Nailah Edwards, Tai Sims And The “Ohio Values” Podcast

“As Ohio goes, so goes the nation” is a commonplace in American politics. The popular saying once referred to Maine, but in modern times, no other state has been such a reliable predictor of national election results. Since 1944, Ohioans have sided with the losing Presidential candidate only once (opting for Nixon over Kennedy in 1960), and in the closest contests, their electoral votes (currently 18) are often decisive.

But how well does the rest of the country know and understand the people of this famously “purple” battleground state? Give “Ohio Values” a listen.

This month we’re spotlighting two UC student journalists who play starring roles in the new podcast series from A Picture’s Worth and its newsgathering partners. The audio stories reflect our state’s unique place in American politics, and the overriding importance of voting wherever you live, through the eyes of everyday Ohioans.  

We were especially taken with Episode 4, featuring Nailah Edwards’ interview of Tai Simms. Both Nailah and Tai are University of Cincinnati students majoring in communications, as well as part-time reporters for the Cincinnati Herald, which serves the region’s Black community. They’re also hosts of the Herald’s YouTube series focused on BIPOC young adults, The Influencers.

Nailah Edwards

Experienced as she is, “I’ve never done journalism in that way,” Nailah said in a recent D&M phone interview. She described A Picture’s Worth unique method of interviewing subjects, based on personal photographs: “You say, ‘Pick a picture that means a lot to you, and use it to explain your values.’ You’re going deeper into the meaning of what the photo is about.”

Tai Sims

In Tai’s case, a cherished photo of himself as a toddler sitting on his grandmother’s lap, the day she was sworn in as a member of the Flint, Mich., City Council, spins into a heartfelt conversation about public service, equity in education, the inspiring adults in our lives, and the civic responsibility he now feels himself as a young Black American.

“What am I personally doing to impact my community?” Tai asks himself. “I guess I’m not thinking of civic duty when I go to vote—I’m thinking, this is my right. This is what people died for me to be able to do.” 

A Picture’s Worth founding director Elissa Yancey produced the podcast series with human perspectives like these, too often absent from political reporting, in mind. 

 “With so much information and media saturation, we can all become sort of numb to the importance of voting,” Yancey told Democracy & Me via email. “My hope is that listening to the stories of ‘Ohio Values’ reminds listeners, especially young audiences who haven’t had many—if any—opportunities to cast their own votes, what inspires us and our fellow citizens when we go to the polls or mail in our ballots.”

Whether it helps the pundits get a better grip on this particular swing state, come election time… we’ll see.  

Here’s a link to a UC News profile of Nailah Edwards.

And here’s a link to a recent episode of her YouTube series, The Influencers.

Here’s a link to the PBS documentary series As Ohio Goes, tracing the state’s “purple” politics from region to region.

Coming soon: Nailah Edwards and Elissa Yancey will talk about the “Ohio Values” series on WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition later this month. We’ll share the segment link when it’s live.  

Now it’s your turn:

  • Who inspired you to be an engaged citizen?
  • What are the personal values behind your own political opinions and actions?
  • What do you think makes Ohio politics so unpredictable, and yet so predictive of national trends?
  • How can regular people in any state help make our elections more equitable? Comment below!   

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