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Inspired Festival: How a Senior Sports Journalism Lecturer Became a Podcast Host

BCU has a strong line-up of academics who have successful, creative outlets outside of university. One lecturer who stands out is BCU’s Sports Journalism lecturer, Chris Lepkowski, who co-hosts the unofficial, fan-driven West Bromwich Albion podcast called THE LIQUIDATOR. Chris tells us about what inspired him to co-host the podcast, how he finds motivation, and the most rewarding parts of hosting the podcast.

What inspired Chris to co-host the podcast?

THE LIQUIDATOR podcast was first created in April 2020, right at the beginning of the first lockdown in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a large percentage of people on furlough and stuck at home, everyone was bored, including Chris and Adrian. With these restrictions in place, it seemed as good a time as any to tap into a captive audience that was around because circumstances dictated they would be.

“It’s a bit of fun really. We try to have a bit of a laugh on there but equally we do try to express ourselves, give insight and give people something a little bit more. There is a market for people wanting to know what’s going on, and maybe wanting to hear from two people who aren’t afraid to tackle awkward subjects and cast a critical eye. As journalists, neither of us has time for the nodding dog attitude that everything we’re told is necessarily as it is. As someone who has worked in journalism and Comms, I know how the industry works. If you’re told it’s Tuesday, check the calendar. Don’t just believe what you’re told”.

As a well-established journalist in the field, Chris enjoys the thrill of chasing a story, and THE LIQUIDATORpodcast allows him to do just that. He also enjoys the aspect of a challenge, both in terms of challenging the football club they support but also in terms of challenging each other’s opinions.

“It’s given me a voice to do something different but also to tap into areas that I know and have an insight into”.

How does Chris find motivation to keep working on episodes?

Having a news-driven podcast has helped Chris stay motivated to continue working on the show as his background in sports journalism has provided Chris with the editorial judgement needed to know if a topic or an episode is going to sound good. As football is a transient landscape, it’s always moving and so being driven by the news agenda makes it a lot easier to find content. 

His passion for representing fans’ voice, combined with his journalism background, are the unique selling point of THE LIQUIDATOR podcast, and this is what Chris wants to be reflected in their show. 

“I didn’t want us just to be two fans discussing it and, likewise, I didn’t want us to be two media [professionals] with close links discussing it. We try to find a middle ground where we can have a laugh and a joke as fans but actually we do cover some serious topics and subjects”.

What has been the most rewarding part of hosting ‘THE LIQUIDATOR’ podcast?

The greatest thrill for any journalist is the buzz of breaking a story that nobody else has. Even if the news is the smallest of things, the knowledge that they are the only people who have the information has given Chris the same thrill he used to get as a journalist when he had the back page for local and national press. 

“Even more so now because it’s not my job so the pressure for a boss isn’t there anymore. I don’t have to break a story, I don’t have to reveal information that nobody else has got. That I may choose to, or be able to, is because of my background and because I never lose that instinct for wanting to be first with a story of any sort. As a journalist it is your instinct to tell people something they don’t know”.

As a fairly new podcast, Chris and Adrian had to work hard to make people take their show seriously as nobody really knew what they were about or what they do. Breaking several stories on their show made people realise they are offering the kind of insight that can’t be found elsewhere. The podcast has a unique insight as Chris previously used to cover the club for a newspaper and then he worked for the club as Head of Media, and this has undoubtedly increased the show’s listenership which is another rewarding aspect for him. 

“With football, it’s extremely tribal where people’s emotions go from high to low in the space of a week or so and when people are in a bad place they don’t necessarily want to talk or listen to anything about their club but equally sometimes you get people who do want to know more because actually they’re fed up and they want somebody to blame and they know that we might open up a broad discussion about something”.

Advice for graduates

Having a strong passion for your subject and having a journalistic instinct should be at the core of every journalist. Chris emphasises that any good journalist should want to break a story and want to be first to break a story over someone else – but also to be industry relevant. Chris advises to look at the market, conduct research, find out what is out there and to do something that nobody else has done before.

“There are stories absolutely everywhere and I don’t think you can ever struggle to find [a story] and if you’ve got an instinct as a journalist, you should never be struggling to find a story. But you need to keep with the times. The role of a journalist will continue to evolve as technology and social media develops. The key is to stay ahead of that apex and react to that change. Now, more than any other time, journalists need to be all over industry trends to ensure they stay relevant.”

What’s next?

With their 60th episode having just been released, Chris is content with the progress and growth of THE LIQUIDATOR podcast. Both he and Adrian have no plans to reign it in or call it a day. To download or listen to THE LIQUIDATOR, make sure to follow the podcast on streaming platforms such as Apple Podcasts