If you see me walking around town alone, you’ll never find me with empty ears. I always have my headphones in. This is not to say that I am always listening to something. There are times I roam in silence, but a pair of earbuds can protect a gal from all sorts of unwanted or sticky situations. We can talk about that another time.
What I really want to share with you now is what I have been listening to for years…podcasts!! My friends know I’m pretty obsessed with pods–they come to me often for new recommendations. I’d say on average, I listen to about 13-14 hours of radio and podcasts a day. I recognize that that might sound a little insane–it did to me before I calculated the number. But the truth is, I start listening to podcasts between 545 and 6am every morning when I get to the gym or head out on a run. Then I listen to them on my 40 minute commute to work. Then I catch my local public radio’s programming from 9am-630pm. Finally, podcasts take me back home where I usually arrive around 730pm.
I’ve always been an auditory learner. In fact I remember feeling self conscious about it when I was younger–I would often be the only kid who wasn’t told they were a visual learner when we took the little quiz. I love listening. Hell, I love talking too. I’d love to have my own podcast one day–but for now, I’ll keep plugging aways at this blogging machine and leaving the audio to the experts.
At first I wasn’t sure if there was enough variety in what I listen to to compile a list to share. Then I remembered that this post is like any other–take what you want and leave the rest. I used to be a bit of a sports podcast junkie, but the current climate leaves my ears very little time for that. My listening tends to be pretty news/politics heavy these days, so a lot of my recs will fall into that space. For the sake of staying organized, I’m going to divide the pods into three categories:
I’ll leave a short description below each one so you get an idea about what I think makes it special. I know I listen to several hours of programming a day but I don’t take it lightly. I don’t settle, my ear-time is valuable and it’s important to me that what I listen to keeps me informed, entertains me, and even touches my heart and makes me laugh as often as it can be managed.
Oh–and to all my running buds out there–if you’re not running to podcasts, give it a try, especially on the long ones. Getting lost in an engaging discussion ticks those miles by faster than you can imagine.
Alright, here goes. Happy listening! (Oh, and let me know if you check out any of these and really love them!!)
I just want to preface this section by stating that I believe in a free press and in the necessity of the news as a critical function and protection of our democracy. I believe in truth–or maybe more importantly, that there always is a truth–that it is objective and not subject to interpretations to fit agendas. You’ll notice that the majority of my news podcasts are produced by National Public Radio or their associates. I am a sustaining member of my local public radio station and I believe radio and news funded by the people, and not by corporations and advertisers is my best assurance of journalistic integrity.
Up First – This NPR podcast is what I begin my commute with every morning. Their tagline is “The news you need to start your day,” and it’s just that. It’s essentially a briefing. It’s ready to download every weekday right before 6am and it gives you a quick 15 minute overview of what’s going on in our world today. Every morning before I press play and step on the train I kind of think to myself, “alright, let’s see what we’re dealing with today.”
The Daily-This pod from the NY Times covers the second and longer half of my commute in the morning. I love it because it takes one of the top stories of the day and fleshes it out and delves deeper. The host Michael Barbaro is beyond excellent–for the life of me I don’t understand how they produce 25-40 minutes of in-depth, thoughtful, and truthfully gripping reporting on such hot topics and have them ready by 6am. If you want to feel in touch and engaged with the what’s going on in the world around you, and have the bonus of your co-workers thinking you’re super informed, listen to this on your way into work.
On Point– This is a daily two hour live news analysis show produced by NPR that I catch as a podcast. They divide the hours up so you can see what topics they are covering so it’s easy to make sure and bookmark the ones that really interest you. Part of the reason I love this show is the diversity of people who listen to it. Far left and far right people call into the show all the time and the host Tom Ashbrook is fair and even handed with taking all opinions, but also staunch in his search for facts. The show is always full of insightful and relevant guests who look at the topic from different angles. I always walk away feeling like I have a broader, more global perspective on what was discussed.
On the Media– Alright guys, I swear I am writing my own copy here, but when I read the description that iTunes/On the Media gives for their podcast, it was too spot-on not to quote. “The Peabody Award winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield examine threats to free speech and government transparency, cast a skeptical eye on media coverage of the week’s big stories, and unravel hidden political narratives in everything we read, watch, and hear.” Basically, these guys report on how the news is reported each week. I start most Sunday morning long runs with Brooke and Bob; it’s an enlightening delight.
Reveal– This is a newer to me weekly podcast that I’ve often been checking out on Friday afternoons when I’m anxious for the weekend to start, and need something fresh and compelling in my ears to move me through the rest of my workday. The host of this podcast, Al Letson, and his team, showcase some phenomenal investigative reporting on this show and the topics are dynamic and intriguing. The first episode I ever listened to was titled “The Mystery of Mountain Jane Doe.” After that 53 minutes, I knew these guys deserved to have me as a subscriber.
NPR Politics Podcast– I’d call this twice a week (unless something BIG happens in the news, which these days is often) podcast the most unbiased and straightforward political discussion available in the media. Some of NPR’s best White House and Congressional reporters break down and weed through the mumbo jumbo. If Republicans are trying to pass a repeal bill–they’ll tell you what’s in it. If you’re wondering what it means that the FBI had a FISA warrant to wiretap Paul Manafort–they’ll explain it in detail–in terms we can all understand.
