Locals Offer Info, Insight in Needham-Centered Podcast

November 17, 2023
• It takes a dedicated pair of Town Meeting members to devote nearly four years and more than nine hours of commentary on town politics.

Doug Fox and Aaron Pressman are the voices behind Needham Say More, a long-form local news podcast centered on all things Needham, from contested elections to trash pickup to the ever-present and oft-discussed train noises. With the release of its 25th episode on the ongoing MBTA Communities law Oct. 28, the podcast enters its fourth season.

Needham Say More intends to rise above the quality of national political discourse by listening to each other’s point of view and trying to learn something new, Fox said. The podcast is also a call to action, he said, as they try to extract meaning out of local issues, often before big votes.

“I don’t think we’re breaking news,” Fox said. “I think we’re digging deeper into a subject for someone who wants more information.”

The podcast’s launch, just months before the pandemic, represented a turning point in the town’s media consumption. By then, The Needham Times, the town’s main newspaper, had significantly cut back its coverage, and alternative local media outlets were scant.

That meant residents could not keep informed on the newly proposed Muzi Ford development, which Pressman described as “a gateway destination to Needham.” In an attempt to fill the knowledge gap, their 20-minute podcast was born.

“It seemed like not that many people knew about what was going on,” he said of the project. “Where could you go to find out about it?”

Needham residents and Town Meeting members Doug Fox, left, and Aaron Pressman catch up outside Town Hall. (Cameron Morsberger)

They’ve talked about the development three times on the show, most recently in September of last year.

Pressman recalled when Fox joined Town Meeting, calling him “a breath of fresh air” for his new ideas and different perspectives on town issues. As a Boston Globe reporter who’s previously appeared on podcasts, Pressman said he soon pictured transferring his conversations with Fox to an audio medium. Luckily, Fox was on board.

“I’m coming from the perspective of sort of the powers that be and the committees that we have,” Pressman said, “and Doug often has original thoughts and criticisms or critical thinking that maybe hadn’t occurred to me and is really valuable in conversation.”

On the Emery Grover building renovation, those differences were exemplified.

Pressman, who served on the School Committee for close to 10 years, said NPS advocated for its complete renovation, while Fox offered a counter argument — with work evolving to become more hybrid, he thought constructing a bigger building wasn’t the smartest idea.

“We had totally different angles on what was happening, and we voted differently in Town Meeting on it,” Pressman said. “And then we had conversations about it on the podcast, where I tried to start to understand what he was saying and vice versa.”

Each installment garners 200 to 300 listens, with the most popular being an April 2020 episode where the pair discussed “Dirty Money,” a Netflix show wherein an elderly Needham resident alleged lawyers he hired essentially conned him out of properties he owned. The episode, however, spurred a lawsuit, which the streaming service eventually lost.

Pure frustration triggered their March 2021 episode titled “Too many banks in Needham center,” after the Needham Center Laundromat closed and was later replaced by an Eastern Bank.

Doug Fox, left, and Aaron Pressman are the voices behind Needham Say More, a news commentary podcast geared toward town issues. (Cameron Morsberger)

“That’s my pet peeve,” Pressman said of the banks.

“That is a common Facebook joke on Needham Facebook,” Fox responded. “When something closes, what’s gonna go there? A bank, a hair salon or a nail salon or a consignment shop.”

And while their conversations seem to be well-received among residents and town officals alike, it hasn’t always been that way.

Before the Special Town Meeting vote last year on whether the town should devote $2.5 million to acquire 34 acres of land at the Foster Property — which ultimately passed — Fox and Pressman covered the proposal and the history of the parcel.

But when the episode was shared on the Needham, MA Facebook page, the post was apparently deleted, Fox said. While he thinks the episode takes a balanced view, Fox said others seemed to disagree.

Despite its supposed censorship, the episode is the podcast’s fourth most listened to, he said.

As the show’s grown more popular, Fox said they’ve received plenty of topic suggestions. An unsolved Needham murder or missing persons case? Not technically off the table. Whatever they discuss next, Fox said they’ll have an ear to the ground.

“It’s certainly been a lot of fun,” Pressman said. “It’s something we’re not getting paid to do, it’s not our jobs. We enjoy talking to each other and having our different opinions about things and seeing where it goes.”

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