Whenever I meet someone and tell them I'm producing a podcast, they inevitably ask what I've been listening to and what podcasts I recommend. It's hard to choose because there are so many, but here are some of my favorites. For those of you listening on smartphones, you can find most of these in the Apple podcast app or in RadioPublic, Overcast, Stitcher, or the podcatcher app of your choice.
In July 2016, the world watched a man die live on Facebook, after a traffic stop in suburban Minnesota. This podcast from Minnesota Public Radio tells the story of that man, Philando Castile, and the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, who was charged in his death. It also provided a daily recap of the trial, where jurors ultimately found Yanez not guilty on all charges.
Hands-down one of the best podcasts out there, it consistently ranks near the top of the iTunes charts for number of downloads, and it's easy to hear why. In each episode, host Roman Mars and his co-producers look at a different element of everyday life that most of us take for granted but that someone at some point cleverly designed behind the scenes. For example, you know how phone numbers in the U.S., Canada, and much of the Caribbean begin with the area code in parentheses, followed by three digits, then a dash, and then the remaining four digits? Someone had to come up with that. Other episodes have explored the history of public water fountains, pneumatic tubes at banks, and the fascinating creation story of those inflatable, dancing men that often sway back and forth in front of car dealers. Highly recommended!
100:1 The Crack Legacy
A documentary series from Audible that looks back at the war on drugs from the 1980s and '90s and the creation of laws that mandate much harsher penalties for users of crack cocaine (who are predominantly African Americans) than users of powder cocaine (who are mostly white).
An Arm and a Leg
Veteran public radio reporter Dan Weissmann tells surprising, revealing, and entertaining stories about the cost of healthcare in the United States, including his family’s own search for coverage to replace the insurance he lost when he left his previous job. Who knew discussions about healthcare could be so interesting and fun?
An award-winning investigative series from the BBC looking back at the rise and eventual assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, including interviews with those accused of her murder.
The American History Guys -- a trio of historians each specializing in a different century -- draw connections between the past and the present with thematic shows looking at topics like the histories of advertising, censorship, and illegal drugs in America. In an archival episode about the history of domesticated animals, I learned that people in the 19th century often kept squirrels as pets. And a program about the changing role of children in society included a discussion about how in the 1800s there were beauty pageants at 4H fairs where -- along with judging cattle and hogs -- people would give awards for the prettiest babies!
The Biggest Story in the World
Alan Rusbridger -- the departing editor of the British newspaper The Guardian -- wanted to make a big splash in his final six months on the job, so he came up with a plan to engage readers in a new way on the topic of climate change through an in-depth, multi-faceted series of articles and editorials, along with a campaign urging some of the largest charitable foundations in the world to divest of their fossil fuel holdings. The podcast series was only a dozen episodes long, but it was extremely compelling and well-produced.
Ever wonder what it's like as an American living abroad? The Bittersweet Life features childhood friends Katy Sewall and Tiffany Parks having conversations about various aspects of expat life in Rome and all the little ways things are different from back home.
Each episode of this documentary series from KCRW begins as a medical mystery about women's health. But once you peel back the layers, more questions emerge.
Confused about what’s happening on the other side of the Atlantic and what its ramifications might be? Check out this podcast series from The Guardian for intelligent conversation about all the nitty-gritty details, like the impacts on Brits living abroad and EU citizens living in the UK, what will happen at the Ireland / Northern Ireland border, and how the deal will affect the environment.
The Butterfly Effect
A teen in Brussels had an idea to make porn free and easy to stream online. In this fascinating and captivating 7-part series from Audible, author Jon Ronson takes you on a journey to places you’ll never expect, tracing the butterfly effect of that idea, whose consequences turn out to be mysterious, delightful, surprising, and sad. Highly recommended!
Listeners of The New York Times Daily podcast will enjoy this documentary series that followed Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi as she interviewed a former ISIS recruit and reports on the Islamic State and the fall of the Iraqi city of Mosul.
Chapo: Kingpin on Trial
A series from VICE News that traced the rise and eventual fall of Sinaloa drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán. Launched in conjunction with Guzmán’s trial in Brooklyn, New York, where U.S. authorities tried him after his previous two escapes from Mexican prisons. Released exclusively on Spotify.
