“Friends & Neighbors” began as a podcast in 2020, inspired by the wisdom of Fred Rogers, seeking to cultivate depth and simplicity in complex lives. Initial episodes explored guests’ personal insights and approaches to building community, managing possessions, and finding reflection. As COVID-19 raged and host Benjamin Wagner grappled with post-traumatic stress, conversations shifted towards mental health. Dialogues with authors, lawmakers, and advocates about trauma, authenticity, and healing illuminated the power of making the “mentionable manageable.” By creating a space for sharing stories and journeys, the podcast provides roadmaps for healing and strategies for healthier lives, embodying Rogers’ belief that “when we look for the helpers, we know there’s hope.”

Patrick Riley


Patrick Riley

Cellist Patrick Riley has performed string arrangements on albums by Shawn Mendes, Imagine Dragons, and The Envy Corps, played live alongside The Eagles and Father John Misty, scored big-time Hollywood films – and graced every one of my albums since 2010’s “Forever Young.”

This Is Not A Test


This Is Not A Test

In the 90s, the CDC made the correlation between adverse childhood experiences like divorce, violence, substance abuse and mental illness and adult outcomes like anxiety, depression, addiction and many of the leading causes of death. It’s just that, well, no one told most of us.

Irving Washington


Irving Washington

As outgoing CEO of the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, Online News Association, Irving Washington has led programming and fundraising initiatives for journalists, media professionals, and students worldwide. This week, in the fourth of a series of Media Transformation Challenge-sponsored episodes, MTC Journeys, Irving shares how MTC helped accelerate the organization’s transformation, and how a childhood passion for re-creating mainstream media through the lens of representation connects his career of service at RTDNA, NABJ and ONA.

Jeff Berner


Jeff Berner

Whether as a touring guitarist for the avant-garde rockers, Psychic TV, or producer for artists like Boy George, Lenny Kaye, and Pharoahe Monch, Jeff Berner makes a safe, creative space for those around him to make great art. This week, we trace Jeff’s life from first falling for “Sunshine of Your Love,” to building his studio career, performing in Russia with punk legend Genesis P-Orridge – and producing, performing on and brilliantly wedging an electric bouzouki into my new album, Constellations.

Wherever You Go


Wherever You Go

“Wherever You Go,” Constellations’ fourth single and thesis statement, began as an expression of sadness and isolation but, with time and telling, transformed into something altogether different.

Lily McKown & Hayden Chance


Lily McKown & Hayden Chance

Philly singer/songwriter Lily McKown & Wilmington psyche rocker, Hayden Chance (a/k/a Chvnce) have both graduated to national stages but are close enough to rock ‘n roll’s rickety attics and ratty basements to remember the stale smell of beer and sharp shock of an ungrounded microphone. This week, we discuss early influences, song craft and what it feels like to finally arrive.

Tyler, Texas


Tyler, Texas

From a chance meeting with Nashville waitress with a profoundly personal and deeply universal story to a lushly realized FAME Studios recording, then mixed and mastered masterpiece featuring the Muscle Shoals’ legendary Swampers, L.A. Rocker Casey Shea, Brooklyn guitarist Jeff Berner and Des Moines cellist Patrick Riley, this is the story of one song’s journey to your ears.

Noreen Gillespie


Noreen Gillespie

When the Associated Press’ Noreen Gillespie walked through doors of the Media Transformation Challenge at Poynter Institute in 2019, she was tasked with evolving the AP domestic news operations amidst a rapidly changing ecosystem. Three years later, the AP’s approach to U.S. news is wholly transformed, and Noreen’s applying everything she learned to coverage of the rest of the planet.

Chris Bullard


Chris Bullard

Sound Mind Executive Director Chris Bullard talks about growing up in L.A., sharing a mic with Kris Kristofferson, being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and his mission to end the stigma that surrounds mental health through the power of music.

The Secret Song


The Secret Song

We all have secrets, truths that gnaw at us, crush our spirit, and kill us from the inside out. The second single from my forthcoming album, Constellations, is that moment of realization and transformation made manifest. On this week’s episode, I share the journey of writing and recording of “The Secret Song,” from inception to release, and explore how it came to help me, as Fred Rogers often said, “make the mentionable manageable.”

Alberto Mendoza


Alberto Mendoza

As Executive Director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Alberto Mendoza transformed the organization’s mission and drove record-breaking membership. In the second in our MTC Journeys series sponsored by the Media Transformation Challenge at the Poynter Institute, the Managing Director for the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University shares his path from high school journalist to non-profit entrepreneur and goes deep into how personal and professional experiences informed the launch of Palabra, an innovative media platform designed to represent and advocate for NAHJ journalists, and how his MTC fellowship helped catalyze its success.

Wide Awake


Wide Awake

Last August, armed with a dozen new demos, I set out for FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to begin recording my forthcoming LP, Constellations. The album, my tenth, drops October 14th. This week, the journey from iPhone demo to mastered album track for the first single, Wide Awake.

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