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. Reading news online is reasonably reliable and even highly recommended if you can find good, relatively unbiased sources and 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?
To start with, figure out how much time you have to devote to news. One of the big advantages of podcasts is that you can listen while you commute, or clean the house or just anytime you would normally listen to the radio or have the TV on in the background. I’d start with a few of the ones listed below. They are all from good, reliable, fairly non-ideological sources with enough of a budget to do their own research and reporting. By keeping them to a few minutes, it forces them to keep to the stories you really need to know about. Personally, I try to subscribe to more than I actually have time for, so that I always have something ready to go if I find myself with some time.
Subscribing to everything in the section below would come to less than two and a half hours per weekday and would give you the top news according to 7 different sources in three countries (Canada, the US and the UK).
MONDAY THRU FRIDAY
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.
the Daily – A 20 Minute news briefing from the New York Times
FT News Briefing – A 10 minute, daily news briefing from the Financial Times, with a focus on business and economic news
The Indicator from Planet Money – a ten minute daily podcast that looks at various aspects of the economy and talks about it in a way that assumes you do not have a business or economics background.
The Intelligence from Economist Radio – A 20 minute daily podcast that takes an in depth look at (usually) 3 stories making the news.
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.
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:
- Canadian Club of Toronto – Very occasional podcast featuring influential speakers on public policy
- CBC News: At Issue – A quick, 10-minute weekly analysis of events in Canadian politics.
- Empire Club of Canada podcast – Very occasional podcast of influential speakers in a variety of fields from Canada and around the world.
- (The) Global Exchange – A discussion of Canada in the world from the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
- (The) House from CBC Radio – A bi-weekly show that digs into the weeds of Canadian politics
- Nation To Nation – A weekly podcast on issues in the news from a Canadian First Nations perspective – produced by the Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN)
- Open to Debate with David Moscrop – A deep look at issues in Canadian and global politics from political theorist and columnist David Moscrop
- Pod Bless Canada – an in depth look at issues in Canadian and International Politics from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) in Ottawa.
- A Podcast Called Intrepid – Canadian national security podcast with Stephanie Carvin and Craig Forcese.
- Political Stripes with Bob Rae – A weekly discussion of Canadian politics with former Ontario Premiere and Liberal Party leader Bob Rae
- Political Traction Podcast – A weekly look at issues in Canadian politics
- QP Briefing – News and current events from Queen’s Park, Ontario
- This is Why – An in-depth look at a single current issue making news from Global News
UK AND EUROPE:
- Analysis – An in-depth look at a single, currently significant issue from the BBC
- Birkbeck Politics – From the Department of Politics, Birkbeck, University of London
- The Briefing Room (BBC) – Each week David Aaronovitch brings together a panel of experts and insiders present in-depth 30 minute briefing on an important issue making the news.
- Brussels Sprouts – From the Center for a New American Security, small bits on Europe, the EU, NATO and Russia
- Economist Radio (all audio) – All of the Economist’s audio podcasts in one subscription
- European Council on Foreign Relations – Mark Leonard’s ‘World in 30 Minutes’ – A look at the big issues in foreign policy.
- FT UK Politics – Weekly British politics from the Financial Times
- Inquiry – The inquiry from BBC explores the “trends, forces and ideas shaping the world”
- Mark Leonard’s World in 30 Minutes – A global affairs discussion from the European Council on Foreign Relations.
- Politico’s EU Confidential – Bi-weekly show on issues in EU politics
- (the) Real Story – Global experts and decision makers discuss and debate an issue making the news.
- Talking Politics – Professor David Runciman former Head of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies and guests take a hard look at British and global politics.
- CQ On Congress – A weekly look at the US Congress, from Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call
- Deep Dish on Global Affairs – A foreign affairs and international relations podcast from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs
- Deep State Radio – A twice a week inside look at American politics and power from the 3rd subbasement of the ministry of snark.
- FiveThirtyEight Politics – Nate Silver and reporters from FiveThirtyEight.com take a data driven look at US politics.
- FP’s First Person – A weekly interview with key players, past and present, in US foreign policy
- HKS Policycast – A weekly podcast on public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School
- Lawfare – A weekly look at US national security law and policy
- Media and Politics Podcast – From Harvard’s Kennedy School “features insight and expertise from leading voices at the intersection of media, politics and public policy”
- NPR Politics Podcast – A roundup of current events with NPR’s political reporters
- Politico’s Nerdcast – Politicos top reporters on the issues of the day
- Rational Security – “A weekly discussion of national security and foreign policy matters hosted by Shane Harris of the Wall Street Journal and featuring Brookings scholars Tamara Cofman Wittes, Benjamin Wittes, and Susan Hennessey.”
- Throughline – A podcast from NPR that does what almost no news show does – Throughline takes an issue making the news and digs deep into the history of that issue, and where it all started to provide historical context.
- Trend Lines (from World Politics Review) – Short briefings on issues in global politics.
- War on the Rocks – Insiders and Experts talk US defense, security, and foreign policy
- World Next Week – International stories to watch in the week ahead from the Council on Foreign Relations.
- The World Unpacked – A weekly foreign policy podcast from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
- Asia Rising – A look at issues impacting Asia at the dawn of the Chinese century.
- Asian Geopolitics – “A weekly discussion of the geopolitical implications of current events in the Asia-Pacific, hosted by Ankit Panda from The Diplomat, with regular guests.”
- Latin America in Focus – A look at trends and issues in Latin America from the Americas Society/Council of the Americas
- Understanding Latin American Politics – “This podcast looks at the current political situation in Latin America and tries to make sense of it along with the help of experts on Latin American politics. Greg Weeks is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & Public”
- 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
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY:
- Big Picture Science – Podcast from the SETI institute
- Blue Streak Science – A fun, irreverant weekly podcast from science communicator JD Goodwin and friends
- Exponential View – from Harvard Business Review, examines the real and potential impact of science and technology on business and society.
- FT Tech Tonic – Explores the impact of technology on politics, culture and economics
- 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
- PNAS Science Sessions – A weekly briefing on hot topics in science from Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS)
- 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 (TWIS) – 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