Big city newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post may have plenty of resources to expand into podcasting, but for smaller cities the venture into audio production is not always so easy. Florida’s Naples Daily News and Fort Myers News-Press are overcoming those budget challenges by teaming up with local public radio station WGCU to produce a new true crime podcast called The Last Ride.
The podcast follows the story of two young men of color who went missing in Naples, FL, nearly two decades ago. Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams vanished three months apart, on the same road. They were last seen with the same, now-fired sheriff's deputy, who said he gave them each a ride to a local convenience store. He has never been arrested or charged.
The eight-episode podcast is hosted by investigative journalist Janine Zeitlin, along with a group of USA Today Network journalists. Zeitlin first covered this story early in her career and was the last journalist to interview the deputy, Steven Calkins, 16 years ago. She has remained close to the story through the years and the podcast’s creators say her narration takes listeners on a journey to try to understand why these disappearances remain unsolved.
"This is one of the eeriest and saddest mysteries in Southwest Florida. The podcast takes listeners deep into the case files. It's our hope that the journalism will make a difference in solving the disappearances," said Cindy McCurry-Ross, Executive Editor of The News-Press.
The producers say The Last Ride delves into a mystery that reveals painful truths about police accountability and media coverage of missing people. Episodes include details never heard before and exclusive interviews with media mogul Tyler Perry, famous civil rights attorney Ben Crump, the parents of Terrance Williams, lead investigators on the case and dramatic polygraph audio with deputy Calkins.
The podcast will be distributed by NPR to a national podcast audience.
“It tells an important story from a local community that will resonate broadly,” said Dan McCoy, NPR's Senior Director of Network Growth. “We expect our distribution to reach new audiences for all of the partners and generate revenue that will help to fund greater locally produced content like it.”
The Last Ride will release a new episode of the eight-episode series every Tuesday with the final episode dropping May 15. WGCU-FM (90.1) will broadcast episodes every Tuesday beginning April 4 at 2pm and 7pm as part of its “Gulf Coast Life” program.