The Five Best Podcasts – Culture, News, Politics

Podcasts are emblematic forms of 21st century media.  They are portable, accessible, and with low barriers to entry, almost anyone can start one.  The last point can create chaos, however.  As with Netflix, Twitter, and other forms of contemporary media, it’s easy to suffer from decision fatigue or feel completely overwhelmed by content.  For this reason, in an effort to sort through the podcast morass, listed below are five of my current favorites.  They are cultural, news-centric, and political. 

  1. Political Gabfest (Slate)
  2. The Daily (New York Times)
  3. The David Chang Show (The Ringer)
  4. Slow Burn (Slate)
  5. Pod Save America (Crooked Media)
  1. Political Gabfest

David Plotz (CEO of Atlas Obscura), John Dickerson (Co-Host of CBS This Morning), and Emily Bazelon (New York Times Staff Writer and lawyer) provide raw and real weekly insight on current events with a political focus.  I have been listening to their show for a few years now, and always look forward to Thursday evening when new episodes post. 

      2. The Daily

Michael Barbaro of the New York Times hosts this daily (hence the name) podcast for about 20-30 minutes each morning.  He often interviews other journalists and never fails to have interesting guests.  Despite what some may say, there is nothing “fake” about this factual podcast that will typically hone in on one pressing issue on wide range of topics – politics, economy, environment, foreign policy, etc.  It’s the perfect way to start your day. 

      3. The David Chang Show 

A relative newcomer to the podcast scene, David Chang – the celebrity chef himself – has hit this media circuit with a bang.  I’ve only listened to a handful of his shows at this point, but his natural flow and inquisitive, curious disposition, shine through in each episode.  In particular, his conversation with Steven Yeun (actor, Walking Dead) is powerful.  Both Korean Americans, they their cultural duality and the joys and struggles that come with it.  They also delve into Yeun’s new project – a Korean language film (English subtitles), Burning.  Check it out.  

      4. Slow Burn

First Watergate, now the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal.  Each season of this podcast has focused on a different American scandal that ultimately led to the near impeachment of both Nixon and Clinton (the former resigned; the latter was saved by the Senate).  From inception to resolution, this podcast does an exceptional job diving into the excruciating details of Watergate and the Lewinsky affair, noting the key players, and how politics and public opinion influenced the ultimate outcomes.  In a modern age rife with calls for impeachment, this podcast could not be more prescient.  I hope Bob Mueller has subscribed. 

      5. Pod Save America

All politics, all the time.  Hosted by former Obama White House staffers and self-billed as “a no-bullshit conversation about politics”, this podcast preaches activism and self-government.  It’s as if Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States started a radio show.  While it is leftist slanted, in the age of Trump, those of any political persuasion may find it refreshing.  Also check out their HBO show that ran before the midterm elections.

What are your favorite podcasts?  Happy listening.  Happy thinking.    

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