storytelling

Our favorite podcasts: nerdy picks in politics, sports, science & culture

Christine O'Connor | May 7, 2021
Thinkshift's favorite podcasts

Photo by C D-X/Unsplash

Despite appearances, we Thinkshifters don’t spend all our time thinking about PR. But we are avid media consumers off the job as well as on, and podcasts are increasingly on our minds. Curious about what my colleagues were listening to, I took a poll. The results were diverse enough to be worth sharing—maybe you’ll find a new listen.

Me (Christine)

I love science podcasts with lively hosts that teach me something about the world, either by delving into obscure or unexpected topics that I wouldn’t otherwise learn about or by covering issues that are relevant to my daily life.

My favorite is Ologies in which “your dad Alie Ward” interviews experts in fields that I never knew existed. If not for Ologies, I never would have known that philematology is the study of kissing, that there’s a field of study called experimental archaeology or that both topics are fascinating. The best thing about Ologies, though, is the host. Alie is fun, enthusiastic and perpetually curious.

My second favorite, Science Vs., provides practical insight into popular trends like intermittent fasting and DNA testing kits by pitting fads against facts. Creator, host and executive producer Wendy Zuckerman is an animated interviewer and a keen voice of reason.

Sarah

I’m a sports fan who loves podcasts that delve into the obscure minutiae of the NBA and now MLB! The Lowe Post podcast by ESPN is one of my favorites covering basketball. The host is endearing and really knows his stuff. His verbal style is fun, rapid and occasionally eccentric. With baseball resuming, I’ve just started to enjoy Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney. It covers the comings and goings of the season, which I find to be a soothing rite.

The Ezra Klein Show gets the highest marks in the political podcast genre. Ezra delves deep into today’s most pressing issues in ways that make sense to me. I find him so intelligent and often poignant.

I also listen to a beginner’s podcast on Spanish news.

Sandra

I’m into politics and policy, science and the delightful and disturbing things people do and make, with a strong lean toward the nerdy and thinky. My possibly unhealthy addiction to political podcasts includes Pod Save America, The Weeds, Why Is This Happening? and, I’m afraid, more. The Ezra Klein Show for me is more a policy and big ideas listen—I love it for its depth and thoughtfulness.

I go through phases with podcasts (lately You’re Wrong About, which reexamines pop-cultural touchstones, and the cultural chat show Still Processing) but will always go back to 99% Invisible, an architecture and design show that’s technically about the things we don’t notice but is really about obsessions and wonderful oddities (plus I find host Roman Mars’s voice as relaxing as a beach drink). Also This American Life, the first podcast, before there were podcasts.

Carolyn

I don’t listen to podcasts that much—I tend to listen to music when I’m not working. When I do listen, I want a good story and strong production values. My favorite is Radiolab. It has insanely great production values. Co-host and co-creator Jad Abumrad, a former sound designer, has broken all kinds of conventions for audio storytelling with his aesthetic. He and his co-hosts are endlessly curious and entertaining. Plus, it’s often about science!

Ear Hustle is also unlike anything else—oddly horrifying and optimistic. It tells stories about “the daily realities of life inside prison shared by those living it,” and now has post-incarceration stories from the outside. The show was started in 2017 by artist Nigel Poor, who had been teaching photography at San Quentin Prison, along with Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, who were incarcerated at the time.

While our interests are varied, nerdiness and obscurity are common themes. I found that notable considering that we spend our workdays elbows-deep in detail-heavy finance and sustainability topics. My favorite thing about PR is finding the best way to communicate a niche topic to a wider audience. Each one of the podcasts we listen to succeeds in doing just that.

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