The New Yorker Radio Hour / The New Yorker Politics and More– While the New Yorker Radio Hour often includes storytelling and different profiles, I’ve included it here in the politics section along with it’s Politics and More sidekick because David Remnick is always tackling whatever is current. Since politics is heated and nonstop these days, you’ll always find him profiling or interviewing key players in domestic and global affairs. Evan Osnos is a frequent guest and he’s in a tie with Michale Barbaro for my favorite male reporter. This isn’t people yapping or talking out of the side of their mouth on cable news–it’s really smart, thoughtful discussion on things you might want to know more about. I know I do.
The New Washington– This is a newer podcast launched by Michael Barbaro of the times (alright, I’m officially a fangirl). While there have only been a few episodes so far, they’ve been incredibly compelling. This show seeks to introduce the new political characters in Trump’s Washington. Interviews so far have included:Roger Stone, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Senator Jeff Flake, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Senator Mitch McConnell. Last Saturday’s episode was all about lobbying in Washington. If you’re into politics, this one’s a don’t miss. Definitely an up and coming winner.
Stay Tuned with Preet– When I heard Preet Bharara–the former US Attorney who aggressively fought corruption and financial fraud–was starting a podcast, I couldn’t wait to tune in. So far with only two episodes released he hasn’t disappointed. He’s smart and he’s OBSESSED with our constitution; I find his perspective invaluable to my understanding of legality. He doesn’t give you the right or the left–he gives you the law. His first episode is named “That time President Trump Fired Me”. Yeah, you’ll want to give this one a listen.
Slate Political Gabfest– John Dickerson of CBS’s Face the Nation offers an even-handed perspective that often saves this pod from getting too partisan. That being said, it’s got a liberal bend that I usually agree with so I’m not one it would easily offend. These guys are always on point and discussing what matters. Still, sometimes my favorite part of the show is the end, when they have a segment called cocktail chatter, where each host talks up something that’s especially held their interest that week. I’ve gotten movie and book recs from them that have not disappointed.
This American Life-You’re already listening to this one right? For years? You have to be. I don’t have to go on and on about this pod, I am sure most of you already know that it’s one of the best things in radio–maybe ever. This American Life is one of those things that always has me thinking: if only everyone in the world listened to this, it would be such a better place. If you really need to be convinced to give this one a try–do it with this episode.
On Being– The website for this pod describes it as a discovery about the immensity of our lives. I like to think of it as my “church”, and I compound this feeling often by listening to it on Sunday mornings on my long run. You’ll hear incredibly engrossing conversations about spirituality and the meaning of life with some of the most fascinating people you’ve never heard of–and many you have. If you’re looking to feel connected to something that might be bigger than yourself, check this one out.
Ear Hustle-If there is one pod on my list that I am rooting for, and hoping that everyone checks out, it’s Ear Hustle. Ear Hustle comes to you from the inmates of San Quentin State Prison right outside of San Francisco. Ever wonder what it’s like to live behind bars? These guys share that with us all while letting us get to know the people behind the jumpsuits. That’s right people–I think we often forget that that is who we are massively incarcerating–people. It seems easier to think of them as animals–or as inhuman somehow. This podcast breaks down that wall and reveals the humanity that’s been locked up and thrown away. There’s good stuff here. Give it a listen.
Fresh Air– Another classic from NPR that I have to mention. I listen to Fresh Air every afternoon at 2pm on my local public radio station. If you’ve never listened to Terry Gross interview an artist or author or politician, you’re missing out on one of life’s greatest cultural pleasures. Terry asks the questions that are on the tip of your tongue, and she lets herself react to guests and respond to them often just how you would. She’s sharp as a whip and she never leaves anything on the table. Every interview is a journey and it’s a thrill and an honor to be able to go on it with her for an hour each afternoon. She’s also got some of the best culture critics in the biz reviewing movies, tv shows, and books at the end of each show. What more could you ask for?
Criminal– Although I have not caught as many episodes of this pod as I would like, I’ve listened to enough that I knew it deserved a mention. Again, to borrow copy, Criminal shares “Stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, and/or have gotten caught somewhere in the middle.” There’s a bit of mystery and intrigue in some episodes. Others are just captivating human interest stories that deserve to be heard and thought of. This is one of those pods that I am actually glad I haven’t gotten too into yet because it would be great to binge listen to. ROAD TRIP!!
Making Oprah– OK, last one folks. This is not a recurring series but I had to throw it out there, it’s OPRAH!! How can you go wrong right? Well, for real, you can’t go wrong here. This podcast is all about how Oprah got her start and came to be the most successful and influential woman in the United States. (I know I could have said, “one of” there, but it’s my blog, I’m crowning Oprah). If you want to be uplifted and inspired, and taken back to the good ol’ days when 4pm really meant something, download this and the bonus episodes straight away.
Crowdsource away…favorite pods in the comments…GO!
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