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These Brothers Created Multiple Podcasts with Millions of Listeners... Just to Stay in Touch

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
October 20, 2022 3:01 am

These Brothers Created Multiple Podcasts with Millions of Listeners... Just to Stay in Touch

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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October 20, 2022 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, after a career that spanned from Best Buy security to founder of a video game journalism site, Justin McElroy found his true calling by returning to his roots.

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Hi, I'm Anahat O'Connor, a health columnist, and I'm passionate about learning and sharing how we can all sleep and live better. That's why I'm hosting Chasing Sleep, a brand new podcast from Mattress Firm and iHeartRadio, where we'll connect with the people who live, work, and perform in some of the most incredible environments, and we'll see how they adapt and use their sleep to perform at the highest level. Learn how you can sleep well to live well too.

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Here to tell us about it is Justin. I sort of got an acting and directing degree by default, which is to say, I didn't think about it much. I just sort of liked doing theater and didn't have much of a plan beyond that. I guess on some level, I assumed that if I had that, then I would either, I couldn't get a boring job. There's only so many jobs you can do with a theater major.

That was about as far as the thinking went. At a certain point, probably about my junior year of college, I wasn't getting cast in lead roles. It occurred to me, I had this thought, man, if I can't get lead roles at my college in West Virginia, I don't think I'm going to go to New York and make a living doing this. I realized that and I tried to, I almost switched my major to journalism, just where the real money is, but I didn't. I just kind of stuck it out, ended up going to college for five years because I failed Spanish.

Ah, those are the breaks. Then I graduated and immediately put my degree to use working at Best Buy and Borders, the now-defunct Borders. I started freelancing while I was still working at Best Buy and Borders, writing a weekly section called The Edge. The Edge from my local newspaper. It was like youth-focused, young people doing cool stuff in the area. I did that for years.

I did that because nobody else wanted to do it. That's how I got my first job as a news editor at the Ironton Tribune. I worked out from reporter to news editor, which I was in no way qualified to do, but I was cheap. From there, I transitioned to the Herald and Spatch, which is my local newspaper. It's my hometown here in Huntington, West Virginia, covering Marshall University, the university beat as it was. I was actually there at a really fun time because it was when they were filming the vivir on Marshall and the entire town was losing its mind. I mean, absolutely melting down with frequent sightings of Matthew McConaughey and Matthew Fox and Sordid and Sundry, other Matthews. You cannot go into a subway here without there being a picture of Matthew McConaughey from the time he was at Subway.

It's pretty amazing. The entire time that I was working in news, what I wanted to do was write about video games. I mean, that's where really my passion was. I had grown up on not just video games, but video game journalism. I had like four different magazine subscriptions to different video game publications growing up.

It was something I really cared a lot about. I wanted to transition from writing straight news to write about video games because I thought that would just be the most fun thing in the world. I started applying, trying to do freelance gigs, trying to pitch articles, trying to take the tactic that eventually worked was offering to do reviews that no one else would want to do, just like bitter dregs, bottom of the barrel, several hunting games. That's eventually how I started building up clips. I got into this race to try to work at as many magazines as I could before they got closed down.

They were like a dying breed just as I was getting started. I was like, okay, I got to get into Official Xbox Magazine and PlayStation The Official Magazine and GamePro and PC Gamer and on and on, just so I could get the clip before. After I worked at one, I would just stop because it's like, okay, I got that clip. I want to see how many different magazines I can get so I can put them on my resume because I think I had a sense that that would make me seem very distinguished pretty quickly as these faded out of existence. The story of how I actually got hired at Joystiq is hilarious and terrifying because I put my whole career, the reason I got onto this trajectory and everything that came after that started with Joystiq, which was AOL's video game blog. I had applied to Joystiq and hadn't heard... I was doing this with every publication, every gaming publication. I applied to Joystiq because I really liked Joystiq.

I applied to Joystiq and didn't hear anything for months and they hired two other people. Meanwhile, I was writing about video games for the newspaper, The Herald Dispatch, let me keep my own video game blog. Who cares? No one's going to read my video game blog but I made it seem like something we should have. We really need a video game blog, guys.

I was writing... It was called Blog the Video Game, which is stupid. I was writing that and I found some old clips of this laser disc game called Gallagher's Gallery. I thought, you know, Joystiq might be interested in posting these. I sent them off to Joystiq and the editor, Chris Grant saw them, he is a lovely person but can be a little bit scatterbrained sometimes, said, oh, yeah, I was looking for your... I'm glad you sent this. I was looking for your content information.

The people we hired didn't work out but I remember liking your clips and I was wondering if you would still be open to working for us. There's a wild sequence of events that would take from A to B where I had to find that Gallagher's Gallery clip and I had to write a post about it and just happened to send it to Joystiq. There's a lot of luck tied up in that and it's pretty scary but it's also like I think there's something to be learned there from just who knows. Nobody knows. Who knows? I don't know. Who knows?

