Podcasts are currently the best way to stay informed as a citizen. Television news, quite frankly, isn’t made for smart people. It focuses on the same things that Hollywood films and television shows do, controversy, conflict, car chases and explosions. They have talking heads argue with each other and invite politicians to recite talking points. They emphasize crime stories, wherever they occur and sprinkle in odd human interest stories and the occasional animal video. Most radio news shares many of the same problems. Reading news online is reasonably reliable and even highly recommended if you can find good, relatively unbiased stories have a lot of time to spend reading. Whatever you do, don’t rely on social media as a news source. You will not get the best sources or the truth, but a hodgepodge of whatever your friends think will get likes, shares and retweets, infused with conspiracy theories and orchestrated campaigns from governmental and non-governmental sources.

So which podcasts? How about a little more than an hour for the best stories from 5 or 6 reasonably reliable sources as a start?


BBC World Service: Global News Podcast – 30 minutes – mostly international news with some UK news.
CBC News: World Report –  10 minutes – not a strong 10 minutes, – too much sports, American news and ‘human interest’ but it’s Canadian and if anything terribly important is going on, it’ll probably be included.
CPAC – Today in Politics – (when Parliament is sitting) 20 minutes, and a strong 20 minutes – a good overview of what’s important in Canadian politics today.
Up First – A 10 minute morning news briefing from NPR
the Daily 202’s Big Idea – In 5 minutes, James Hohmann of the Washington Post gives you one big story “the Big Idea” and the top 3 stories to watch.
Politico Playbook Audio Briefing – Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman are two of the most well connected reporters in Washington, Playbook is their daily 3-7 minute briefing on what to watch.

(For Americans: CPAC is Canada’s equivalent of CSPAN and not to be confused with the Republican Conservative Political Action Conference. Also, if you’re not interested in Canadian politics, add the Daily – A 20-minute news roundup from the New York Times, 5 days/week to the list above.)

I highly recommend that you listen to more podcasts. However, if that’s all the time you have, you’ll be relatively well informed, and the information you have will come from multiple, reasonably reliable sources in three countries, none of which are highly ideological.

Below is a list of other good podcasts, from other sources. Subscribing doesn’t mean you have to listen to every episode and listening to the podcasts on the list above will help you decide if you should listen to a given episode (read what it’s about and decide whether you’re interested and want to learn more.) It’s also a good idea to add a few weekly science and technology podcasts as the shape of the world going forward is going to be determined largely by science and technology.

Here’s the list:





  • Africa in Transition – An irregularly produced podcast on trends in Africa from the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Asia Rising – A look at issues impacting Asia at the dawn of the Chinese century.
  • Asia Unbound – An occasional podcast on developments in Asia from the Council on Foreign Relations.
  • Global Politico – Politico’s foreign policy podcast with Susan Glasser
  • IMF Podcasts – The world’s top economists discuss global trends; from the International Monetary Fund
  • Latin America in Focus – A look at trends and issues in Latin America from the Americas Society/Council of the Americas
  • United Nations Radio – Updates on the work of the United Nations and various UN agencies around the world.
  • World Affairs – A look beyond the headlines from the World Affairs Council
  • World Bank Podcasts – Updates on efforts to combat poverty around the globe.
  • World Economic Forum – Podcasts on the ideas, trends, and technologies shaping the future


  • Big Picture Science – Podcast from the SETI institute
  • Blue Streak Science – A fun, irreverant weekly podcast from science communicator JD Goodwin and friends
  • Infinite Monkey Cage – Scientist Brian Cox and comedian Robin Ince present important topics in science in layman’s terms.
  • Nature Podcast – the latest developments in the world of science from the publishers of Nature
  • Quirks and Quarks – A weekly science news and interview program from the CBC
  • Science Magazine Podcast – Weekly stories from the primary publication of AAAS
  • Science Vs – Separating scientific fact from rumor, myth, and meme
  • This Week in Science – A casual, conversational talk show about the week’s top science stories from a variety of disciplines.
  • Wired Podcast – science, tech, business, and culture reports from Wired UK
  • WSJ the Future of Everything – A look at changing technology and its impact on society from the Wall Street Journal