Investigations Professor Makes Waves with Crime Podcast
“Crime Waves with Declan Hill” is a new podcast featuring interviews with individuals at the heart of some of the biggest investigations across the world. Guests have included many of the University’s talented faculty members who’ve shared their stories and discussed the impact they have had on a wide range of high-profile cases.
March 26, 2021
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Ryan Decker ’22 could have never imagined that striking up a conversation with one of his professors could lead to an opportunity in podcasting. That’s exactly what happened following a discussion with Declan Hill, D.Phil. They first met while at the University’s campus in Prato, Italy, two years ago. Now Decker is now helping to produce “Crime Waves with Declan Hill,” a new podcast about organized crime, investigation, and corruption.
Since the beginning of the semester, Decker, a criminal justice major, has learned about all aspects of podcasting, including how to conduct research, interviews, and promoting the show. After extensively researching the backgrounds of interviewees – including, recently, a German police officer – he conducts preliminary research interviews with them. He then summarizes them for Dr. Hill, who uses them to conduct the podcast interviews. Decker, who is working on the podcast as part of an independent study, has gained experience producing and editing as well.
“I have learned a lot about research on a deeper level,” he said. “Dr. Hill connects this to the real world, and he has taught me to look for solutions, not problems. I have learned how much work goes into creating just one episode of a podcast. We are featuring interviews with people who want to express the truth, and that is so important.”
‘Crime junkies’ podcast’
Season one, called “Blood Sports,” has featured some of Dr. Hill’s many contacts from his work in investigating sports corruption and match-fixing. It includes:
Tim Donaghy, the disgraced NBA referee implicated in the league’s worst betting and game-fixing scandal
Enes Kanter, a professional basketball player who received death threats after criticizing the president of his native Turkey
A couple still in hiding after exposing the extent of state-sponsored doping among Russian Olympic teams
Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of the United States Anti-Doping Agency who exposed cyclist Lance Armstrong's massive doping operation.
“We call it the thinking person’s and crime junkies’ podcast,” said Dr. Hill, an associate professor in the University’s Investigations department. “It features interviews with individuals who are primary sources and who have been involved in major crime investigations around the world.”
‘The faculty at the University are stars’
Dr. Hill said he found inspiration for the podcast in a conversation with his colleagues in the University’s Forensic Science Department over lunch one day. Although much of the conversation was not exactly appetizing, it did inspire a hunger to share their stories and the remarkable work they have done. Season two, “The Killers: How to Solve a Murder,” does just that, as it features several of the University’s own faculty members – including world-renowned forensic scientist and emeritus faculty member Henry C. Lee, Ph.D. – who reflects on his role investigating Pocahontas’s remains – discussing their ground-breaking work.
Tim Palmbach, Ph.D., was the first guest, discussing the investigation following the finding of a body on a beach in Connecticut. Although a sudden rainstorm washed away the evidence, investigators were able to solve the case.
“The faculty at the University are stars who have cracked major criminal cases,” said Dr. Hill.
Dr. Hill is looking forward to creating more mini-seasons of “Crime Waves” and to including more of his colleagues. He will, for example, feature Angie Ambers, Ph.D., a forensic science professor, who will share her work that set free a Texas man who was wrongly convicted of murder and who spent nearly a decade in prison.
‘I have never had an experience like this’
Erin Griffin ’22 has served as a co-producer of the podcast. Like Decker, she had the opportunity to hone her research, interviewing, and editing skills. She completed an internship remotely this past summer with Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and an advocate for athletes, who was also featured on the podcast.
“This was an incredible opportunity that Dr. Hill gave me,” said Griffin, a national security major. “I never imagined I’d get to do something like this, and it was eye-opening. The connections I made will last a lifetime.”
Working on Crime Waves has also enabled students to learn from Bruce Barber, a local radio legend and general manager of the University’s award-winning radio station, WNHU, who teaches podcasting at the University. The executive producer of “Crime Waves,” Barber is working alongside producer Eric Krebs, a journalist and audio producer.
Aiden Van Batenburg ’22, a forensic science major at the University, also recently began his role as a producer for the podcast. He, too, has gained hands-on experience conducting preliminary interviews and editing, and, he says, it has been an exciting and meaningful opportunity.
“I have learned a lot from Professor Hill – from great life lessons to professional interviewing and research,” he said. “I have never had an experience like this. It has been great to learn how to properly conduct an interview and to gain an appreciation for the preparation that goes into it.”
Griffin, the national security major, agrees. She says Dr. Hill’s mentorship and her work on the podcast have expanded her horizons – and her career prospects.
“Working with Dr. Hill has changed my career path,” she said. “Considering the media side of criminal justice has opened me to other possibilities. I am now considering going to law school after I graduate, thanks to Dr. Hill’s encouragement.”