SIS students runners-up in NYT Podcast Contest


Matthew Um (right) and Seoyoon Choi (left) discuss ideas, just as they did for their podcast

Woojune Kim , Co-Editor-in-Chief

Two SIS students, Matthew Um (11) and Seoyoon Choi (11), were announced as runners-up in the New York Times Podcast Contest on July 1. Their podcast, titled “Why We Need Movie Heroes Who Look Like Us,” argues that a larger Asian presence in films is imperative, highlighting the current lack of Asian representation in American media.


“We first heard about the contest through our Writing 10 class,” Matthew, one of the prize-winning students, said. “We came up with the topic through a trial and error process. It was difficult to find a topic that was simultaneously interesting and relevant until we stumbled upon the topic of superheroes within the Asian community.”


Patrick Young, high school writing teacher, oversaw the developmental stages of the podcast. He guided the students by prompting them to think about the significance of their subject. 


“They came up with an interesting topic, and I helped them refine the details and prove why their topic mattered,” Mr. Young said. “I asked them, ‘Why? Why is it important to have more Asians?’ It was interesting for them to dig into those questions and come up with meaningful answers.”


After settling on a topic and making a script that explored the full depth of the issue, Matthew and Seoyoon moved on to recording and editing, which also took considerable time. 


“We recorded at least three separate times,” Matthew said. “First, we tried recording at home, but our mics were not good enough. We then tried it at school, but the audio was terrible. So, we tried once more in a classroom by ourselves, which finally worked out.”


Apart from Matthew and Eunie’s conversations in the podcast, a diverse array of clever and timely sound effects was used to enhance the podcast. A collection of reports about crimes committed against Asians plays at the start, captivating the listener while providing context. When they mention superheroes, a triumphant score plays in the background—before abruptly cutting out when Matthew mentions that all the heroes in films are white.


“We definitely focused on trying to find the right sound effects to include, because I think that is what keeps a podcast engaging,” Seoyoon, the other award-winning student, said. “Having well-researched and interesting content is important, but sound effects can really capture your audience’s attention, so incorporating them well was something we put a lot of effort into.”


Ultimately, Matthew and Eunie’s podcast was selected as one of 13 runners-up among over 1,500 submissions, according to the New York Times. Their recording is publicly available on the web page revealing the winners of the contest. 


“I think our incorporation of personal anecdotes helped because our experiences were unique to us, which made the podcast stand out,” Seoyoon said. “I believe our sincerity came across, which I’m thankful for.”