Alumni in Action: Accidental journalist Alli Lindenberg ’17 spreads hope with her podcast ‘Hope Starts Here’

To shed light during a dark time, Alli decided to combat the negative news cycle by sharing stories of hope.

Alli Lindenberg ’17 never intended to become a journalist. As a human service studies major, her goal was simply to help people, but as it turns out, she found a way to make a difference through storytelling. Necessity is the mother of invention, and she—along with the rest of the world—needed hope.

Tired from the ongoing negative news cycle, Lindenberg decided to put a little good out into the world by sharing stories of people doing good things. Although she never took a formal communications course, Lindenberg has let her desire to tell stories and help people guide her on her newfound newsroom path.

Tell us about what inspired you to start your podcast, “Hope Starts Here.” 

I’ve recently been referring to myself as an accidental journalist. When I graduated from Elon in 2017, I never knew I would end up working in a newsroom. I actually made it through my time at Elon without ever taking a single communications course. My degree in human service studies gives me an edge in the world of media. My background work and passion has and always will be people. Helping people live better lives is why I do what I do every day. It’s why I started working for Education NC, a civic newsroom based in Raleigh, and it’s why I started Hope Starts Here.

When the pandemic hit, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the news cycle went dark. Our news tends to be hyper-focused on negativity when drama in the world unfolds. We need to stay informed and act accordingly, but often our viewers and readers become absorbed in the drama and it can leave folks feeling pretty heavy. So, I thought about what lifts me out of a brain fog of helplessness and realized it’s hearing stories of hope. I decided to name the show “Hope Starts Here” to remind people that even amidst all the really dark things happening, there are people doing bright work.

Humans need good news. The stories we tell ourselves and the stories we hear and read impact how we move through the world. My main goal with starting Hope Starts Here was to give people some relief from the negative news cycle, to give people some good news to reflect on while we faced these unprecedented times.

What kind of stories have you shared and have any of the perspectives shifted over the course of the pandemic? 

The conversations have been wonderful. There are so many hardworking change-makers in the state of North Carolina. I’m inspired each time I get to talk to someone new. Because I started the show at the beginning of the pandemic, the tone has remained relatively constant. However, there are more and more people to talk to as our community continues to evolve and innovate to meet the challenges the pandemic has surfaced.

What are some of the major themes you’ve uncovered through talking to these various guests? 

Every person I’ve talked to is having a unique experience, but there are a few themes that have surfaced through my conversations. The first is that everybody feels unsure right now. This global pandemic has thrust humanity into collective uncertainty, which leads me to the next theme I uncovered: We’re all doing the best we can with what we know. Lastly, through listening to my guests, I’ve learned that things will never go back to the way they were. We aren’t returning to normal, we’re creating a new one.

What have you learned through this experience and the pandemic?

Something I’ve learned about myself in the pandemic is that it is still challenging for me to slow down. I’m used to a faster pace of life and this time has given me the opportunity to be still, even if just for a moment. And that’s hard. Really hard, at least for me it is. I’ve also learned how important community is to me. What I miss most is gathering with people I love and connecting with people in person. I’ve seen that desire arise not only in myself, but in the folks I talked to during Hope Starts Here and the greater community as well. Being able to convene in person results in a feeling of connection that we crave. Zoom certainly helps, but it’s not the same as sitting across from someone and really seeing and hearing them. I am looking forward to when we can convene together again safely.

Since the name of your podcast is “Hope Starts Here,” what gives you hope?

Teachers give me hope. Frontline workers give me hope. Journalists give me hope. People give me hope. So many folks are showing up every day to serve their communities in these unprecedented times. Also, I have to say that seeing people learn how to care better for themselves and each other has been inspiring. I believe that in order to be able to do the hard work we must do to make this world a better place, we have to care for ourselves, too. When we do that, we show up better for the people around us.