New WUNC podcast explores heartbreak and hardship


Will McInerney helped record a new podcast at WUNC Studios in Chapel Hill on Friday that is is part of a series called Stories With a Heartbeat.

WUNC’s new podcast, “Stories with a Heartbeat,” blends together the spoken word and stories of conflict to help bring the human stories forward. The podcast debuted the first week of February.

Will McInerney, a poet, journalist and UNC faculty member who hosts the podcast, said he wants to shine a light on conflict humans experience — ranging from the deeply personal to societal.

The podcast combines sound clips, interviews conducted by McInerney, music by Apple Juice Kid and poetry interweaved into one final product.

“I think Will is a real talent,” said WUNC’s program director, David Brower. “He’s really got something to say, and he says it in a really engaging manner. It’s both informative and an artistic expression.”

The first episode, currently accessible through WUNC’s website, discusses the Chapel Hill shooting and its effects on local and worldwide communities. McInerney interviewed Farris Barakat, the brother of victim Deah Barakat, about his experience on the day of the tragedy.

“We decided to start with this conflict that started close to home. We thought it was a really powerful example of the complexity of conflict,” McInerney said. “Seeing the hate and the violence and the destruction and loss of life, but also the beauty and the resilience and the legacy — I wanted to explore how these two stories simultaneously exist.”

The concept of the podcast has spent a long time in development, beginning with “Poetic Portraits of a Revolution,” a project McInerney and two colleagues collaborated with WUNC to create. This relationship lasted over the years as McInerney and his colleagues continued to collect interviews from the Middle East, culminating into “Stories with a Heartbeat.”

“Over the past couple of months, myself and my partner, Mike Mallah, we wanted a permanent concrete home for these stories,” McInerney said. “We thought the podcast was an ideal format to harness these stories.”

While the next episodes of the podcast’s first season are still in the planning stages, the first few episodes will continue to focus on the impact of the Chapel Hill Shooting.

Brower said the first season is a soft launch.

“We’re really hoping for feedback and that there’s an audience for it,” he said. “This is an experiment for us.”

Mohammad Moussa, McInerney’s colleague and fellow spoken word poet, is scheduled to appear through interview on a future episode. The episode will feature Moussa’s spoken word project about the Chapel Hill Shooting, “Shattered Glass.”

“I was so blown away by Will’s work,” Moussa said.

“Seeing how he’s taking spoken word to these new places is both compelling and intriguing. He encourages the audience to think deeply about these topics, and it’s truly inspiring.”

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