McClatchy, owner of big city newspapers like The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, The Charlotte Observer, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has already been exploring storytelling through podcasting with several limited-run series created by its local brands. The company has also created McClatchy Studios, a documentary production arm of McClatchy that is dedicated to nonfiction storytelling driven by local figures with national appeal. “McClatchy Studios will also bring together podcasts from across the country, our work on smart speakers and ultimately an emerging brand of live events,” VP of video and new ventures Andrew Pergam said when it launched the unit last May. The latest podcast to come out of McClatchy Studios arrives via The Miami Herald and bills itself as a series about “weed, speed and the road ahead.”
The six-episode Smoked will chronicle the life of South Florida's Randy Lanier. He was a racing prodigy who rose to stardom at the Indy 500 while living a secret double life as one of the biggest pot smuggling kingpins in American history. Smoked is based on the reporting of Miami Herald editor Amy Driscoll and reporter Alex Harris, who co-host the narrative series. They conducted dozens of interviews, some with people who've never spoken publicly before, and dug into the Miami Herald’s archive to the “Miami Vice” era 1980s.
"The Miami Herald was known for its comprehensive and groundbreaking coverage of smuggling and the South Florida drug trade throughout the 1970s and '80s," said Aminda Marqués González, editor and publisher of the Miami Herald. "This tale of weed, speed and the road ahead follows in those footsteps. Smoked is a gripping human interest story with an important underlying message that will engage audiences across the country.”
The story traces Lanier as he rose from a South Florida beach hippie to being named Rookie of the Year at the 1986 Indy 500. But it was his off-track lifestyle that proved the best fodder for the podcast. Lanier courted the spotlight on the track, living a jet-setter's life of international luxury until prosecutors brought his lavish lifestyle to an abrupt halt.
Investigators traced a $300 million pot trafficking operation — at the time, the largest ever prosecuted in the U.S. — directly to Lanier. A two-year federal investigation led to Lanier's conviction on an array of smuggling charges, and landed him a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Lanier ultimately served 27 years in maximum-security prisons around the country, but was released in 2014, as marijuana legalization efforts dominated daily headlines in Florida and across the country. Today, Lanier works with recovering addicts at a substance abuse treatment center in Florida.
“Smoked represents the best of local reporting with national impact," said Davin Coburn, executive producer of audio for McClatchy Studios, which previously collaborated with The Charlotte Observer on the 2018 podcast Carruth. “Lanier aspired to greatness—and risked destruction—in everything he did. It's a sensational story that our combined teams were uniquely positioned to tell,” Coburn said.
All six episodes of the podcast will be released July 16. Stories and companion videos will appear that day online on a special Miami Herald webpage.