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TRUE CRIME: Nancy Simpson of the KTTS “Morning Show” has investigated the death of a local 9-year-old girl for three years, and she’s now telling the story through her podcast, “The Toll.”
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
TRUE CRIME: Nancy Simpson of the KTTS “Morning Show” has investigated the death of a local 9-year-old girl for three years, and she’s now telling the story through her podcast, “The Toll.”

Another wave of podcasters emerge

Three local podcasts have dropped since October — from talk radio to true crime

Posted online

The podcast scene is growing in the Springfield area.

Since October, three local entrepreneurs have released their own spin on the trending content medium with three different genres.

Jeff Houghton’s “Make Something Where You Are” podcast, which dropped Oct. 28, is inspired by a video he released two years ago by the same name. Houghton said he interviews people doing “amazing things in surprising places” with the idea that others can pursue their dreams anywhere – not just in a big city. Five of the nine episodes in Season 1 were released as of press time. His guests include Olympian and Missouri State University track and field coach Carmelita Jeter, urban farmer Melissa Young-Millsap and global chocolatier Shawn Askinosie.

Meanwhile, former Springfield City Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky released her podcast, “Real Talk with Kristi,” where she covers politics and pop culture from a conservative perspective. Fulnecky had released four episodes by press time, featuring criminal defense attorney Dee Wampler, former MSU tennis coach Jim Klousia and local private investigator Jim Moses, according to the podcast website.

Podcast listeners also can dive into unsolved mysteries of the Ozarks with Nancy Simpson of the KTTS-FM “Morning Show.” On Oct. 17, Simpson releases a new true crime series called “The Toll,” which investigates in the first season’s eight episodes the death of a local 9-year-old girl named Shirley Jane Rose, who was kidnapped and murdered 44 years ago. No one was arrested for her murder.

The three podcasts join a host of content already featured in the Springfield area, including “The Bravery Board,” “Springfood, MO,” “Ponderings from the Perch,” “Get Fit with Jodelle,” “The Mixed Six,” “Missouri State Journal,” “Good Dads” and “Shailey and Katie’s Lemonade Stand.”

Podcasting isn’t a new trend. The 2019 Podcast Trends report from Discover Pods found that 82.4% of people listen to content for at least 7 hours a week, and 59% of those surveyed spend more time listening to podcasts than on social media.

The process
Because podcasting can turn virtually anyone into a radio show host, sources say creating and delivering the content has been a learned skill.

“The whole process is different than I thought it was going to be,” Houghton said. “I thought you press record and you’re good.”

Houghton, whose main gigs are hosting late night talk show “The Mystery Hour” and as a DJ on 92.9 KOSP-FM, said he began interviewing his sources 18 months ago and created all the content before releasing the weekly episodes.

Declining to disclose startup costs, Houghton said he’s spent very little on the new venture. He already owned a Zoom audio recorder, and instead of using a studio, he travels to his sources.

“Once you get the basics down and all the foundational things, it gets way easier,” he said. “I’m still in the beginning of that.”

Houghton said he hired an audio engineer for an undisclosed amount to help him string together his podcasts. Houghton’s wife, Michelle, also is a podcast enthusiast. She is a co-creator of “The Bravery Board” – a podcast that promotes mental wellness to high-performing women, according to its website.

The “Make Something Where You Are” series, which Houghton said will have a second season, has four sponsors: Old Missouri Bank, The 1906 Gents, The Coffee Ethic LLC and the Efactory.

Simpson, the longtime investigative and radio journalist, didn’t have as much of a learning curve. But she said she was investigating Rose’s murder for three years prior to releasing the first season of “The Toll,” which is all done in her spare time.

“It takes a long time when you want to do a thorough investigation,” she said.

Along with a team of five, Simpson created an eight-episode season that has been downloaded in over 10 countries and in almost every U.S. state, she said. As of press time, “The Toll” had more than 11,000 downloads.

“This story was forgotten. She didn’t get a lot of press, and nothing’s been done since,” Simpson said. “A lot of people didn’t know this case existed, and they are very curious about this little girl.”

Simpson said she can’t give up hope there could be developments in the case following the podcast, similar to the widely popular true crime podcast “Serial.” After its release in 2014, the podcast resulted in new court proceedings in the case of Adnan Syed, who was given a life sentence for the murder of a high school classmate.

“I wasn’t initially trying to solve this at all. I just wanted to tell her story well,” Simpson said. “But then as DNA evidence started coming up, there was a point halfway through where we thought, ‘Maybe there could be justice for this case.’”

“The Toll” also has a website that will soon include an online store where listeners can purchase T-shirts, mugs and other memorabilia with the podcast logo. Overall, she said there has been a low, undisclosed cost of entry because she already had access to equipment and studio space at the radio station and at staff members’ homes. The podcast does not yet have sponsors, but it’s on her radar, she said.

For Fulnecky, a podcast was a natural next step. She’s been on Nick Reed’s morning show on KSGF for about three years now.

“I thought with my political and radio experience that it was a great fit,” she said, noting her three years on Springfield City Council.

Fulnecky resigned from council in 2018 after moving to Nixa. The year prior, she had lost the mayoral race to Ken McClure.

The “Real Talk with Kristi” podcast is her own spin on talk radio. She focuses on politics and pop culture with a lighthearted take.

“We’re targeting the people who already listen to podcasts to bring the conservative message to them, but we’re also trying to pull people from talk radio,” Fulnecky said. “I want to change the way people see conservatives.”

Season 2, etc.
All three entrepreneurs have caught the podcast bug and have big plans for a second season.

Simpson said she’s already conducted several interviews for her next investigative story. This one will take a look into a fatal house fire in Springfield. Simpson said she plans to work on the podcast indefinitely.

Fulnecky, who also owns Fulnecky Law LLC and Fulnecky Enterprises LLC, said her goal for 2020 is to create a daily podcast that reaches regional and national listeners. “I have a strong following in southwest Missouri where people recognize me,” she said.

Fulnecky said she’s got a marketing strategy to help achieve the goal, though she declined to disclose specific action steps.

She said it’s too soon to measure the number of listeners the podcast has, but she’s heard positive feedback through social media and word-of-mouth.

Houghton also is wanting to stretch the scope of his podcast. He’s not confining the individual stories to Springfield – he wants to find more people following their dreams in surprising places across the country.

“The plan is to do a Season 2,” he said. “My whole idea was to try it and see how I wanted to go forward. I’d like it, long term, to not be a Springfield podcast.”

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