The Wide World of Podcasts: NHPR Producers Give Their Recommendations

Jul 3, 2018

It's a golden age for podcasting, with thousands you can listen to any time, anywhere.  NHPR producers discuss the latest trends in podcasting, and give their picks for all kinds of listening, from in-depth reporting, to storytelling, to comedy, and more. 

GUESTS:

  • Rebecca Lavoie - NHPR’s Digital Director, but she’s also the host and producer of several podcasts, including one which reviews other podcasts. That show is called Crime Writers On…, and it’s been downloaded more than twelve million times.
  • Maureen McMurray - Director, Content Innovation and Audience Development at NHPR. She is the former executive producer for the Creative Production Unit at NHPR, which produces Civics 101, Word of Mouth, and Outside/In. She has also worked as a producer on both the Catholic Channel on Sirius/XM and on Martha Steward Living Radio. 
  • Justine Paradis - Producer/reporter for NHPR’s podcasts Outside/In, Civics 101, and Word of Mouth – also formerly a producer at Millennial podcast from Radiotopia. She also organizes occasional “listening nights” and writes a podcast + media email newsletter, “sheets to the wind”

WATCH this show:

How Do I Listen?

Gimlet Media has a great interactive guide

A Beginner's Guide to Podcasts from Wired is also a useful tool. 

VPR also has a beginner's guide. 

Genre-Defining Must-Listens:

Below is a list of podcasts that began as podcasts, not as radio shows that were converted to podcasts, such as mainstays like This American Life or Radiolab, though they may now air on some radio stations.

Serial 

Host Sarah Koenig and her team launched the podcast boom with their narrative nonfiction story, which is told over multiple episodes. They investigate the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school student in Baltimore, and the conviction of her ex-boyfriend, high schooler Adnan Masud Syed, by revisiting key locations, talking to witnesses, and sharing their own thoughts about the case. 

The Daily 

Twenty minutes a day, every weekday, this podcast produced by the New York Times and hosted by Michael Barbaro covers news by talking to reporters and those involved in stories, and provides context. NHPR will start airing The Daily on Monday, July 9th at 6:30 PM. 

More Perfect

Produced by WNYC Studios, More Perfect looks at the history, and some of the biggest cases, of the Supreme Court of the United States. 

WTF with Marc Maron

Maron's show, which has over 900 episodes, features the comedian interviewing comedians, musicians, actors, and more. It is one of the most successful and long-running interview-format podcasts. 

Groundbreaking Shows To Listen To Now:

In The Dark

In the first season of this investigative reporting podcast, reporter Madaleine Baran and her team reported on the investigation surrounding the disappearance of Jacob Wetterling in 1989. Shortly before the release of the first episode, Danny Heinrich confessed to the murder. In Season 2, the team moved to Mississippi for a year to look at the case surrounding Curtis Flowers, who has been tried six times for the death penalty for a quadruple homicide in a furniture store. 

Caliphate

Rukmini Callimachi, a reporter for the New York Times who covers ISIS, takes listeners inside her reporting. She reports from a hotel room in Canada with a former ISIS member, in Mosul after ISIS fell, and in a refugee camps to speak with girls who escaped captivity. 

The Heart Series: No

The audio art project podcast The Heart launched a series in 2017 about sexuality, power, and consent, told through the story of one woman.

Justine's Recommendations:

Re:sound

Third Coast International Audio Festival's podcast, and a great place to find innovative and interesting podcasts and producers. 

Bello Collective

Newsletter and publication about audio storytelling and the podcast industry. 

Love+Radio

In-depth, eclectic interviews that portray people and situations in innovative, interesting ways. 

Short Cuts from BBC Radio 4

Short documentaries and adventures produced by Josie Long for BBC Radio. Phil Smith is a frequent contributor and one of my favorite makers. He'll often use poetry or literature to frame a piece about contemporary love, relationships, or modern life. For instance, in "A Very Different Time," Smith weaves a reimagining of W.H. Auden's "Paysage Moralisé" with personal accounts of escaping Syria as a refugee.

Falling Tree Productions

Not precisely a podcast, but this production group consistently produces some of my very favorite work. Try "A Cow a Day", in which producer Pejk Malinovski follows a cow through the ancient city of Varanasi from sunrise to sunset, or Sally Hership's "As Many Leaves", an audio diary and meditation on heartbreak.

Seeing White

14-part documentary series from Scene on Radio on the history and meaning of whiteness in America. 

Uncivil 

Produced by Gimlet Media, this podcast will "go back to the time our divisions turned into a war, and bring stories left out of the official history."

Why Oh Why

Though currently not producing any new shows, this podcast from Panoply looked at relationships, and the intersection of sex and technology. 

The Allusionist: A Podcast About Language

Why do we say the things we say? This podcast attempts to answer that question, through history and context. On the website, you can also search for an episode based on a word they have discussed.  

This Is About

A podcast based out of Australia for Radio International, This is About looks at stories about things that happen to people, from communism, the story of a donor to a fertility clinic, and the life and death of one of the producers of the program, Jesse Cox. 

Longform Podcast

Interviews with authors and journalists about their writing process, and their biggest stories. 

Maureen's Recommendations:

Maureen loves to listen to local podcasts that cover issues and feature voices from different regions. 