I’ve really been enjoying this investigative series my colleague Robin Amer and her team of producers put together for USA Today. The podcast bills itself as telling true stories of how power works in urban America, and each season ventures to a different American city. They start by telling the story of an illegal dumping operation in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago before moving to Reno, Nevada for the second season of the show. Highly recommended!
An 8-part audio documentary about how global trade has transformed the economy and ourselves. Host Alexis Madrigal leads listeners through the world of ships and sailors, technology and tugboats, warehouses and cranes. At a time when Donald Trump is threatening to toss out the global economic order, Containers provides an illuminating, deep, and weird look at how capitalism actually works now.
In June 2017, Bill Cosby faced a jury to determine whether he was guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting one of more than 60 women who have accused him of sexual misconduct. Cosby Unraveled, produced by public radio station WHYY, explored Cosby’s beginnings in the projects of North Philadelphia, the heights of his influence, and the causes of his downfall, before featuring a day-by-day account of his two trials, which ultimately resulted in a conviction.
An excellent series from Gimlet Media and the creators of HBO’s The Jinx. Each season investigates the culture of crime in a different American city, starting with Providence, Rhode Island, where organized crime and corruption infected every aspect of public life. It's a story of alliances and betrayals, heists and stings, crooked cops and honest mobsters, where it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad. Between the colorful cast of characters, the captivating storytelling, and the awesome scoring, I can't get enough of this podcast! It really sounds different from almost anything else I've heard, and I highly recommend it! The second season was released exclusively on Spotify.
Fans of the first season of Serial (see below) or television crime dramas like Law and Order will love this podcast, which features real-life "stories of people who’ve done wrong, been wronged, or gotten caught somewhere in the middle." Host Phoebe Judge has a natural inquisitiveness that disarms the people she speaks to, and her soothing voice seems oddly comforting, even when she’s discussing the most gruesome of crimes. If you like Criminal, make sure you also check out her other podcast called This is Love.
This daily, 20 minute (more or less), consistently well-produced podcast from The New York Times features in-depth dives into top issues and events making headlines. Rather than spread itself too thin and give listeners a sampling of everything in the news, it picks a single topic or two and covers it well. Although I had heard good things about The Daily, I wasn't expecting much when I first listened, but I've been pleasantly surprised. With so many other podcasts vying for my ears, I was reluctant to commit to a show that releases five episodes a week, but now that I've subscribed, I'm really glad I did. The Daily gives me much-needed context about the day's events and keeps me well-informed. Highly recommended! If you like The Daily, you should also check out Post Reports and Today, Explained.
A 59-year old single mom named Debra Newell meets a man online, and they quickly fall in love, but it turns out things aren't the way they initially appear. The Los Angeles Times and Wondery present this 6-part true story about seduction, deception, forgiveness, denial, and ultimately, survival.
The best of BBC World Service documentaries from the Beeb's worldwide network of correspondents. Style and subject matter can vary wildly, so not everything may be of interest to you, but you're sure to find something you like.
From the creators of Dirty John, this series tells the story of Christopher Duntsch, a Texas neurosurgeon whose botched surgeries killed and maimed many of his patients, and how the medical system failed to protect them until it was too late
A while back, Gimlet -- the podcast company behind such great shows as StartUp, Reply All, and Surprisingly Awesome -- formed a division called Gimlet Creative, which works with corporate clients to produce branded content. In this show, they partner with Tinder for a series about defining relationships in the digital age. If you're at all interested in online dating, it'll make for a fascinating (though at times NSFW) listen.
Reading news headlines often left reporter Kelly McEvers with all sorts of questions, so she figured the only way to get answers and satisfy her curiosity was to go to the scene and spend some time with the people at the heart of the story. In each episode of her podcast, she and her colleagues at NPR apply the concept of being an embedded reporter -- which usually means attaching yourself to the military in a war -- to other sorts of stories, like investigating an HIV outbreak among drug users in Indiana or speaking to rival biker gangs involved in a deadly shootout in Texas.
Despite recent concerns about trolls, bots, and fake news, the internet remains a vast, curious place full of people connecting in ways they never imagined they could. Many of those connections take place on Reddit, an online forum that facilitates conversations and reflects all the possibility and potential of the web. WBUR and Reddit team up to explore some of the most compelling stories the internet has to offer.
