While there are many benefits to living in rural Calaveras County, ease of communication is not one of them.
But local resident Don Burns is helping to solve that problem by hosting a new community podcast, “Forest Meadows Neighbors’ Podcast,” from the bottom floor of his Forest Meadows home.
The 30- to 45-minute audio interviews are aimed at shedding light on community topics, improvement projects, services, upcoming events and interesting people in the area.
On Nov. 21, Burns conducted his first podcast interview with the Enterprise’s very own editor, Marc Lutz, who discussed his almost 20-year career in the newspaper industry.
Following their discussion, the tables were turned and Burns went from interviewer to interviewee.
Several years ago, Burns retired from a 36-year career as a publicist and newspaper editor.
His career included working as a news editor for the Amador Ledger Dispatch, the Auburn Journal and two U.S. military newspapers in Germany.
He was also the publicist for the Sacramento Public Library system, University of the Pacific in Stockton, NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and Dixon Fairgrounds’ annual festivals and fairs.
Two years ago, Burns and his wife, Linda, decided to move to the area full-time from Discovery Bay after spending several years frequenting their vacation condo in Forest Meadows.
“Ever since I was a news editor in Amador County – our office was in Jackson – I loved the foothills. And I said, ‘God I’d love to come back here,’” he said.
Unfortunately, the day of the move, Burns was involved in a near-fatal car accident just down the road from his new home.
“We were a mile away near Brice Station, 1 o’clock in the afternoon, and all I can say is it was a bright day,” he said. “I was spitting out windshield glass for three days afterwards.”
Burns showed a picture of his SUV following the wreck. The driver’s side was almost completely smashed in, and the vehicle was littered with pieces of artwork being moved to his new home.
“I never broke a bone in my body until the day of this crash,” he said.
While Burns is steadily recovering, the process has not been an easy one.
“I have a very active mind, and here you are laying in bed, and you just want to create and do stuff, write, whatever it is,” he said.
Following a corrective surgery in January, Burns made a wind chime from metal removed from his leg.
“You gotta have a good attitude,” he said. “You can’t go, ‘Poor me.’”
After moving to Forest Meadows, Burns found that he could only find limited information about what was happening in the community, and decided that a new public forum would be useful.
“If you have a podcast, you’re hearing it directly from the source,” he said. “There’s no editing involved, so you hear the complete story.”
Burns found that a podcast studio was affordable, and with the help of the Computer Fireman – a web design, IT services and computer repair company based in San Andreas – was able to make the podcast a reality.
“This is like $300 worth of equipment. Then all you need is a laptop and a quiet room – that’s it,” he said.
Although Burns is currently designing websites for various organizations, and even redesigned the homeowners’ association website in Forest Meadows, he doesn’t consider himself especially gifted when it comes to technology.
“I miss 8-track,” he said. “It took me a long time to jump from a flip phone to a regular cell phone … I’m 64 years old, and when I started writing, it was manual typewriters, and I still type on a computer like it’s a manual, and I’m banging my keys even though I don’t have to.”
Burns said that the skills that he honed during his career will serve him well as a podcast host.
“I’ve been on the receiving side of the interviews,” he said. “And I was the spokesperson for the city of Sacramento, so I did work with the media as far as providing information to the general public.”
While Burns is open to discussing a wide range of local issues, he decided to leave politics out of the podcast.
“Nothing will turn off an audience more than regurgitating politics. Even if you agree with it, it will get you riled up,” he said. “I want to cover things that are more pertinent to the community … I’m going to have a local insurance agent come on soon after this to talk about how they’re canceling all of our insurance … I’m trying to get somebody from the golf course. The golf course is closing in two weeks.”
The podcast will offer a welcoming environment to shed light on local issues, Burns said.
“It’s friendly,” he said. “I’m not here to trash talk.”
Burns plans on doing podcasts as often as possible.
“I could do one every day,” he said. “I like to help and contribute and provide useful information to people.”
The “Forest Meadows Neighbors’ Podcast” is available at meadowslair.com/podcast.html.
Local residents interested in being interviewed on the podcast can contact Burns at firstname.lastname@example.org.