(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — “The Friend Zone” podcast explores the intersection of mental health, self-care and pop culture. The show distinguishes itself in the crowded landscape of podcasts by using a journalistic approach to discuss complex, newsworthy topics related to personal growth.
The podcast is hosted by a trio of creatives— Francheska Medina, Dustin Ross, and Assanté Smith— all in their 30s and 40s, each with diverse backgrounds spanning television, writing, production, music, and social media influence. They draw from their life experiences to engage in a weekly roundtable discussion, addressing a myriad of issues that have shaped their journeys through adulthood. Their candid reflections often lead to what they humorously term “relatable content,” which often resonates with their audience.
The show’s scope encompasses a wide range of topics, including workplace validation, negativity bias, and intellectual property—to name a few. It also doesn’t shy away from providing critical commentary on current events like the College Cheating Scandal, cryptocurrency, and the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI).
Through candid conversation, laughter and personal anecdotes, the hosts skillfully draw listeners in by weaving pop culture and social media references into their discussion. They follow with seamless transitions into more profound subjects that significantly impact the lives of many adults. For instance, in the episode, titled “The Mobility Myth,” they dissect the notion of upward mobility. The hosts define its meaning in social and professional spaces, question if it is an illusion, and discuss if it is an attainable goal without sacrificing self-worth.
While the hosts don’t provide a definitive answer to the question of upward mobility, they offer diverse perspectives on the matter. This approach encourages listeners to reflect on their own experiences and formulate opinions, a common practice in journalism when consumers engage with news content, whether it be breaking news or a commentator’s critique.
Certain topics pertaining to psychology, mental health, and mental wellness are not typically found in conventional news outlets. Nonetheless, they hold significant relevance in the lives of many individuals. “The Friend Zone” serves as a safe space to address these heavier subjects, which might otherwise be considered taboo or subjective in a journalism landscape often characterized by rigid objectivity.
To bolster their journalistic integrity, the hosts frequently invite experts from various fields as guests on their show to discuss the week’s topic. By featuring these interviews in their discussion, the podcast enhances its credibility and provides perspectives beyond those of its three hosts. In the episode, “Conscious Parenting,” they welcomed Natasha Nelson, a certified positive discipline educator and business owner, to discuss the importance of intentional parenting practices. The hosts’ willingness to learn from experts in fields they are not intimately familiar with underscores their commitment to credible journalism.
Journalism is not synonymous with relatability, yet many journalists leverage shared interests or experiences to establish rapport with their audience. Similarly, “The Friend Zone” does not shy away from the personal. In the segment titled “The Wellness Segment,” Medina shares personal experiences and products that contribute to her self-care routine. In the episode titled “Cool Story Bro,” she discusses the benefits of ashwagandha in combating fatigue and enhancing focus.
As hosts, Medina, Ross, and Smith personify the essence of contemporary journalists. They apply journalistic principles of reporting, interviewing, critiquing, and producing to deliver weekly podcast episodes. Seamlessly blending discussions on mental health, emotional wellness, pop culture, and current events, “The Friend Zone” offers readers a unique vantage point within the world of podcast journalism.
In a digital age saturated with content, where substance is often overshadowed by style, “The Friend Zone” reminds us that journalism can be a vehicle for meaningful discourse, even in the most unconventional of spaces. It compels us to recognize that authentic voices that bridge the gap between journalism and relatable storytelling are deserving of our recognition.