Esquire Classic Podcast
Esquire Magazine digs into its archives and pulls out highlights of some of the best narrative journalism from the past 80 years, from writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Norman Mailer, Nora Ephron, and Gay Talese. Be sure to check out the first episode, about Tom Junod's article about the iconic image of the falling man on September 11th, 2001. Series ended in December, 2016.
Every Little Thing
If you enjoyed "Surprisingly Awesome," Gimlet's program that found and highlighted fascinating aspects of everyday life, you'll probably also love Every Little Thing. From the secret life of office plants to government emergency alert systems to people who travel the world to witness solar eclipses, host Flora Lictman tells the interesting backstories of the things around us that we probably never think about but should.
Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva -- collectively know as the Kitchen Sisters -- present lost recordings and shards of sound, along with new tales from remarkable people around the world: people with a mission, a purpose, and a story to tell. Stories from the flip side of history.
A ten episode series about con artists and the lives they ruin. Best-selling author and New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova takes listeners to the darker side of human nature and deceit with shtories about card sharks, cult leaders, art forgers, impostors and more, and she asks why we continue to fall prey to such schemes time and time again.
Global reporting on the front lines of the planet’s most urgent issue, from terrorism to global warming to income inequality. Veteran correspondent and GroundTruth Project founder Charles Sennott partners with the next generation of international reporters to tell stories that will change the way you see the world and the journalists who cover it.
Formerly called "Audio Smut," The Heart bills itself as "an audio art project and podcast about intimacy + humanity." Given the subject matter, much of it is definitely NSFW, but it's extremely well-produced and does a great job of exploring "the triumphs and the terrors of human intimacy, the bliss and banality of being in love, and the wild diversity of the human heart."
In 1997, thirty-nine people took their own lives in an apparent mass suicide. The events captivated the media and had people across the planet asking the same question...‘Why?’ 20 years later, those who lost loved ones and those who still believe - tell their story in this podcast series hosted by Glynn Washington of the public radio program Snap Judgment.
This American Life contributor and former CBC host Jonathan Goldstein hosts this Gimlet podcast featuring road trips, thorny reunions, and difficult conversations where he backpedals his way into the past, righting wrongs like a therapist with a time machine. In one episode, he reunites his 80-year-old father with his father's estranged brother. In another episode, he convinces his friend Gregor to take a trip to Moby's house to retrieve a boxed set of CDs Gregor lent Moby years ago. Goldstein's deadpan humor and his understated style of storytelling make for an entertaining listen.
Here's the Thing
I'll acknowledge that actor and host Alec Baldwin likes to hear himself talk, and his tendency to interrupt people sometimes gets a bit annoying to my ears, but he's still a great interviewer, and his style gets people to open up in a way that few interviewers manage to do. I especially enjoyed his conversations with Penn Jillette, Gay Talese, and Dick Cavett, but my absolute favorite was Billy Joel.
A fascinating and entertaining podcast from Business Insider where host Dan Bobkoff looks into the backstories of some of the biggest American brands and finds surprising tales of tragedy, love, strange histories, unintended consequences, and accidental success. Hear about the origin of Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” discount wine, how TGI Fridays started out as a game-changing singles bar in New York in the 1960s and ‘70s, and about last remaining Blockbuster Video stores in the country.
How to Be a Girl
A single mom raising a young, transgender daughter documents her and her child's experience. New episodes don't come out very often, but when they do, they often contain compelling, jaw-dropping material. Episode VI where she interviews her daughter is especially amazing.
How to Be Amazing
Somewhere between the interviewing styles of Terry Gross and Marc Maron, How to Be Amazing host Michael Ian Black has a penchant for getting celebrities and other notable people to open up and share interesting details from their lives. People like David Sedaris, Naomi Klein, Valerie Plame, and Penn Jillette. He does it in an informal and disarming way, and he’s not afraid to admit when he doesn’t know something. Sadly, this podcast released its last episode at the end of 2018, but the archives are still available for you to enjoy.
Much of what I know about being a radio reporter and documentarian was taught to me by my instructor Rob Rosenthal and my fellow classmates at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Alas, Rob has moved on to the Transom Story Workshop, but if you're an aspiring audio producer or just a listener interested in the craft, you can download his podcast HowSound to hear how good radio / audio is made.
