Update: The second edition is out.
If you’ve grown dizzy from the constant spin in your media diet, you probably have a tough time finding any decent alternatives. I’ve definitely struggled with this myself. Still do. To that end, I’ve curated a small list of the best podcasts for those of us looking for some fresh perspectives.
The first edition has seven different shows, one true centrist podcast and then three each from the left and right. But don’t dismiss the partisan podcasts just because they have an obvious political slant; they all do solid work and try to contend with their own partisan leanings from time to time. They may frustrate you in what they choose to talk about and how they frame things, but in my opinion that makes it all the more critical to listen and learn to understand. The goal is not to avoid partisanship, but to find a way to work within a partisan system.
I plan to update this from time to time, so don’t hesitate to send any recommendations my way. I’ll give anything a listen so long as it’s not pure vitriol and hyperbole. If it meets my own vague and arbitrary standards, I’ll add it to the list.
KCRW’s Left, Right and Center (Centrist)
FiveThirtyEight Politics (Liberal)
Commentary Magazine Podcast (Conservative)
WNYC’s On The Media (Liberal)
WSJ: Potomac Watch (Conservative)
Slate’s Political Gabfest (Liberal)
- Conservatives might take offense at this one, since Slate is known for being a thoroughly progressive outlet. But John Dickerson holds down the center, Emily Bazelon is brilliant and all-knowing, and David Plotz has a strange obsession with playing devil’s advocate, which all together leads to plenty of constructive discussion, despite the clear liberal bias. There’s more than enough substance to make it worth your time, especially for conservatives looking for a different point of view.
The Ben Shapiro Show (Conservative)
The Fifth Estate Show (Conservative)
- This is an interview-style weekly podcast hosted by Jay Caruso and Neal Dewing. Each episode has a featured guest with serious expertise on a given subject, interviewed at length in a nuanced back-and-forth. Jay and Neil offer a principled conservative perspective, but the guests range from across the spectrum and give the show a solid centrist lean. I kept this show off the official list only because they tend to focus on deep-dives, so you might miss trending issues here and there if it’s the only podcast in your diet.
Planet Money (Non-political)
- I love this show, but since it’s non-political it doesn’t really belong here, strictly speaking. You could probably tease out a liberal lean if you try hard enough, given that it’s an NPR show, but the economics and pragmatic mindset tends to keep things grounded in reality, not politics. It is a market-focused show that highlights the quirks and curiosities of living in a global economy, and liberals and conservatives will both find plenty of things to be surprised about. It provides fantastic tutorials on the law of unintended consequences and how you can’t always trust your biases.