Brave Little State

A monthly podcast by VPR that investigates questions and stories about Vermont, guided by questions from the people who live there. 

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids

Kids ask the questions, and the show finds the answers. From VPR. 

The Pope's Long Con

This Kentucky-based podcast from Louisville Public Media and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Journalism follows the story of a preacher turned politician, and the lies that helped fuel his career.

She Says 

Produced by WFAE, the public radio station based in Charlotte, North Carolina, She Says follows the story of a sexual assault survivor as she tries to find justice in the Mecklenburg County court system. 

Neighbors

A show from Nashville Public Radio that looks at what connects people, "whether it's food, death, ritual, language, family, or friendship."

Us & Them

A production from West Virginia Public Broadcasting, this podcast explores the cultural issues that divide people, including money, drugs, religion, and race. 

HumaNature

From Wyoming Public Radio, a show about where human experience and nature meet. 

Making Oprah

From WBEZ, the behind-the-scenes story of Oprah's talk show. 

Rebecca's Recommendations:

Rebecca reviews true crime podcasts, films, and television shows for her podcast, Crime Writers On..., and below are some of her favorite picks for serialized and in-depth true crime coverage, and other podcasts she enjoys. 

Bikram - 30 for 30 Podcasts

A series from the 30 for 30 documentary team at ESPN that covers the rise of Bikram Yoga, and the troubled history and behavior of its founder, Bikram Choudhury. 

Empire on Blood 

A 7-part serialized true crime podcast that looks at the case of a double murder in the Bronx at the height of the crime wave in the 90's by journalist Steve Fishman. 

Missing & Murdered: Finding Cleo

The second season of the Missing & Murdered podcast from CBC looks at the disappearance of a young Cree girl, and the widespread separation of Cree children from their families in the 20th century. \

Song Exploder 

Musicians deconstruct their songs to tell stories about how they were made. 

West Cork

Investigation of the murder of Sophia Toscan du Plantier in West Cork, Ireland in 1996, with unprecidented access to the main suspect. 

Death, Sex, and Money

A show "born out of a desire for open and honest conversations about the things that we think about a lot, and need to talk about more."

Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People

"One phone call, one hour. No names. No holds barred."

Crimetown

The story of crime in Providence, RI, through the impact of one corrupt mayor, Buddy Cianci.

Podcasts that help you learn or accomplish tasks:

For Smart Speakers (ex: Alexa, start Chompers!)

Chompers

In two minutes, help your children build good tooth brushing habits. 

Make Me Smart

A podcast from Marketplace about the economy, technology, and culture. 

Science Vs

"Tak[ing] on fads, trends, and the opinionated mob to find out what's fact, what's not, and what's somewhere in between."

BackStory

Uses current events to dive into the U.S.'s past. Some topics include the early days of photography, the Chicago World's Fair, and the history of hair. 

For Language Learning:

Radio Ambulante 

"Spanish-language podcast that tells Latin American stories from anywhere Spanish is spoken."

¿Que Pasa, Midwest?

Bilingual podcast created for the Latinx community in the Midwest. 

Fandom Podcasts:

 There and Back Again

A Lord of the Rings podcast that studies everything written and created by Tolkien for the epic.

The Baby-Sitters Club Club

Two men discuss the seminal series of young adult books about babysitting. 

A Date With Dateline

Two friends watch and analyze cases covered on Dateline. 

Fangirl Happy Hour

Two women discuss the intersections of fandom, literature, and culture. 

We Didn't Start the Podcast

A music scholar who doesn't like Billy Joel sits down with a Billy Joel fan to talk about his music, going song by song. 

Fun, Strange, Hilarious, Heartfelt:

 My Dad Wrote a Porno

Jamie Morton reads aloud the adult novel his father wrote for two of his friends. 

Meat

"A podcast about our bodies and the life we live because of them."

Thirst Aid Kit

The two female hosts explore the ways women express their desire. They discuss Hollywood actors, representation, and feature original fanfiction. 

Where Should We Begin? with Esther Perel

Each episode takes listeners inside one couple's therapy session.

MuggleCast

A weekly Harry Potter podcast that has been going strong since 2005. 

Listener Recommendations:

 Ear Hustle

A podcast that brings listeners inside San Quentin prison. 

RadioLab

"Investigating a strange world and making science accessible."

2 Dope Queens

A comedy show hosted live in Brooklyn by Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams. 

Sooo Many White Guys

"Intimate, funny conversations with all kinds of artists who (mostly) aren't white dudes. 

Welcome to the Night Vale

"A twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events."

My Brother, My Brother and Me

Three brothers answer Yahoo questions. "An advicecast for the modern era."

How To Be A Girl

"An audio podcast...about the life of my six-year-old transgender daughter."

Podcasts Created By NHPR:

 Civics 101

A podcast refresher course on some basics you may have forgotten, or slept through, in school. 

Word of Mouth

Exploring the nooks and crannies of New Hampshire. 

Outside/In

A show about the natural world and how we use it. 

10-Minute Writer's Workshop

A podcast about how great writers conjure and craft their work. 

The Bookshelf

Featuring authors from around New Hampshire, and books about New Hampshire. 

Something Wild

Exploring the wonder of the landscape that surrounds us in New Hampshire. 

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