City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

The Podcast Path

Four Hellgate High graduates juggle their journalistic talents to bend the ear of listeners everywhere

Erika Fredrickson and her brother Leif remain good friends with brothers Chad and Zach Dundas after meeting at Hellgate High School in 1990s. The four of them have a lot in common including a shared background in print journalism. Several years ago, they began looking for a collaborative way to use these backgrounds.

“We thought it would be fun to work on a project together as friends where we all would bring slightly different things to the table,” said Chad. After mulling over different ideas they decided to do a podcast, dubbing it “Death in the West”.

Death in the West weaves together stories using a combination of history and true crime. The four co-producers strive to educate their audience with fascinating historical events that go way beyond simply murder and mayhem. “I don’t think we were ever really interested in doing a straight forward true crime podcast,” said Chad. “We always wanted to give a wider-angle view of history and use these crimes and salacious incidents to try to illuminate larger societal forces and tell a larger story.” Erika added, “There are a million stories to tell. Death doesn’t have to be murder.”

The podcast is very much a collective effort, but one of the elements that makes it unique are the individual talents and interests each individual brings to the table. “It’s cool to see everybody use their specific skills as a team effort to make everything happen,” said Chad. “Zach does the voiceover. Leif is a history PhD and a public historian. Erika is adept at the kind of writing that we do for a podcast medium and she also sold all the ads and gathered a lot of the music that we use. I do the physical production and we all collaborate on the scripts.”

The first season of Death in the West focused on the murder of union organizer Frank Little in Butte during the summer of 1917. Little’s murder had always been on the fringes of Montana history as the four were growing up, and they realized that no one had told the story in an in-depth audio format that their podcast would allow. Not only does the story have historical and local significance, it also touches on current issues of corporate greed and a nation politically divided. Plus, Leif had accessed archival audio about Frank Little that the group was excited to use. The recordings feature interviews of townsfolk and miners in Butte, some of who were alive during the murder.

Using the frame of the well-known mysterious tale of D.B. Cooper’s infamous hijacking of a plane in 1971, the second season tells the little-known yet fascinating tale of Richard McCoy, who hijacked a passenger jet for ransom in 1972. McCoy was eventually tried and convicted for his crime. Cooper parachuted out of his plane somewhere between Seattle, Washington and Reno, Nevada never to be heard from again.

Erika explained that research for the second season was different from the first as not much information was available on McCoy. Plus, new information came to light as the season was unfolding. “There was more of us having to react to things and trying to find the story as we carved our way through,” said Erika. “It felt more nebulous in a lot of ways, which was kind of perfect but maddening also.”

Over the years, the sibling duos have found that there are many elements about making a podcast that can be maddening indeed. It took about two years of planning and trial and error to get to their first recorded episode in September of 2020. Funding was a big obstacle in the beginning and there was a steep technological learning curve of how to record the podcast. Their biggest struggle continues to be finding the time to put it all together with it not being anyone’s full time job. “We wanted to challenge ourselves, but we thought it was going to be easier. It was way more challenging, but for the good,” said Erika. She, Leif, Chad, and Zach hope to wrap up the second season soon, then regroup and come up a plan for how best to continue. “It’s been a labor of love,” said Chad.

All this labor has begun to pay off in terms of recognition and appreciation. People have told Erika that they get shivers up their spines while listening to the podcast. Chad heard from a family that had changed the route of their vacation just so they could visit Butte after listening to Season 1.

Last year Death in the West won an Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History. It was the only podcast to receive the award. “We’ve had some history professors across the country use the podcast for education,” said Erika. “It makes us feel like the work we put into making it accurate makes it stand out and makes people respect it.”

You can find Death in the West anywhere you listen to podcasts. If you enjoy listening and would like to be a part of its continued success, you can make a donation on the website,

“It’s cool to see everybody use their specific skills as a team effort to make everything happen,” - Chad Dundas