For your ears only: An overview of podcasts

Graphic by Penelope Taylor ’20

Graphic by Penelope Taylor ’20


It’s 2018 and your life is probably full of  social media, responsibilities for work or school and general upkeep of your life. In sparse moments of free time, podcasts are a great place to find the latest news, an incredible story or advice on how to interact with the world. All of this and more can be discovered while sitting back and listening to the sound of another human’s voice. But if you’ve never embarked on this journey into the cult of podcasts, it can be hard to know where to start. If you’re looking to try something new or want to add to your list, here are some of the most interesting shows in the four categories of talk, news, interview and narrative.


“Still Processing”

In this podcast, two culture writers from The New York Times, Jenna Wortham — who discusses how humans relate to technology — and Wesley Morris — who talks about popular culture — have a weekly conversation about current events in the U.S. From social issues to influential pieces of art, Wortham and Morris add a fresh perspective on how pop culture relates to everyday life. While each show revolves around a central topic, ranging from the trope of the  “Auntie” to the official portraits of the Obamas, Wortham and Morris use current events to navigate the issues that affect them on personal levels. The pair doesn’t claim to know everything (as they are “Still Processing”) but they never fail to take listeners along for the ride as they work through different social spheres and issues in U.S. culture. 

“And That’s Why We Drink”

Hosted by Em Schulz and Cristine Schiefer, this podcast is true crime comedy. Every Sunday you can join “team wine” for some ghost stories or “team milkshake” for surprisingly gruesome murders. Schulz, a former ghost hunter and clown school graduate, covers the paranormal side of the conversation, while Schiefer takes the criminal side. Covering topics from ghosts that bark in the walls, squirrel cage jails and the Salem witch trials, the pair use casual conversation to talk about some of the worst aspects of humanity — the reason they drink.


“The Daily” 

As the title suggests, “The Daily” is published every morning by The New York Times, narrated by former political reporter Michael Barbaro. “The Daily” takes front-page worthy news stories and breaks them down into more digestible and conversational 30-minute conversations with journalists. Often covering emotional content, Barbaro has gone in-depth into stories such as the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, the Parkland shooting and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Listening to Barbaro’s dissection of some of the toughest issues in American culture can come to feel like a morning routine and is the perfect distraction while walking to classes or riding on the PVTA. 


“WTF with Marc Maron”

Hosted by former stand-up comedian and actor Marc Maron, this podcast began in 2009 after Maron felt his creativity was at a standstill, according to The New York Times. What started out as a podcast featuring interviews with comedians about their lives and experiences grew to include an eclectic mix of people from different fields, including President Barack Obama and Todd Hanson, writer and editor for The Onion. Every week, Maron listens and connects with his guests, helping listeners figure out who these larger-than-life-people really are. 

“Good as Hell”

This podcast was launched early in 2018 by Spotify and Refinery29. Hosted by up and coming emcee Lizzo, the weekly show is an hour conversation with femalemusicians in the genre of Hip Hop or Rap. Lizzo and the guest compare notes on the industry, tell their success stories, talk about their inspirations and occasionally “spit some bars.” Lizzo has interviewed pioneering emcees like Da Brat and Lil’ Kim, as well as newer artists who are currently changing the music industry like Kehlani and Junglepussy. The women’s conversations never fail to inspire, and you will find yourself smiling at the wisdom and love being exchanged. 


“Welcome to the Night Vale”

According to the “Welcome to Night Vale” website, the series was created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. The bi-monthly episodes follow the happenings of Night Vale, a fictional desert town, including weather updates, town meetings and the mysterious lights in the sky. All of the news is delivered in deadpan tones, as if on a segment on NPR, but the updates themselves leave listeners wondering why the narrator is not more concerned. Strange occurrences happen all throughout the town — like demons in the dog park — yet at the heart of this podcast is the  relationship of Cecil and Carlos, who, in the midst of a crazy town full of hooded figures, are the most normal phenomenon — just two people in love. 


Many people do not know this podcast exists, and for good reason: it is a niche experience that is not for the faint of heart. “Potterotica” is just what it sounds like, three friends — Allie LeFevere, Lyndsay Rush and Danny Chapman — read and comment on Harry Potter erotic fan fiction. Each episode is a chapter from a fanfic, and each season comprises an entire fanfic. Interspersed with the serial fictions are “quickies,” shorter stories covered in a single episode. The trio has read everything, including Harry, Draco, Lily, Sirius, Luna and Ginny. The sexual tension is often cut with the hosts’ quick wit and sharp commentary on the writing styles and outrageous situations in these fan fictions. 


Sarah Koenig, a former producer from “This American Life,” hosts this weekly podcast that delivers long-form investigative journalism stories. Koenig told Marina Olsen, host of Absorbing New Podcasts on NPR, that “Serial” is “about the basics: love and death and justice and truth.” The first season of the show delves into the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a senior at Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County, MD. Even though the investigations are well researched and presented factually, it can often feel like one is listening to a crime novel. The reporting goes beyond just the facts and asks the hard questions of the people involved, allowing listeners to dive into the drama of everyday life.  

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