Podcasts have become the latest media trend, with the popularity of This American Lifeand Serial revitalizing the medium. Their resurrection illustrates that cutting edge technology is not required for good storytelling – regardless of the medium, good stories and good storytellers trump all. There are podcasts for any niche hobby or interest, but to stay generally up-to-date with what is happening in the world and the latest water cooler conversation, these four podcasts have you covered.
NPR Fresh Air
NPR, especially Fresh Air, always has a finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist. Whoever is making headlines is talking to Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air and a brilliant interviewer and journalist who manages to be crisp yet empathetic to her subjects. Most recently Gross has had Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard, novelist Toni Morrison andNew York Times political reporter Trip Gabriel (explaining why the Iowa caucus matters no less). Whenever you seem to be wondering about something, Fresh Air has a podcast answering your thoughts.
Bill Simmons Podcast
Bill Simmons, the former editor-in-chief of the late, great Grantland.com, and current HBO employee started the Bill Simmons Podcast as soon as his contract with ESPN ended this past September. With his usual cast of friends such as Joe House and Cousin Sal, and an occasional call from his dad to talk about the Patriots or the the Celtics, Simmons recreates a sports den-like feel as he discusses sports and pop culture. Didn’t catch the games this weekend? No worries, listen to Simmons’ podcast on Monday afternoon and hear the highlights. Want to know who is playing well or poorly? Conspiracy theories about what is going on behind closed doors of professional sports leagues? Want to hear wild trade ideas? A tease of gambling spreads? It is the only sports podcast you need.
The podcast that needs no introduction – Serial, the Peabody Award winning podcast hosted and produced by journalist Sarah Koenig, investigates and chronicles the most perplexing news stories. The first season investigated the 1999 murder of a Baltimore teenager, Hae Min Lee, and the man convicted of the crime, Adnan Syed. The current season investigates the prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held captive by the Taliban for five years. Both cases present compelling evidence for guilt and innocence of each subject, and fascinating interviews with people close to the respective cases. The heart of its success though, is Koenig. She is a sharp, thorough journalist who is a logical and empathetic interviewer and narrator. Not only does she guide us through her research process, she does not try to veil her feelings. She confronts her thoughts head on, and voices them to the listener freely. Her analysis of evidence is shrewd and thorough, and when she is biased or acting on emotion she acknowledges it. The evidence she presents is complete, even if it does not lead to a solid answer. It is some of the best investigative journalism and storytelling available.
Former New York Times political data wonder kid, Nate Silver, left the Times for ESPN to captain his own website. Though FiveThirtyEight is dedicated to sports, come election year they analyze poll results better than anyone in the business. With all the sound bites, editorials and mass confusion of the presidential election press coverage,FiveThirtyEight Elections podcast provides clarity. Want to know who is leading in the Iowa Caucuses? By how much? Are there potential upsets? FiveThirtyEight tells you the odds.