what’s the overall theme that strings it altogether for you?
It’s been interesting to see themes develop organically even though the topics are so broad. The podcast is not about vocations but I suppose because I’m generally interested in vocational callings, identity issues, and nature/nurture questions these have become unintentional underlying themes when speaking with guests with specialty knowledge. An overarching theme is the value of being curious and a lifelong learner, and not being afraid to say when you don’t know something.
You’ve spent a lot of your career working as a producer in talk radio in Australia, was it during this time that you developed the ideas you have explored in your podcast?
One of the things I loved about being a talk radio producer was getting to speak with lots of people not in my immediate world, whether guests or talkback callers. I learned about different communities and cultural things and was introduced to politics. To an extent I was also able to represent my own worldview, editorially, based on my experiences growing up in public housing and the challenges of working through financial hardship as a young adult. But mostly being a radio producer exposed me to a range of other perspectives and to the practice of drawing on the knowledge of others and making it accessible to your audience. Radio is such an important way of sharing ideas and connecting people. It’s the original open source platform. I think all of that helped to develop my approach to podcasting.
I’ve heard you doing some excellent segments on Friday Drive with Danny Chifley where you discuss pop culture of the moment, is this something you will continue doing now you have your own show?
Thank you, it’s such a fun thing to do. How could it not be with Danny Chifley as anchor and host. He’s a superb broadcaster and an all round good person. We’ll keep doing the pop culture spots so long as we’re both up for it. It’s an enjoyable way to start the weekend and the topics are quite different to what is ordinarily on the Wide Open Air Exchange. I’m always open to recommendations for what to watch or listen to, if Friday Drive listeners would like to send suggestions my way.
Is the 2SER version of Wide Open Air Exchange going to be the same version as your podcast or will you take advantage of being able to include extended interviews etc in the podcast format?
The 2SER version will be a radio edit of the Wide Open Air Exchange, so you’ll get a concise half an hour conversation if you listen live on Monday evenings. This will hopefully be a good fit for your commute, or while cooking dinner, or walking the dog in the evening, or whatever Monday at 6:30pm looks like for you.
An extended version of the conversation, sometimes twice as long, will then be available by podcast if you want to hear more. I turn on podcasts when going for a long walk or tackling a mundane chore and find it’s great to be able to dip in whenever it suits. It’s in those moments you tend to have the headspace for a longer conversation.
You speak to people across very different academic areas and disciplines – is it challenging to present often complex ideas in a way that make sense to a casual listener which you seem to manage with ease?
Thanks so much, yes it’s always an aim to make the conversations accessible. I’m generally mindful of there not being assumed knowledge throughout the conversations. What might be obvious to a specialist isn’t always clear to someone who’s new to a topic and it’s my role to ask for clarification on behalf of a listener when there seems to be a need for it.
Most of the topics are new to me so it’s pretty easy to identify when to ask for more information because it’s often when I don’t know something. I’m of the school of thought that there isn’t a silly question and I assume that if I don’t know something then there might be others listening who would appreciate me saying so. I like breaking things down to fundamental concepts and tend to draw comparisons or make analogies as a way of trying to understand new ideas and that seems to be useful for listeners.
Who are the radio or podcast makers that have inspired you to go down the path of presenting after a long time working behind the scenes in radio?
This is a hard question to answer because I haven’t always aspired to be a presenter. When working in talk radio I sincerely and strongly identified as a producer and still see great value in that role and the symbiotic relationship that can exist between a presenter and producer who work well together. I’ve been fortunate to learn from working with brilliant broadcasters who produce ethical journalism.
But it was hearing what is possible with podcasting that inspired me to go down the path of presenting. I was drawn to how much room there can be in a podcast conversation for deeply exploring topics and have been impressed by a general openness by hosts to engage with ideas through non-confrontational dialogues. There is a place for adversarial journalism in the media, such as holding politicians to account, but there is also so much that can be learned just from listening to alternative views and seeking to understand them.
It’s exciting to now have a radio home for the program and extra special that my values align with 2SER and that I’m already a station supporter. 2SER provides such an important service by promoting independent thought and supporting intellectual integrity and creativity. I’m thrilled that the Wide Open Air Exchange is on 2SER.
Tune into Wide Open Air Exchange Mondays at 6:30pm on 2SER, on anytime On Demand.
Visit the Wide Open Air Exchange Website.