In response to the misinformation and the lack of different perspectives surrounding the discussion of COVID-19, University of Georgia dual-enrollment students Alex Benoit and Will Fang have started a podcast called “The Finch.” The goal of the podcast is to dissect complex issues by interviewing experts from a variety of disciplines, such as psychology, sociology and philosophy.
“We realized that a lot of the conversation was being dominated by politicians, scientists and economists,” said Fang, a junior at Cedar Shoals High School. “But a lot of other real issues like the psychology of sheltering in place and the mental health of frontline workers, well, those were being put on the back burner.”
Benoit and Fang first met through the Georgia Governor's Honors Program in 2019 and continued their friendship through the UGA dual-enrollment program. While they briefly discussed starting a podcast before, it wasn’t until they became frustrated with the confusion surrounding COVID-19 that the two actually began to start the process.
“On the news, it’s either the sensationalism of politicians or it’s a scientific viewpoint that quite honestly the average person can’t understand,” said Benoit, a junior at Oconee High School said.
Within three weeks, the two students interviewed 12 different experts and leaders in the Athens community, including Timothy Yang, an assistant professor of history at UGA and Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz. They intend to interview a total of 16 people.
In bringing in a wide range of perspectives, Benoit and Fang hope to provide a more holistic view on the pandemic and the issues surrounding it, such as the timeline to reopen the economy, the obstacles in producing a vaccine and how the economic ramifications of the virus might affect green energy.
The podcast’s second episode featured UGA psychology professor Michelle vanDellen, who is currently working on a global project called PsyCorona, in which behavioral scientists and data scientists are working to minimize the spread and social damage of the virus by studying people’s responses to the pandemic.
“Seeing all these researchers and even people from different departments come together to defeat a common enemy is really cool,” Fang said.
The name of the podcast was inspired by Charles Darwin’s study of finches in the Galapagos Islands. Benoit said a finch is typically just seen as another ordinary bird with nothing special to offer, but Darwin was able to develop significant insights such as the theory of evolution by studying finches, Benoit said.
The name of the podcast alludes to how there is typically a complex dynamic behind seemingly simple topics that appear to have only one or two approaches — a dynamic that can be revealed through extensive research, Benoit said.
“We recognize that behind every measure being taken, whether it’s sheltering in place or developing a vaccine, those are purely philosophical and sociological questions, too,” Benoit said.
Benoit and Fang will continue to release one of their 16 episodes every other day for the rest of the month, all of which will be related to the issues surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The two students plan to continue their podcast beyond their COVID-19 series and cover the implications of other large-scale issues like global warming.
“These were perspectives we never heard before or never were exposed to. So we really hope our listeners get that same experience,” Fang said.
“The Finch” is now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, YouTube, Anchor FM, Breaker, TuneIn, Radio Public, Pocket Casts, Overcast and Podbay.