In the Dark
One of my favorite podcasts, this investigative series from American Public Media (Minnesota Public Radio) won a 2016 Peabody award for its reporting on the botched police investigation of a child abduction and murder that went unsolved for 27 years. Season two focused on the case of a Mississippi man who was charged six times for the same murder, but continues to maintain his innocence. Extremely thorough and well-researched, In the Dark may not have gotten as much as attention as the first season of Serial, but I think it's even better. Definitely worth a listen!
The team behind NPR's Planet Money produces this short, daily podcast that helps listeners make sense of what's happening each day in the realm of work, business, and the economy.
A podcast from NPR about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.
IRE Radio Podcast
Ever wondered how gumshoe journalists go about their work? This great podcast produced by the group Investigative Reporters and Editors pulls back to curtain as award-winning reporters, editors, and producers discuss the methods they used and the challenges they faced to break incredible stories.
Each highly-produced podcast features two people recounting the life-changing encounters that led them to meet and connect to create friendships, rivalries, romances, and adventures.
WBUR and The Boston Globe team up to tell the story of the most valuable and most confounding art heist in history: the theft of thirteen irreplaceable pieces of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston including Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a Manet and sketches by Degas that are collectively valued at half a billion dollars. The hosts retrace what happened on that evening in 1990 and explore why the crime remains unsolved nearly 30 years later.
Life of the Law
An investigative series on American law that actually makes legal matters interesting and easy to understand.
Weekly, in-depth conversations with non-fiction writers and journalists talking about how they tell stories.
A series from KCRW (producer of Unfictional), telling some of the greatest music stories never truly told, including the backstory of the FBI investigation into the classic rock anthem Louie Louie and the rise and eventual fall of a popular hip-hop pirate radio station in Brooklyn, NY.
From the team that brought you Making Oprah (see below) comes this 6-part series looking at the political rise of Barack Obama -- from his start as a community organizer in Chiacago in the mid-1980s to his initial entrance into politics and his climb to the national political stage.
A series from public radio station WBEZ in Chicago chronicling Oprah Winfrey's rise to daytime television dominance and stardom in the 1980s and her powerful sway in American life.
The Memory Palace
If Paul Harvey were on public radio, this is what he might have sounded like. Host Nate DiMeo's well-researched historical vignettes often play out like a compelling work of fiction, but they're entirely true. Even if you don't think of yourself as someone who's interested in history, The Memory Palace is sure to capture your attention and draw you in.
Missing Richard Simmons
On February 15, 2014, fitness guru Richard Simmons disappeared. He stopped teaching his regular exercise classes at his Beverly Hills studio, cut off his closest friends, and removed himself from the public eye after decades as one of the most accessible celebrities in the world. Nobody has heard from him - and no one knows why he left. Filmmaker Dan Taberski -- a friend of Richard’s who exercised with him regularly -- embarks on a mission to find out what happened.
The Mortified Podcast
Adults on stage sharing their most embarrassing childhood artifacts (journals, letters, poems, lyrics, plays, home movies, art) with others, in order to reveal stories about their lives. Much of the material is hilariously cringe-worthy and NSFW.
There are a bunch of live storytelling podcasts out there, but none that I've heard come close to the consistent quality of The Moth. Stories are sometimes hilarious, occasionally sad, but usually compelling, and you'll never know what to expect.
There are a bunch of LGBTQ focused podcasts out there, but I think this is one of the few that's actually really well produced. Even if you don't identify as part of the community, it will still make for an interesting and entertaining listen. Note that some of the content is NSFW.
PRX and Honolulu Civil Beat present an immersive storytelling podcast about a Hawaii (and other Pacific islands) that most tourists never see.
On the Media
One of the few programs I reliably listen to every week for intelligent, nuanced, witty (and sometimes snarky) conversations about media and transparency issues. I always come away feeling like I've gained new insights. The show's producers have also created a series of invaluable Breaking News Consumer's Handbooks that you should consult in the immediate aftermath of any major news event.
This recent addition from the Public Radio Exchange (PRX) and the editors of Outside Magazine aims to apply the magazine’s long-standing literary storytelling methods to the audio realm. The podcast’s first series delves into the science of survival in some of nature’s most extreme environments, including an absolutely compelling reenactment of what happens to your body when you freeze to death and an episode about what it's like to be struck by lightning.
The producers of this NPR podcast describe it much better than I can, so I'll let them speak for themselves:
"Imagine you could call up a friend and say, 'Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy.' Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at Planet Money," they say. I think that's pretty accurate.
