2017: Engaged, Enlightened and Empowered (through Podcasts)

My Dearest Friends — Recently I have seen far too much noise, fighting and just plain shit (Sorry, mom) on my social media feeds. As much fun as it can be to tweet and angrily facebook comment, the doesn’t do much. So let’s actually do something. We all have weak spots, blind areas and things we just don’t know. Instead of tearing each other down, let’s use our collective energy to help each other get better.

I love podcasts because there are so many options and so many are free! Here’s a smattering of what I listen to and how I use them to make myself a better citizen.

  1. If you’re a white person (like me) and want to continue to learn about race:
  • Two Dope Queens — Hosted by comedians (and BFFS) Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, they feature a rotating cast of female, POC comedians (with a sprinkling of white people). Listening to Jess and Phoebs (I pretend we’re friends) at first was an exercise in being very aware of my whiteness. There are still times when they make jokes I don’t get or jokes that are at my expense. Guess what? It’s ok. Getting comfortable with how people of color perceive white people (even as I consider myself a progressive white person), has been an exercise in humility.
  • Sooo Many White Guys — Host Phoebe Robinson (see above) interviews different artists of color, with one token white guy at the end of every season. The interviews are funny, but also substantive and learning that Roxane Gay and I have the same favorite wine (#pinotnoir) was a highlight of my 2016.
  • Code Switch— Listen to Gene and Shereen talk about race in all sorts of situations. You’ll laugh, cry, maybe feel a little guilty and most definitely learn something about Tupac.
  • Politically Re-Active — W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu discuss race and politics with a great assortment of guests. Their conversations about NoDAPL were some of the best that I heard. Show up to laugh and come away having learned something. (Also another podcast where I am challenged on my whiteness and how people of color view white people.)

2. If you’re a person who wants an explanation of current news (aka me every day because the news never sleeps):

  • NPR Politics Podcast — This gang is my go-to when stories come out. Willing to record special breaking news episodes, they are always on their game and never on a political soapbox. They have a rotating crew from different beats, so you’re guaranteed at least one person very well versed in the topic of the day.
  • FiveThirtyEight Politics — If you’ve ever heard someone talk about Nate Silver, this is where to find him. The 538 staffers don’t hesitate to share their views, but their conversations are based in facts and numbers and discussing current events. (Polling aggregation is their business.)
  • The New Yorker: Politics and More — Obviously a product of the New Yorker magazine, these are quick (usually 20 minutes or less) interviews with the movers and shakers (or experts on those movers and shakers). A short, in-depth view of one specific issue.
  • The President’s Inbox — Everything you could ever want to know about foreign policy. Episodes center around countries and offer an expert on each subject.
  • The Pollsters — Two female pollsters (and fabulous friends) talk current events and the polls that accompany them. (Bonus points for the fact that they are on opposite sides of the political aisle.)

3. You don’t know who to believe, so you want to listen to discussions by people with different opinions (What we all should strive for every single day)

  • KCRW’s Left, Right & Center — A rotating cast (with a constant host) debate two or three big issues of the day. Moderated for substance, civility, and passion, I always learn something. And sometimes find myself yelling back.
  • Capitol Fight Club — The biggest disappointment of 2017 so far is that the CFC boys haven’t posted a new episode. 2 teams of 2 friends are moderated by another friend and the results are probably very similar to their Saturday night conversations at the bar.
  • Pantsuit Politics — Two southern ladies on opposite political sides talk politics with an emphasis on nuance and understanding. The strive, not for agreement, but for education. And a few laughs along the way.

4. You’re feeling particularly partisan and want to reinforce your own bias (Which I support, but proceed with caution)

  • So That Happened — A little alarmist and sharp at times, but that’s also the pitfall of the Huffington Post in general. Have a laugh, roll your eyes and do some follow-up research.
  • Primary Concerns — The New Republic’s very serious podcast about the direction of the country (and sometimes what we can do to fix it). Smart conversation, but certainly not bipartisan.
  • Slate’s Trumpcast — Jacob Weisberg talks all Trump all the time. His sharp reporting skills and dry sense of humor allow for an enjoyable time through not so enjoyable subject matter. (Bonus points for the Slate reporter who does a killer Trump impression.)
  • Slate’s Political Gabfest — John Dickerson, Emily Bazelon and David Ploutz argue their way through the news of the week. Three smart and stubborn people make for some tense moments and dissected theories. One of my favorites.
  • Pod Save America — 4 ex-Obama staffers who used to run Keepin’ It 1600 for The Ringer. They are the young and hilarious highlight of my political week. (Gawker has written multiple articles about the hotness of host and Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau.)
  • Vox’s The Weeds- Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff and Matt Iglesias get into the weeds (get it?) of different Washington policy prescriptions. Make sure you have your morning coffee before listening. (Also, Ezra Klein could totally give Jon Favreau a run for the most attractive podcast host on this list.)
  • Perino & Stirewalt: I’ll Tell You What — Fox News hosts Dana Perino and Chris Sitrewalt offer a conservative perspective to break up my liberal echo chamber. Dana Perino, former Press Secretary under W. Bush, may be my new political #womancrushwednesday.

Do you listen to any great podcasts? Let me know!