January 19, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer
Award-winning Hingham broadcast journalist Ally Donnelly is starting a hyper-local podcast, The Hingham 'Cast, featuring the people who live and work in town and the issues affecting them.
“The pandemic pushed us apart physically and so have a lot of connected issues like mask-wearing, government restrictions, the election,” Donnelly told the Hingham Anchor. “But as we’re all looking at what’s important to us and how we want to live our lives, I think it presents a real opportunity to build a better community.”
When COVID-19 hit, she noted, "Everyone tightened their circle and hunkered down with the people who are closest to us. We rallied around our doctors and nurses, supported our small businesses and worried about how our kids were doing in school. We’re looking at issues through the lens of one town, but the issues are playing out in some fashion in communities across the country.”
The intent of the podcast is to help build community and "to dig a little deeper" than our everyday experience during a pandemic allows.
The Hingham 'Cast will be "an intimate and powerful way to get to know and understand our neighbors by listening to different perspectives," Donnelly, a former reporter for NECN and NBC Boston said. "This is an opportunity to gain more empathy and understanding for each other."
The podcast will air weekly, on Tuesdays, featuring guests with ties to Hingham or who have unique insights into particular issues affecting the town.
Among the first episodes will be a conversation with Hingham native Kim Boggini. She’s an ICU nurse at Mass General Hospital. She takes listeners along while she gets vaccinated, lays out what she’s facing in her COVID-specialty unit and what she worries about in this next surge.
Another podcast will feature local dad Dan Fickes, who this year started baking his mom's bread. He shares why his mom started baking it in the first place which Donnelly calls a "gut-wrenching and personal story."
The podcast will also feature children’s voices, including her daughters Izzie and Lucy. They share what it’s like going to school in a pandemic and how COVID is affecting their lives.
"Everyone has a story,” Donnelly said. “And it will be my job to find the stories and share them with our listeners," Donnelly said. “It’s really important that we have a diversity of voices. If everything comes from the perspective of a heterosexual, married, white woman, I’ve failed.”
The podcast will feature a wide range of people from different racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds and sexual orientations "to help break down some of the divisiveness that's around us."
Donnelly said the idea for the podcast came to her as a direct result of the pandemic. After being laid off this summer, she embraced the opportunity to spend more time with her kids while at the same time not wanting to lose her ability to tell stories. "My family, community, and storytelling are important to me, and the podcast is a way to loop all those things together."
Missing the interaction with others that she enjoyed before the pandemic, a podcast seemed like a good way to bring people together without putting anyone at risk. “I used to go to the grocery store and if people recognized me they’d say hello and share a story or tell me what was happening in their lives. Now everyone is wearing face masks and not talking with each other like we did before," Donnelly said. "I'm an extrovert, and for me, the masks bring an uncomfortable level of anonymity as we move through town not connecting with one another. Maybe we’re getting a little too comfortable in our bubbles and I don’t want to lose that sense of community.”
Over Donnelly’s 20 year career at NECN and NBC Boston, she worked, “holding the powerful accountable and amplifying the voices of the abused and marginalized." Her stories have been recognized with multiple Edward R. Murrow, Emmy, Associated Press, and Gabriel Awards.
She and her husband, Patrick, who moved to Hingham in 2005, are busy raising their two daughters "and apologizing for our wacky dog, Sugar!"
Donnelly's website -- thehinghamcast.com -- will go live in early 2021, and the first episodes are available today. Check for details in the Hingham Anchor.