Latitude Adjustment, a new podcast conceived and hosted by Eric Maddox, promises listeners a “journey around the world through conversation.” The podcast’s conceit — a conversation between two individuals — may seem simple, but the tagline belies the tact, nuance, and inquisitiveness with which the host explores complex subjects, ranging from the blockade of the Gaza strip, photojournalism, the attempted coup in Turkey, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and much more. Maddox, the Executive Director of NGO Open Roads Media, and the founder & producer of The Virtual Dinner Guest Project, launched the podcast on August 25, sharing three episodes featuring conversations with three guests.
Through thoughtful dialogue, Maddox highlights his guests’ lived experiences to provide much-needed context about topics that are either misunderstood, or underrepresented in mainstream media. On his website, Maddox shares the podcast’s mission: “to inspire curiosity about misunderstood places, communities, and perspectives, in order to nurture human connections, greater empathy, and to create a more just world.”
His first three episodes, feature conversations with Lithuanian photographer and activist Andrius Mažeika, photojournalist Tara Todros-Whitehill, and Palestinian writer and activist Yousef Aljamal. Maddox’s reflective hosting attributes truly shine in the third episode with Aljamal, not only through the conversation itself, but also in the introduction and conclusion that he uses to provide context. He starts the episode by speaking directly to listeners, sharing his own connection to the Palestinian cause, so that listeners “will be able to place opinions and motivations in context.”
Amongst the various experiences that contribute to his understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Maddox describes how he spent five months living in the West Bank over 2007-2008, traveling through the West Bank, Israel, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights, to conduct interviews and collect oral histories of Israelis and Palestinians who had been through the 1948 war. In this introduction, he remains honest and aware about the privileges that set him apart from many of his interview subjects, stating: “I have a passport that endows me with enormous privilege.” As he says in is opening remarks, through the podcast, his hope is to demonstrate “the sensitivity and integrity that the topic deserves.”
In addition to the podcast, Maddox provides resources for the listener to engage with, including several videos about the Israel-Palestine conflict. One of these videos features footage from the late Yaser Murtaja, a journalist who was killed by Israeli fire during the Great Return March in Gaza, and to whom the episode is dedicated. Just thirty-years-old, Murtaja left behind a wife and children. According to Maddox, Murtaja’s dream was to see his home of Gaza from above. The video he co-produced with Maddox includes footage from an aerial drone – an attempt to fulfill that dream.
Lasting a little over three hours, Maddox and Aljamal’s conversation is comprehensive. Aljamal, who now lives in Turkey, offers his reflections on life in Gaza, sharing his losses, as well as goals for the future. Together, the two men explore topics including the political symbolism of martyrs, the need for social justice movements to learn from one another, and views of Hamas held by residents of Gaza.
At a time when complex geopolitical issues are often reduced to five minute media representations, Maddox’s approach is refreshing, honest, and necessary. Eavesdropping on conversations like Maddox’s may equip an audience with the kind of curiosity that will spur them to embark on their own journeys of discovery.