Try everything because you never know what spaghetti is going to stick to the wall, honestly. We left Joystiq. Chris Grant, Griffin and I all left Joystiq and Arthur Gies left Joystiq and we were sort of the four first people of the eight co-founders of Polygon. I was the managing editor, sort of the number two person when we founded the site. I was really involved with Chris for a lot of the aesthetic decisions and the managerial decisions and figuring out who to bring on and everything. So I was sort of like his number two person and responsible for a lot of the stuff on the site. When we were at Joystiq, we did the Joystiq podcast. We did 200 some episodes and it really built a really decent following.

The audience for the Joystiq podcast was sort of like the seed audience or the base group of people that my brother and my brother and me when we launched was built from the Joystiq podcast audience because they were very rabid and supportive and I've done that with every podcast I've launched since then has been about building off a seed audience, a core audience and then moving them to a new thing. My brothers had lived in Huntington for my whole life and when Travis went to college, he went to school in Oklahoma University and then Griffin went to school at Marshall and then the two of them moved to Cincinnati. And I found that like we had started to lose touch when we weren't talking as much as we used to, not nearly as much as we used to. And I wanted to see what we could do to change that. So my brother, my brother and me really started as an opportunity for the three of us to keep in better contact, to talk to each other more. Griffin and I were in video games in that industry, but Travis really didn't know that space particularly well. So we picked advice as like just sort of a general topic that all three of us could like bloviate on, you know, tell people how to live their lives. It seemed pretty easy. And at that point in podcasting, it was 2010, you didn't really need a great premise for a podcast.

I mean, there was only like four of them, so like that's exaggeration, but like there weren't a lot. So, you know, it is a much different day. You have to, you know, these days you have to be very focused with your hitches.

But we had a pretty general one from a brother of our brother and me, but it worked out okay. Hey, I've just, my baby monitor has just begun to go off. So I need to go upstairs and get my kiddo. If you need any like pick up stuff or anything, you know, you notice it's missing. Just give me a buzz and we'll just like hop back on Skype or whatever. It's no big deal. And that's how Justin left things off and we wanted to know more. We know you do too. So after the break, we'll bring you more of his unlikely story and how despite numerous podcasts and hundreds of millions of downloads, they've kept family at the center of it all.

Justin McElroy story here on our American story. When the world gets in the way of your music, try the new Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2. Next-gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears. They use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you. Delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound. So you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, sound shape to you.

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Simply go to or contact your local agent today. And we're back with Justin McElroy story and we had heard about how he started a podcast to keep in touch with his brothers. That just sort of diversion ended up becoming his living. My brother, my brother and me is one podcast, the adventure zone, and so many others.

Now let's hear about how much family means to Justin and how he's used his success to give back to his community. We grew up goofy on each other. Um, and that was the way that we would communicate. We would, you know, try to make each other laugh, try to make dad or mom laugh. Um, and it was like a primary form of communication in our house.

You know, things didn't get serious for too long. Um, I've later learned, uh, in my adult years, sometimes to our detriment, there's a lot of like conversations and it's hard to work gags into, you know, but, um, it can get tricky. We've, we've always said that, like, if, especially as it became more of a job, we, we had to have a lot of really hard conversations. Like if this ever gets in the way of us being a family, like we have to stop, like the whole thing will stop and having that there as sort of a escape hatch, no fight could ever be too big because you can't really walk away from it cause it's your family.

So you better figure out how to make it work. Um, and, and I think that like we've, we've kept that spirit through all of it. Like our relationship as a family is always more important than the work.

There's no, um, creative decision or anything that, that equals that. So when we do that, we keep that in perspective. I think it makes for a really fun place to, to collaborate in because you're, you're stuck with your collaborators. I trust my family, um, more than anybody on the planet and I am myself at the, for the most, the people who are in my family are the people that, that truly know me with, with just a couple of exceptions. Um, so very dear friends, but, but by and large, I mean my family is it. Um, and especially now that I have kids, that's it. Having children for me has like clarified so much of what we do because there is a point to all of it and there is a value to, um, every moment that I'm creating something is a moment that I'm not spending with my kids. So I really, it has to all count.

It has to all be worthwhile. Um, and involving them in like when we go on tour and bringing our children, um, has made it seem so much more purposeful, um, and so much more worthwhile. Uh, and, and that's really important to me and, and is a huge reason that, that this continues to be sort of the best, best job I've ever had. We are probably in communication more than any family, certainly a family of adults that I know. I mean, we talk constantly. Um, and there's a warmth there and a familiarity I think that a lot of families don't have just because they're not in the like forced proximity that we constantly are.

