I got into podcasts during senior year of college. With the presidential elections in full roar, I found that there was too much news. From Facebook, to classmates — everyone had pockets of information but I still felt uneducated about what was really going on. With the added assurance of viral fake news, and opinionated press, I found myself with a lack of actual news. I craved for two monotone voices, reading the teleprompter, plainly reciting the events of the day. I craved for an unbiased media, even if that meant it would be boring. After some searching, I found Up First, a 9 minute morning news show by NPR that was everything I wanted. By the time I made my way to class, I had more than enough information of the news which allowed me to engage with conversation and research topics that I found interesting. With a newfound method of information, I began exploring other podcasts. I would listen to podcasts through my commute and even as I cooked, allowing me to not only see what I was cooking (unlike if I was watching telly) but still be entertained. In 2017, I listened to a lot of podcasts. With my 3 hour long commute and (at times) mundane work at office, I went through over 35 podcast titles. Here are my top 6 and some honorable mentions!
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me
One of the oldest radio show turn podcast, NPR’s Peabody winning show is a weekly hour-long quiz program. Each week on the radio you can test your knowledge against some of the best and brightest in the news and entertainment world while figuring out what's real news and what's made up. I loved the show for it’s genuinely entertaining take on the news. It would create quizzes about the week’s events which became like a test of what I remember from the craziness of the past 7 days. The show has amazing side guest such as Stephen Colbert, Jordan Peele, and Aubrey Plaza who would play a game called Not My Job, where they would answer questions based on something remotely related to them but not really at all. A perfect show to get into, on a Saturday as you do laundry or work at your favorite coffee show (def what I am doing as I type this).
Learn more here
Shankkar Vendantam’s beautiful voice lulls you as you learn about some the most insightful and fascinating sociological research taking place all over the world. My interest in this began with an episode about identity and race. An episode titled, “Airbnb while black.” A deep dive into how Airbnb hosts prejudice based on if they see a black sounding name as a potential new customer or a profile picture of a black person. This went back to historical research that looked at the same effect taking place with resumes and CVs. I loved how Shankar brought back a new phenomenon into something that has happened before. His interview style is impeccable and so are the guests that come to the show.
Some of my favorite episodes have been:
Ever wondered what hippies sitting in Portland, Oregon listen to while they carve their single wood canoes and smoke their rosemary infused nicotine pipe? Well I have (pretty sure you’re thinking about this now as well) and I guarantee they’re listening to 99 PI live from sunny Oakland, California. 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about — the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. I was introduced to the show by my film class professor (complete hippy) who spoke about how elephants didn’t in fact make a noise as they walked, however documentarians would add a background noise because it felt too strange that such a large animal wasn’t making a noise. Other than they this, a 99PI producer is the reason why there is a yoga position emoji in the world today! These are the small things that while we take for granted, 99 PI loves to report on.
Here are three of my favorite episodes:
Malcolm Gladwell never seems to get boring. He began as a reporter for the New Yorker, where he wrote some amazing thought pieces and then began to writing bestselling books such as Blink and Outliers. His penchant for uncovering the truth about history and telling us how wrong we are is something I love. Revisionist history is built on the same premise. Season 1 had episodes about satire and how it functions with politics in the United States and other countries; and an episode about a malfunctioning Toyota car that cost the company $1 billion in fines but nothing was actually wrong with the car. While I liked season 1 a lot more, season 2 is still classically Gladwell.
Must Listen Episodes:
This American Life is an institution as old as the BBC. They do deep dives into American societies with beautiful real life stories with one of highest production values amongst all of radio. An spin off of this show is S Town. A real story of a radio journalist traveling to a bumfuck town in Alabama trying to uncover the murder of a child. The story is truly gripping. This was the second time I binged-listened to a show. The first being Serial— another show produced by the same people. I started listening to the show as it released, which was right around the time Trump had won, and JD Vance had published his book about small town white Americans. This show emanated all of those elements succinctly and helped audiences understand why and who voted for that orange Cheeto— almost like salve you apply after shaving; painful but healing.
Listen to S Town here
Why’d you push that button
My newest discovery is this amazing show by two women, (...which is rare! Just look at all the men on this list.) Ashley Carman and Kaitlyn Tiffany at The Verge who answer social media’s most ontological questions. Its basically Foucault meets Facebook and it's wonderful. Here are my faves:
If you have come all this way, you might as well listen to my other favorites. Im just making a list but feel free to check them out!
- My Dad wrote a porno (don’t listen to in public haha)
- See Something Say Something (may or may not have cried listening to this)
- Tiny Desk Concerts (Chance the Rapper, Alt J, and The Overcoats were my faves)
Well thats it! Comment below about what are your favorite podcasts! Evidently I cant get enough of them.