The Pope’s Long Con
An in-depth series from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Louisville Public Media based upon a seven month investigation looking at a preacher-turned-politician, state Rep. Danny Ray Johnson, who built his reputation on a web of lies and deception. The hosts methodically investigate and debunk each of his claims, including that he he served as White House chaplain to three presidents, was a United Nations peace ambassador, set up the morgue at Ground Zero after the September 11th attacks, and raised someone from the dead. Two days after the release of the investigation, Rep. Johnson committed suicide.
If you enjoy The Daily from The New York Times, I highly recommend checking out this daily news and analysis podcast from the newsroom of The Washington Post, which comes out each weekday afternoon. It’s a great way to stay informed about the most important news of the day. And for what it’s worth, I think the credit music is really catchy.
Whether you work in public media or you're just a big fan, you'll want to check out this great podcast from public radio and television's trade newspaper Current to hear about all the latest behind-these-scenes news and developments in the industry. Adam Ragusea was an excellent host who tended to be spot-on with his analyses, and his show always made me think. UPDATE: Show was sadly discontinued in July, 2018.
For years, producer Joe Richman has been handing audio recorders to all sorts of people to let them document their own lives. There's a certain sort of intimacy that comes when people are recording themselves, without the presence of a reporter. My favorite episodes are ones that provide glimpses into previously unknown or long-forgotten parts of history, like the time in 1945 when a U.S. Army bomber -- lost in the fog -- crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building or the New York City bus driver who snapped one day in 1947 and decided to drive his bus to Florida.
Radiolab bills itself as "a show about curiosity where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience," but it's hard to capture what it is in a single sentence, so you really just have to listen yourself. Jad and Robert -- the co-hosts -- have a way of making weighty subjects incredibly fascinating, so if you're like me, you'll probably be hooked.
Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting features groundbreaking coverage of important topics that in their words, "holds the powerful accountable and reveals government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety." Episodes have looked into everything from the sexual assault of female janitors working the night shift to the over-prescription of opiates to returning veterans. Hosted by the excellent Al Letson, who previously hosted another one of my favorite shows, State of the Re:Union.
A podcast about technology and the internet, as told through interesting, quirky, and gripping human stories. Hosts PJ and Alex (along with their fellow producers) manage to consistently find fascinating and captivating stories that keep me coming back. This is one of my favorite shows, and I highly recommend it!
From the producers of Crimetown, one of my favorite podcasts, comes this series looking back -- 50 years later -- at the 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Over ten episodes, it uses original police tapes, rare recordings, and new interviews with the people who were there to try to understand what happened and ask whether there's more to the story.
NPR's former East Africa correspondent Gregory Warner -- whose past reporting is also familiar to listeners of programs like Planet Money, This American Life, and Radiolab -- hosts this podcast that follows familiar conversations into unfamiliar territory. While racial conflicts simmer here at home, he journeys to Brazil, where people are figuring out how to distinguish between black and white. And as the threat of fake news dominates the political discussion here in the U.S., he goes to Ukraine, a country that's waged its own battle against fictitious news stories coming from neighboring Russia. Rough Translation zooms out from the daily headlines to ask how the things we're talking about being talked about and debated elsewhere in the world.
From the producers of Serial and This American Life, S-Town is a 7-part series about a man named John who despises his Alabama town and decides to do something about it. He asks reporter Brian Reed to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly been bragging that he got away with murder. But then someone else ends up dead, and the search for the truth leads to a nasty feud, a hunt for hidden treasure, and an unearthing of the mysteries of one man’s life.
The enormous attention Serial drew in its first season is the only reason many listeners even know what podcasts are. Drawing on the old tradition of serialized radio dramas, host Sarah Koenig focuses on a single story each season and explores that topic in-depth, week after week (so you'll need to start at the beginning in order for it to make sense). Season one looked at the 1999 murder of a Baltimore high school student and the sentencing of her ex-boyfriend -- who continues to claim his innocence. Season two examined the desertion trial of U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who left his army base and was imprisoned by the Taliban in Afghanistan for nearly five years before being eventually released, while season three told stories from the criminal justice system in Cleveland, Ohio.
