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The hosts of "Throughline" discuss how history informs the present

Ramtin Arablouei (seated) and Rund Abdelfattah
Emiliano Granado
Ramtin Arablouei (seated) and Rund Abdelfattah

Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfattah are the hosts of the NPR podcast "Throughline." Each episode offers a fascinating look at an event from the past and how it ties into what's happening today.

LPM News host Bill Burton spoke with the podcast hosts Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfattah about their interest in the show from the beginning and how it's evolved over years of production.

This transcript was edited for clarity.

Bill Burton: You've been doing this now for about five years with the idea that you simply can't truly understand the present without understanding the past. So how do you go about dissecting some serious topic from the past yet make it accessible to the modern listener?

Rund Abdelfattah: It's a great question. And I think it's something we're asking ourselves with each, like each episode brings up different questions. But that is sort of the hardest one to answer, when we're jumping into something is how do we take things that are covering many decades, many years, have a level of complexity that, of course, don't necessarily - doesn't necessarily fit neatly into 50 minutes? How do we distill all that and communicate it in a way that is both understandable and also entertaining? Because those are the two primary things we're always thinking about is how do we make it accurate, rooted in fact, and also something that is a story that's transporting you into a different time and to a different place? And so we take that challenge very, very seriously. And I think our approach is often rooted in a lot a lot of research in talking to people who are experts and know more about a topic than ourselves.

BB: In all of the episodes that you've done over the years, I'm guessing somewhere along the way, there's been an episode that went in a direction that you weren't necessarily anticipating, and you quite possibly learned as much as the listener did. Is there anything that really stands out in particular to you,

Ramtin Arablouei: I think it happens in almost every episode, I think whoever is working on a particular episode goes through some kind of transformation, either in the way they view the topic, or they view their own world. And we hope that's reflected to the audience. For example, we did an episode on that love and 76 BCE, collapse of the Mediterranean empire that existed then. And during the research phase of that episode, it's when I pitched from that point to actually listen to the final episode that Ron did another one of our colleagues produced, I had a transformation in how I viewed our own world, the fragility of our own world came out through seeing how that that and that basically, that worldwide interconnected civilization that existed in the Mediterranean collapsed. So we're hoping that that transformation that Ron and I and the rest of the team go through in making these episodes is translated to the audience.

BB: There's always a bit of a learning curve when a new show gets underway. So what did you learn from those first few episodes? And has it changed your approach to how you do the shows since then?

Rund: The better question is, what didn't we learn? It was truly like, we were thrown in the deep end, we had, of course, ranting and I had backgrounds working in working on other podcasts at NPR before we piloted through line, but so much of it was a learning experience. Because, you know, at the beginning, it was truly just the two of us and one other producer. And so we were doing everything nuts and bolts from picking the topics to doing the research to doing the interviews, which we had never sat in front of the mic before working on through line. And so that was a huge learning curve for us. And just thinking about what is this gonna sound like it was a privilege really, on the one hand to be able to look at like a blank slate and say, what is this going to be? And that of course, requires a lot of trial and error, and it requires you to experiment and to fail sometimes and then it it helped us get closer and closer to the sound and the approach that we wanted to take with the show runs

Bill Burton is the Morning Edition host for LPM. Email Bill at bburton@lpm.org.

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