| Chantelle Spier | Over the last 10 years, podcasts have increasingly become the way we obtain news, share ideas, and explore concepts. Though radio itself seems to be on its way out in many regions, podcasts have spawned new independent broadcasting companies as well as provided a format for established outlets. Here are a few different shows to spark or expand on an interest.
If you are at all curious about the world around you, this is an amazing place to start digging for answers and stories. From technology and architecture to sounds and objects, host and network Radiotopia founder, Roman Mars, explores the life of our designed world, and how it affects us. Since the show’s humble beginnings in 2010, Mars and his staff have been bringing us well-researched and thought-provoking shows—without a single repeat. Since then, the show has gained great notoriety, having 150 million downloads through iTunes. Not only that, if you enjoy the podcast version of the show, check out the website, where many more stories exist in both audio and article form (https://99percentinvisible.org). Even though the podcast has come a long way, it is still an independently produced show, supported by donations from droves of loyal and loving listeners.
Where to Start: My personal favourite episodes are “Wild Ones Live,” which takes on a topic not often covered by 99PI – the wilderness, and “The Mojave Phone Booth,” the epic story of one man’s relationship with a remote telephone booth. I’m also a huge fan of the episode, “The Revolutionary Post,” which explores the foundations of the US Post in relation to creating America. There is no bad place to start, and the vast archives never feel out-of-date.
The CanadaLand broadcaster presents a variety of podcasts that provide nuanced critiques of Canadian media and politics. Not only do you, as a listener, get a more in-depth examination of an issue, but also an understanding of how we come to understand that issue through media representation. The main show, CanadaLand, hosted by journalist Jesse Brown, is a weekly exploring everything from media coverage of climate change to government actions towards reconciliation (or lack thereof) to how different media outlets cover elections (ie. who owns what media). Other shows include the recent investigative coverage of issues regarding police and violence in Thunder Bay, Ontario and Commons, which is marketed as a politics show for people who hate politics.
Where to start: Given that these are primarily news shows, listening to the most recent episodes is the most relevant; however, a lot of the topics covered are ongoing issues within Canadian media and politics. I thoroughly enjoyed the Thunder Bay podcast, which was the broadcasters first foray into deeply investigative journalism. The realities for residents of Thunder Bay, particularly Indigenous folks, comes through in the expert storytelling and facts presented. A list of their podcasts can be found at: https://www.canadalandshow.com/podcasts/
Ologies host Alie Ward breathes a lot of life and enthusiasm into a range of scientific fields from biology to anthropology – and some ‘eulogies’ you have never heard of! Each episode is an interview with an individual who is an expert in their field of study, giving “ologists” an opportunity to share their passions, answer listener questions, and provide us an opportunity to explore a topic we have perhaps never thought of. This show is regularly in the Top 10 science podcast downloads – and for good reason. Science and scientific research are often inaccessible to the general public, hidden behind journal paywalls and jargon, so this show is very valuable to increasing public understanding on a range of topics. Don’t be fooled by Alie’s silliness as a host – she is a powerhouse of scientific knowledge and knowledge activism as a correspondent for the CBS series Innovation Nation, and host of “Did I Mention Invention?” on the CW, as well as having written for L.A. Weekly and the Los Angeles Times.
A major bonus of this show, besides being generally amazing, is that it is entirely funded by listeners through Patreon and merchandise sales. This means not only are there are no ads, but the accountability to listeners is strong with this one.
Where to start: With an extensive backlog, there is no wrong answer here, so don’t be daunted! Recent favourite episodes of mine have included Kalology (beauty standards) – the follow up bonus minis ode to this actually made me cry on the bus its so powerful – Corvid Thanatology (crow funerals – how cool!), and Selenology (study of the moon).
Modern Love is a podcast presented by NPR and the New York Times and offers listeners personal stories about the intricacies of love in today’s world. “Modern Love” is a long-standing column in the NYT and this podcast provides host Meghna Chakrabarti and editor Daniel Jones the opportunity to go deeper, sharing some of the best stories about love today.
Ranging from familial to intimate partner relationships, each episode is a deeply personal and beautifully reading contributed by a fellow listener and brought to life by a celebrity voice. In a world of increasingly complex personal relationships within technology, this show is a reminder of our humanity within interactions.
Where to start: Some of the episodes are pretty tear-inducing, such as the episode “Learning Humanity from Dogs” (the unconditional love of dogs always makes me cry anyway) read by Ethan Hawke, while others, like the “Hunter-Gatherer Parking Division” read by Jason Alexander, have made me chuckle. Other episodes provide some insight into complex issues, such as “Maddy Just Might Work,” which explores the complexity of coming out as a transgender parent.