This week's recommendation has some strong similarities to last week's. Like Radiolab, On The Media is a radio show and it's produced at the same place: WNYC. I got hooked when they used to play it on WLRN and it was one of the first podcasts I laboriously downloaded or listened to on my computer when iPods and iTunes came along.
I've dipped in and out of it over the years, more out than in when I've been out of the media world and I've always wondered if it was too much inside baseball for people who aren't directly engaged in journalism.
But I also know that media consumers -- and who isn't that? -- are often also media critics and in the last month I've repeatedly found myself talking to friends with strong opinions about the media. My biggest difference with them, with all these kinds of discussions, comes from regarding "the media" as a monolith, especially in our wide-open yet specialized digital age.
On the Media consists of feature stories and analysis of all kinds of media and its cultural consequences from two really smart people: Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone. They have just the right amount of snark and skepticism while keeping an appreciation for the hard work that reporting and other kinds of content production can be. (Maybe that's the part that drives me crazy about my friends who so knowingly size up "the media" -- they don't seem to get how working in journalism can be so boring or stressful or just relentlessly demanding and that doing it well over a sustained period takes extraordinary persistence and optimism, especially since what you deal with is often inescapably negative. I'm ranting again. I think I'll just link to this book review from a Janet Malcolm book about a murder trial -- which I liked! -- if you're interested in reading MY media analysis/defense.
I was especially struck by On The Media's most recent episode, Behind the Curtain, with a story about Citizens United that was news to me. On The Media also has a digital spinoff, TLDR (Internet-speak for Too Long Didn't Read), which you can also subscribe to. They do some really cool stories, including this great recent piece about the mystery of Childish Gambino.
If you haven't done the podcast thing the easiest way is to do it on your phone -- iPhones have a podcast app, apparently Android phones use Stitcher. You can also subscribe via iTunes on your computer or just listen on a computer from an individual podcast's website.
And this week we're starting a new feature: Podcast press! Driven largely by all the excitement over Serial, there have been a lot of articles in ... dare I say it ... THE MEDIA recently about podcasts. So I'm just going to start throwing them up here. Not sure how long this will keep going but might as well have the links handy.
- "The Ridiculously Long List of Best Podcasts You Need to Start Listening to Right Now" from the International Business Times
- "What's Behind the Great Podcast Renaissance?" from New York Magazine. Their answer, in short, is: cars. My answer would be: smartphones, which is related because lots of cars now have ways to play content from your phone.
- "5 Reasons Everyone's Obsessed with 'Serial'" from Vulture, New York Magazine's online pop culture spinoff
- "6 Questions about Serial, the most popular podcast in America" from Vox
- "What is an Ending? 'Serial' and the Ongoing Story of Wanting Too Much" by Linda Holmes from NPR's Monkeysee blog - this is the closest thing I've seen to criticism of Serial though I'm sure there's lots more out there. And she really nails my biggest qualm about Serial (which I admire very much): that people consume it as if it were a work of dramatic crime fiction, a la True Detective -- I've made the comparison myself -- but may not be prepared for the reality that real life, ie. NONfiction, rarely provides neat resolutions to its narratives.