Podcasting Has Turned Me into a Super Sleuth

Saturday, September 26, 2020

I’ve learned even more about the importance of research while working on my true crime podcast. When I first developed the concept for Missing in the Carolinas, I was determined to try and make it different from other podcasts already out there. I’ve listened to episodes where it appears all the host/writer did was lift notes directly from a Wikipedia page. I don’t want to be known as someone who does that. So, I read articles. I comb through photos and stats on the Center for Missing and Exploited Children website. I visit NamUs. I watch episodes of documentaries and true crime shows featuring cases from the Carolinas and take notes. I brainstorm creative ways to “package” episodes, such as the one where I pulled two separate cases of missing children from the 1960s. This was the episode description for “Four Lost Children of North Carolina”: 

Two stories. Four missing children. What happened to Diane Moon, Mark Yoli, and Alan and Terry Westerfield who went missing from North Carolina in the 1960s? 

I found these cases interesting because both sets of siblings had parents who were affiliated with the military. In one, two brothers, Alan and Terry Westerfield, were last seen in the company of their stepfather, who was estranged from their mother. Diane and Mark were young children who went missing after heading to a nearby park to play. I watched archives new stories and dug through newspaper articles (thanks to some investigative reporters working on cold cases, I found actual copies of the news articles that ran in the 1960s) to help put this episode together. 

Imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a man who is the older brother of Diane Moon and Mark Yoli (he was born the year after they disappeared). Never in a million years would I have considered that a surviving family member would hear the episode and send me a message. He was very kind, thanking me for covering it, and told me it brought up memories of the investigation that resurfaced back in the 1980s. He also mentioned he learned some new information he didn’t know before in the article, which as a podcaster working on a show for no compensation, lifted my spirits at a time when I needed it. 

A lot of archived newspaper articles require a paywall for access these days, so this week found me diving into the digital archives available to me through my public library card. I am going to need a magnifying glass to read the articles I printed out, but they are all from the original published news articles from the 1980s and I’m simply thrilled to have found them. They contain information you won’t find on Wikipedia pages about the crimes. I’ve been inspired to keep on digging. 

Have you learned any new skills as a writer lately? I’d love to hear about them! 

Renee Roberson is an award-winning writer and editor who also produces the true crime podcast, Missing in the Carolinas. Learn more about her work at FinishedPages.com.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--Do you need a magnifying glass because the print is so small, or because you're getting, ahem... older? ;)

Just kidding.

I can picture you with a detective's hat on, and a magnifying glass held up as you're squinting. I love that you've found such a cool rabbit hole to go down. You're findind a whole warren.

Theresa Boedeker said...

This was an interesting read and inspired me to go deeper when researching. What treasures you are finding.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Renee these are such riveting true crime cases, and wow the research involved. I'm sure all those hours spent searching through archives is so worth it, especially when you uncover information others may not have.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I've been learning to use Lexile, a reading-level calculator but not the one I normally have to use. I'd rather be doing research. Lucky you!

Renee Roberson said...

Sioux--The magnifying glass need is two fold! First, it is starting to get a little hard to read ingredients on labels and shampoo bottles. But when I printed out these articles, they were formatted so that four or five articles fit to one 8 1/2 x 11 page. It's hilarious but I'm determined to make it work!

Theresa--I'm happy you found this inspiring! It's easy to get discouraged at first when researching but a good writer always finds a way.

Jeanine- Researching true crime is so much like a puzzle. I never want to use information found only on Wikipedia type pages because they aren't really regulated. It's always encouraging when I find an article with information I haven't seen repeated on other websites and in other articles.

Sue--You are the queen of research with all the books you've published over the years on non-fiction topics!

Nicole Pyles said...

I love how you are using your research skills! You probably already know about it but Google has archives of some newspapers! https://news.google.com/newspapers. I sometimes use old news stories for my own writing. Probably the skills I've picked up is website stuff, thanks to the challenge of importing my blog to WordPress. What a mess! But worth it.

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