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  • Writer's pictureRanieri & Co.

Behind the Episode - A Deep Dive into Episode 6 of Dark Shining Moment.

'Dark Shining Moment' tells the story of the first people to detect Russia’s interference before that pivotal election. It’s a narrative about how information has been used to create a new reality for the public, for democracies and for the world - kicking off the crisis we’re in today. The new ground-breaking podcast from Ranieri & Co. goes behind the story to connect the dots between the events of 2016 and the present, illustrating how the actions of that pivotal year continue to shape the geopolitical world we live in today.

As we release the final episode of the series, we go behind the scenes on Episode 6 “The Moment That Never Ends,” exploring how the industry-leading team brought the program together, utilising AI, guest speakers, media clips and expert analysis.

Since its release in March, Dark Shining Moment has received critical acclaim from the ABC, Spotify and the North American publishing team at Apple Podcasts. The series is a testament to the power of digital influence and a must-listen for any professional interested in the intersection of technology, media, and politics. But how did the episodes come together? What processes are essential to create a successful podcast?

Spanning 6 episodes, the podcast is a riveting tale of suspense-driven chaos, expertly told by Investigative Journalist Chris Zappone.  The story unfolds as follows... 

  • Episode 1, “School of Fish” looks back at the final days of the war on terror in Afghanistan where a US contractor stumbles into a strange network of conspiracy sites. 

  • Episode 2, “Poor Man’s NSA.” This episode goes from 9/11 to Ukraine: the road to 2016 meddling becomes visible after Russia interferes in Ukraine’s democracy. 

  • Episode 3, “A Shift in Tone.” Russian state media turns aggressive and begins to influence YouTubers and podcasters. One American sitting on his fishing boat notices the shift. His analysis is later backed up by a Russian media expert. 

  • Episode 4. “Murky World Battle Space.” Overwhelming trolling - from Russia and elsewhere - disrupts the US media’s ability to report on Trump. In the process, it shatters a shared understanding of the US election.

  • Episode 5 - “Evil at Scale.” “Bardak” reigns and into the vacuum of meaning, conspiracism fills the void.

  • Episode 6 - “The Moment That Never Ends.” After the election, a democracy is mobilised against itself. There are endless breadcrumbs about Trump’s collusion with Russia - but no conclusive proof.

In Episode 6, the series' overarching themes converge, yet it also stands as a captivating standalone episode, delving into the aftermath of the election fallout. In the wake of the political upheaval, societal fractures deepen, leaving a trail of anger and distrust in its wake. Russian subversion, targeting both ends of the political spectrum, casts a chilling shadow over the nation. Amidst whispers of Trump's alleged collusion with Russia, fear grips one faction while stoking fury in another.

There are many ways that the podcast industry is starting to use AI and Dark Shining Moment has not shied away from the technology. The episode uses AI deep-fake audio for dramatic effect and to illustrate the power of the tool. The technology is used to mimic the voices of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, heard voicing famous quotes from their opposition. The effect is quite astonishing. The mix of media in the episode creates diversity in the soundscape that makes for compelling listening.

Sound Designer Martin Peralta elaborates: “We used AI throughout the series, but pushed it further in this episode.The effect is fun but also a little unsettling as you realise how easy it is to sway public opinion. Juxtaposed with the well-paced narrative, this contributes to an audio rich and diverse podcast that stands out and offers innovative digital direction.”

The final episode delves into the tactics that created the illusion of chaos and distrust for the media from the general public, post-election. Guest speakers offering unique insight include Australia’s Ambassador to Russia (2016-19) Peter Tesch, Julia Ioffe - Russian-American journalist and Molly McKew, a Russian information expert. By drawing on trusted sources to help bring the story to life, we were able to build credibility. It is fascinating to hear events in the words of those who were at the forefront of the action.

Writer and narrator Chris Zappone is Digital Foreign Editor at The Age/Sydney Morning Herald. He has presented on related subjects at SXSW in the US and testified to Parliament on the political risk of social media manipulation. Chris explains:

My hope with Dark Shining Moment has been to tell a story that makes sense of the chaos that the world witnessed in one decisive year. I wanted it to have a democratic sensibility, so I interviewed real-world eyewitnesses from different backgrounds. What I liked about crafting the script was trying to achieve a kind of kaleidoscopic view of a moment when a new reality comes barging into view. It's been gratifying watching it come to life with expert hands at Ranieri & Co. I think listeners will be surprised to learn the inside account of how some people exploited technology to achieve a major effect. As the story says, to understand what’s to come we need to understand where we’ve been.”

Commenting on the podcast series, Ranieri & Co. Co-Founder Rob Ranieri says:

“Dark Shining Moment is an exciting evolution in our digital storytelling journey. The amazingly talented team have created not only a political exposé, but also a thrilling narrative which makes the podcast incredibly engaging to listen to and connect with. And with a 2024 US election looming, the timing could not be better.”

Greg Muller is a Senior Producer with ABC Radio National. He was Executive Producer for award-winning podcasts Wrong Skin and Gertie's Law for the Supreme Court of Victoria and Motherlode, the story behind Wikileaks. Greg offers his perspective:

“Most people have heard how Russia can manipulate elections, and in particular the 2016 one in the US which brought in Donald Trump. But the story of how this actually happened, and why is less well known. It's an incredible story. And it's still happening right now."

You can listen to E6 of Dark Shining Moment here.


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