A podcast from PRX's Radiotopia (99% Invisible, Criminal, The Memory Palace, et al) that features original, short-run series of all stripes, from both leading and emerging independent audio producers around the world. From music philosophy to conspiracy theory, personal stories to fiction, no two Showcase series will sound alike. Personally, I think it can be a bit hit-or-miss, but I did enjoy the inaugural series called "Ways of Hearing," a six-part program about the nature of listening in the digital age from acclaimed musician Damon Krukowski.
Side Hustle School
Most of the podcasts I listen to are highly produced, public radio storytelling style productions. Side Hustle School, by comparison, fits more in the stereotypical podcast mold of a guy in a room behind a mic. Not everyone will find it interesting, but it might provide some inspiration if you're looking for ideas of how to generate extra income beyond your day job. It's hosted by Chris Guillebeau, The New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Non-Conformity and several other books. During a lifetime of self-employment, he visited all 193 countries in the world before his 35th birthday, and he believes that everyone should have a side hustle. Each day he gives a different case study of an individual who began a business on the side, and he reviews the lessons learned to help listeners follow in similar footsteps.
Slate Presents: Standoff | What Happened at Ruby Ridge
A fascinating miniseries from Slate retracing the federal government’s botched, 11-day siege with a white separatist and his family in rural Idaho back in 1992, which left three people dead and later helped motivate Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to carry out the Oklahoma City bombing.
A captivating series from Slate that tells stories of strange subplots and forgotten characters of recent political history and finds surprising parallels to the present. Season 1 captured what it was like to live through Watergate; Season 2 did the same with the saga of Bill Clinton’s impeachment.
A podcast about the work we don't think about and the people who do it. Listen in and go behind the scenes with sidewalk canvassers, zoo animal chefs, and people who scare birds away from airport runways.
Well-crafted, behind-the-scenes stories of all the challenges and complications involved with starting a successful business and what happens when things don't work out quite the way you had planned. In season one, former This American Life and Planet Money producer Alex Blumberg documented his decision to leave public radio and seek venture capital money to create a new podcast production company called Gimlet. The second season looked at Dating Ring, a matchmaking dating service, while the third season followed controversial, ousted American Apparel founder Dov Charney as he attempts to launch a new company. I sort of lost interest in some of the seasons after that, but it’s always changing, so I check back from time to time.
State of the Re:Union
One of my favorite programs before it sadly ended, State of the Re:Union told stories from around America, with a focus on places and situations where people managed to come together to engage in dialogue, put aside their disagreements, and overcome adversity. Hosted by the amazing Al Letson, who's now hosting the investigative podcast Reveal. Each hour-long episode profiled a different city or state, from West Virginia -- where residents fought over mountaintop removal mining -- to Baltimore -- plagued by poverty and crime -- to Tulsa, which is still coming to term with its historic race riots. "When things fall apart," Letson said at the end of each program, "it's our job to bring them back together."
Stay Tuned With Preet
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara -- who prosecuted public corruption, terrorism, and financial crimes in the Southern District of New York before being fired by President Donald Trump in March of 2017 -- hosts this podcast where he shares his wealth of knowledge and experience and conducts intelligent conversations with notable guests about news, politics, and justice.
Would you believe there's actually anything interesting at all about mold, concrete, broccoli, or interest rates? Probably not. Adam Davidson -- a co-founder of NPR's Planet Money podcast -- teams up with Hollywood writer / director / producer Adam McKay to prove you wrong. Note: this series has since ended, but has now been replaced by Gimlet's "Every Little Thing."
A podcast about people who make public radio (and other podcasts). On each episode, hosts Mickey Capper and Mooj Zadie have an extended chat with a well-known or not-so-well-known host or producer behind one of your favorite programs like This American Life, Radiolab, Planet Money, and Invisibilia to find out about their background and what influences their creative work. While the questions can sometimes seem a bit out of left field or even cringe-worthy, the interview style is really informal, so you’ll likely hear people say things you’ve never heard them say before.
This American Life
If you're a total podcast and public radio newbie and have never listened to This American Life, you have some serious catching up to do! It's difficult to describe the show in its entirety, since theme-based episodes run the gamut from serious, investigative journalism (which tend to be my favorite) to interviews, fiction and personal essays. T.A.L. is actually a radio program, but its foray into podcasting has nearly doubled its audience, and the content keeps getting better, year after year! If you're just starting out, I suggest you explore this list the show staff has prepared of some of the highlights.
