‘Gaining Ground: The New Georgia’ podcast explores how the state shifted blue

A new limited series podcast "Gaining Ground: The New Georgia" debuted Dec. 18 and will run through Jan. 12, 2021. The hosts are Rembert Browne and Jewel Wicker. PUBLICITY PHOTOS
A new limited series podcast "Gaining Ground: The New Georgia" debuted Dec. 18 and will run through Jan. 12, 2021. The hosts are Rembert Browne and Jewel Wicker. PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Credit: PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Credit: PUBLICITY PHOTOS

Atlanta’s Tenderfoot TV and “Pod Saves America” Crooked Media teamed up for this five-part limited series.

Atlanta-based Tenderfoot TV is known for its impactful true-crime podcasts, whether historical (”Atlanta Monster”) or current (”Up and Vanished”).

It has now entered a new world of current events with a quick turnaround podcast called “Gaining Ground: The New Georgia,” teaming up with Crooked Media, the creators of the popular “Pod Save America” podcast featuring a trio of Obama administration veterans.

Debuting last Thursday with a second episode coming out Tuesday, the five-episode podcast explores the history of Georgia politics with a lens on how the state voted for Joe Biden after two decades of Republican dominance. The two run-off races that will decide who will control the Senate are the backdrop, which is why the final episode is set to come out Jan. 12, a week after the election results begin to be tabulated.

The two hosts are Atlanta natives and freelance journalists: 33-year-old Rembert Browne and 28-year-old Jewel Wicker. Browne has previously worked for pop-culture blog Grantland and covers politics and culture. Wicker, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and current freelancer, now writes entertainment and political pieces for publications like Billboard and Teen Vogue.

“It’s hard to be a music reporter and not talk about politics,” Wicker said. “So many musicians are tapped into the political scene.”

Browne said at the core, they are both culture writers and storytellers: “I want to tell captivating stories, the right stories and bring the right people in and not have it be tone deaf,” he said. “I want people who listen to this podcast to care about the election and the runoff. I want them to feel like it holds up, and it’s legitimate. I want it to be accessible and smart.”

Donald Albright, president and co-founder of Tenderfoot, said the hosts provide a Georgia perspective that isn’t always told by the cable networks and DC-centric media. “We Georgians are feeling this Senate runoff in a very specific way,” he said. “The ads. The door hangers. The phone calls. The texts. We’re living it in a different way. We felt like we could jump right in and talk about this.”

Early reviews have been positive, with Apple Podcast listeners giving it a 4.9 out of 5 rating.

Browne and Wicker both grew up in Southwest Atlanta and have similar perspectives about the city and state. Browne said he grew up immersed in politics and recalls his mom putting up Obama signs in 2008 in Clayton County that were vandalized or taken down. It’s now a heavily Black county that helped push Biden into the lead during the vote count after Election Day.

“My family has been for generations very socially invested in the city and state,” Browne said. “I was looking for my own little ways to actually do something impactful, not something that felt like a vanity project.”

When approached to do “Gaining Ground,” he felt like this was a true opportunity to capture a moment in the political zeitgeist.

Wicker felt the same way: “I’m passionate about sifting through this narrative, especially Black people who have deep roots here. I wanted to talk about this from the inside, not the outside.”

In episode two, she was able to tie in Lil Baby, whose police protest song came out just hours before the killing of Rayshard Brooks by a cop in his own neighborhood. (She had talked to him earlier for a story in GQ.)

“What does it mean to be a Black man in what is considered a Black mecca, where you can become a megastar or get murdered like Rayshard Brooks,” Wicker said.

As of Tuesday, they had amassed 30 interviews despite the fact some key players have been too busy to speak, focused on getting out the vote. Among those heard so far include the mayors of Albany and Savannah as well as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution photographer Alyssa Pointer, who tearfully recounted the time she was detained during the George Floyd protests despite having very clear credentials.

For next week’s episode, they will air segments of an interview with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who held what he felt was a clean, fair election that just didn’t go his party’s way, facing off against a president who believed it was stolen from him.

Tenderfoot has 15 people working on this, the biggest operation Albright has ever put together for a single podcast, with help from Crooked to hook them up with political contacts. They’re traveling the state attending campaign events from rural Georgia to metro Atlanta. They are using some archival “Pod Saves America” interviews, too, including one with Lucy McBath before she won her House race in 2018. There won’t be much of a Christmas break for anybody involved.

And while the organizers want a big national audience to learn about Georgia, they also want Georgians to listen and hopefully be inspired to vote.

“A Georgia listener is about 1,000 times more valuable now,” said Albright. “We want to drive people to the polls and make their voices heard, to cast their vote and decide the direction of this country. It’s the quality of the listener in this case even more than quantity. We are geo-targeting our social media marketing and podcast ads. We want to influence, not just entertain.”

WHERE TO HEAR

“Gaining Ground: The New Georgia” podcast, available on Apple podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, Tune In, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Amazon Music

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