Journalist and Podcaster Leon Neyfakh Speaks with Bellisario Students About Storytelling

Story posted April 1, 2021 in CommRadio, News by Kyle Cannillo

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Bellisario College of Communications held a webinar with journalist and podcaster Leon Neyfakh focused around storytelling and presentation on Tuesday night.

Neyfakh currently broadcasts his podcast “Fiasco.” Prior to working in audio, he was a reporter for the Boston Globe and the New York Observer.

Neyfakh spoke with students to share his wisdom about telling both engaging and well-rounded stories.

“The best thing you can do if you want everyone to connect with your work, or as many people as possible, is to trust yourself to be a stand-in for the audience,” Neyfakh said. “Embrace your subjectivity, embrace your ignorance.”

Neyfakh suggested that you want to tell a story that is both surprising and clear but never confusing or boring. He believes the best stories have a sense of transparency and reach a diverse range of people.

“Being transparent and confident about your point of view, about what you do and don't know, almost gives you a free pass,” he said. “You can make your podcast or whatever you're making resonate with someone just by being authentically yourself.”

Neyfakh says that for podcasting he recommends exercising your voice. He believes changing your tone and speaking in a rhythm can help audiences connect with you.

Neyfakh also says it is important to follow your gut when deciding which topic to talk about. To make something newsworthy, he believes the topic needs to have a level of complexity.

“When we kick the tires on something and decide not to do it, it is because it doesn't make an argument for itself in terms of how consequential it was or how complicated it was,” Neyfakh said. “We think about marketing; will people want to listen to this? There is no science to it. Just gut.”

He wrapped up the webinar by giving advice to students to seek other people’s work for inspiration. He says pick out bits and pieces that you like and don't like from other people who are podcasting.


Kyle Cannillo is a broadcast journalism major at Penn State. To contact him, email

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audio , news , podcast , webinar