This is Love
Criminal podcast host Phoebe Judge turns her attention to stories about “perseverance, obsession, and what happens when we risk betting it all.” But lest you think this is simply a collection of sappy love stories, you’ll quickly realize that she defines love pretty broadly. There’s an episode about a woman who went swimming in the ocean one day and unexpectedly formed a bond with a baby whale. A story about two siblings from Laos who get separated from their family and decide to open a restaurant 8,000 miles from home to honor their parents and continue cooking their mother’s recipes. A British woman who spends years trying to track down the author of a message in a bottle. And snail sex. Yes, that’s right. You’ll just have to listen to understand. Highly recommended.
Vox’s daily explainer podcast takes a topic that’s been in the news and breaks it down so everyone can understand what’s going on.
He’s the president, yet we’re still trying to answer basic questions about how his business works: What deals are happening, who they’re happening with, and if the president and his family are keeping their promise to separate the Trump Organization from the Trump White House. Trump Inc. is a joint reporting project from WNYC Studios and ProPublica that digs deep into those questions.
Movies for your ears. If your only perception of audio drama is War of the Worlds or old episodes of The Shadow heard over a crackly transistor radio, you're in for a treat. The Truth features modern-day short stories recorded on-location that are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, and always intriguing. Each story is different, and usually 10 to 20 minutes long. I definitely recommend listening in a quiet place with headphones! Among my favorite episodes (both pretty dark) are "That's Democracy" and "Do You Have a Minute for Equality?"
Jesse Thorn -- host of the public radio pop culture program Bullseye -- teamed up with the Columbia Journalism Review for this series where he chatted with renowned interviewers like Ira Glass, Terry Gross, Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, and Larry King about their careers and their craft.
The Uncertain Hour
The public radio show Marketplace's Wealth & Poverty Desk is behind this podcast that employs compelling storytelling to a deep dive into "origin stories of our economy in unexpected and provocative ways."
They say we're one big family. This podcast from Gimlet set out to prove it. On each episode, host A.J. Jacobs sat down with a noteworthy guest and told them about interesting members of their extended family, sometimes going back hundreds of years and dozens of steps away. At the end of the show, they're introduced to an unexpected mystery relative, live in the studio. The first show with sex advice columnist Dan Savage is not to be missed! Though this series sadly ended after just one season, the archives are still there for your listening pleasure.
A podcast from Gimlet Media hosted by journalists Jack Hitt and Chenjerai Kumanyika that reexamines the history of the Civil War by telling little known stories about covert operations, corruption, resistance, mutiny, counterfeiting, and antebellum drones, connecting forgotten struggles to modern day news and political battles we’re living through right now.
A project of KCRW's Independent Producer Project, UnFictional provides a venue for some of the best examples of documentary production and storytelling.
Gimlet's series (now sadly discontinued) that revisited big stories from history that we thought were over but were actually the beginning of something else. I especially liked the first episode about the summer night in 1979 when disco music is said to have died.
We Didn't Start the Podcast
Meg Donahue really likes Billy Joel. Adam Ragusea (former host of The Pub) really doesn't. Together, they co-host this thirteen episode miniseries where they listen back through every song on every album by Billy Joel, offering hilarious and snarky commentary along the way.
What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law
99% Invisible Host Roman Mars hosts this series with Constitutional Law Professor Elizabeth Joh that uses the tumultuous and erratic activities of the executive branch under President Donald Trump to teach listeners all about the US Constitution.
Why We Eat What We Eat
This branded podcast from Blue Apron and Gimlet Creative explores the unseen forces that shape our eating habits, from climate change to the Midwest tradition of potlucks to the kale industrial complex.
If you like Alec Baldwin's show Here's the Thing, you'll probably also enjoy WTF with Marc Maron, who's a similarly great interviewer adept at drawing his guests out of their shells and quickly getting personal. Since he's a stand-up comedian, many of his guests tend to be other folks from the comedy world that I've never heard of. I generally skip over those and seek out the episodes where he chats with people I do know, like Bruce Springsteen, Ira Glass, Anthony Bourdain, and David Sedaris. If you haven't already heard it, you should start with the time Marc recorded an interview in his garage with President Obama.
Fans of true crime podcasts might appreciate this series that tells the story of how a troubled kid from West Virginia became Charles Manson, one of the most infamous murderers ever to stalk Hollywood.
Bonus: Not a podcast, but if you're looking for something interesting to listen to right now, Radio Garden is my new favorite website!