I'm not complaining. It's just, it's just the, the facts of it. The Appalachian region that I am from is almost never represented well, um, uh, in, in mainstream media. I mean, there have been a couple of different TV shows. The one TV show that was filmed in Huntington was Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. And that was a show about him coming to Huntington to teach people how to eat because everyone was so overweight. Um, and it's like, that's, that's like emblematic of, there was another show called like Big and Loving It or something like that.

There was like people wanted to come, like come and film people who are overweight and just like thrilled about it. And that, that, that project didn't come into fruition. But, um, the, my region is very rarely represented very well.

Uh, that, that sort of idea that these States that aren't New York or California are just sort of like untenable backwaters that, that from which no good can arise. There's so many cool, interesting people here and their stories just aren't being told. Like it's not, it's, you know, it doesn't have that like mainstream exposure.

Those stories just aren't out there. And for me, the podcast studio was just kind of a way to streamline it for people. Um, cause podcasting is not especially challenging to do.

It's hard to do well, but it's not hard to do. And, um, I felt like if we could save a few steps, then maybe, uh, you know, we might be able to encourage some people to get some of those voices, some of those voices out there. I think the most effective way to tell their story is to let them tell it. Uh, and I feel like podcasting is a really great way to do that because there's very little barrier to entry. Anybody can pull a show together and broadcast a show and, and, and grow that audience.

Um, not to say everybody finds an audience, but it, but the barrier to like creating the content is low. Um, and I think that that like really empowers people to tell their own story and not have to rely on others to tell it for them. And I feel like the people here, uh, um, it's the sort of thing where they would, it is a tradition of, of storytellers, right? Like folk tales and stuff like that, like is part of our heritage. But, um, I think just digitizing that and bringing it to a wider, uh, community of people, I think is the best way to start to shift those stereotypes about people from this region. And like, and, and, uh, I think it's amazing that the internet has allowed people to, to do that. We got this thing, uh, in our area called the, um, the empty stockings list and it comes out every Christmas and it's like people in the tri-state area, which for us is we're right on the border of Ohio and Kentucky and in Huntington.

So we think of that as like a region with Ashland and, um, like South Point and Ironton place in Ohio. But, uh, people in the tri-state area that don't, aren't going to have anything for Christmas. And I think it was like five years ago I was reading this list and it's like so depressing because it's not just like kids who want a Paw Patrol toy, although there is that.

Um, but it's like people who don't who would like a better tent for sleeping on the river and people who like don't have a bed and stuff. And I took this list of, it's probably like 200 people. And I took this list to our, our Facebook page and I said, like, if anybody that will help with this, that anybody that will do like give to this and buy something, we will record a personal thank you to you. Um, and we, we did that. It was called the Mibimam angels is what I started calling them because they filled the entire list in the matter of a week. They bought it all. And then the following year we didn't ask, they just did it. And they, the list came out and they filled it all. Uh, and then the newspaper that puts the list together, started giving it to them early and adding more things to it. And then after they fill the needs, they raise money and they've bought, uh, beds and, uh, furnaces and, uh, uh, handicap accessible ramps. And, um, I mean, like it's, it's wild and it is like, so not us, it is just them.

Like in say last year and for the 2018 Christmas season, they did, they did not us, they did 16 beds, uh, 32 pillows, two sofas, two ovens, two strollers, a car seat, a refrigerator table and chairs, eight space heaters, clothes, shoes, and toys for every kid on the list. And it's like, it's like, I, I, that's not me. It's just, I'm really fortunate to have really good people who like our stuff.

And when you're fortunate to have that, it just seems weird to not, you know, point it towards her home. And you were just listening to Justin McElroy and great job on that to our team as always. And we've long opined that the South Appalachia, a lot of flyover country. Well, it's just, if not misrepresented, not covered at all.

And I'm not sure which is worse being slighted or being ignored. But here at our American stories, we do the opposite. Just as Justin does so many interesting and remarkable people, Justin McElroy story, a bit of a story about a misfit who just will never fit in until he did and found his vocation by stumbling into it.

And a story about his hometown too. Again, Justin McElroy story here on our American stories With cheap You can get more food, more drinks, and more fun for less money on your all inclusive beach vacation. Like bottomless margaritas. Yes.

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This is not sponsored endorsed or administered by Epic Games Incorporated. When the world gets in the way of your music, try the new Bose quiet comfort earbuds to next gen earbuds uniquely tuned to the shape of your ears. They use exclusive Bose technology that personalizes the audio performance to fit you delivering the world's best noise cancellation and powerfully immersive sound so you can hear and feel every detail of the music you love. Bose quiet comfort earbuds to soundshaped to you. To learn more, visit
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-20 18:25:52 / 2022-11-20 18:35:21 / 9

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