Newspaper giant McClatchy is teaming up with the iHeartPodcast Network to roll out an investigative podcast series that will be the first of what the companies say is their commitment to develop a collection of narrative podcasts that will cover topics including pop culture, sports and social change. First up is Longshot: Return Man, a podcast that will investigate the mysterious death of former pro-football player Jim Duncan.
Return Man is based on the reporting of Bret McCormick, former sports editor for McClatchy's Rock Hill, S.C. news outlet, The Herald. In addition to the podcast, The Herald has created a seven-part newspaper and web series and short documentary video about the case.
"This investigation represents a significant investment for our small but ambitious newsroom, while also demonstrating the power and importance of local journalism," said Cliff Harrington, Executive Editor of The Herald. He credits McCormick for his “dogged determination and perseverance” in telling a story that many wanted to disappear.
Duncan was an NFL star as a kickoff return man and defensive back for the Baltimore Colts. He led the league in kickoff return yards in 1970, and that same season helped lead the Colts to the Super Bowl title. Two years later, authorities say, Duncan died by suicide inside the police station of his small hometown of Lancaster, S.C.
"Even though he died nearly 50 years ago, Duncan's death and the events that followed remain relevant in light of current events," said McCormick, who also narrates the podcast. "Officials seemed to wall off any hope of finding out exactly what happened on that day. And for decades, the remarkable life and perplexing death of Lancaster's only Super Bowl champion has been almost completely erased from the town's history."
The first episode of the eight-part Return Man will debut Jan. 26, distributed through the iHeartPodcast Network and other podcast apps. Future episodes will be released each Tuesday.
Moving forward, McClatchy and iHeart will work on other audio documentary projects. All will be under the Longshot banner with what the companies say will be “character-driving” stories at the intersection of sports and social change.
"This is an exciting collaboration with one of the country's premier local media companies that has a rich history of outstanding narrative journalism," said Conal Byrne, President of the iHeartPodcast Network. "This is one of the things that podcasting does best – longform storytelling around layered, complex subject matters that may have fallen off our collective radar.”
McClatchy owns newspapers in 30 cities including such big city papers as the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, The (Raleigh) News and Observer, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.