I hope you won’t miss me too much…
This is just a note to say that I’m going away next week, so there won’t be a new issue of the newsletter. I’ll resume publishing on March 16th.
There’s a strong possibility that I won’t even listen to a single podcast in that time, which will be a little strange. Keep your ears open, and if there’s anything you think that I shouldn’t miss, feel free to drop me a line here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inspired by the milestones that shows like The Read and Bodega Boys passed this week, I have some thoughts on the importance of podcast listener diversification.
Have you seen the news about The Daily?
In case you haven’t, The New York Times’ wildly popular and exceedingly well-made news podcast will soon be distributed on the radio in partnership with American Public Media. I’ve had a bit of a strange reaction to the news, in that it makes me cringe a little. I have written in the past regarding my feelings on daily news podcasts—which you can check out here. I haven’t entirely made sense of this desire I have to demarcate the world of podcasting so rigidly from the world of radio, but the two are rather different approaches to a similar shared media.
Among the chief enjoyments of the podcast format is its inherent plasticity. It is a breeding ground for new ideas, often because it isn’t often beholden to the formal rigidities of something like the broadcast clock. Having a sense of playful experimentation as a foundational quality has led The Daily to flourish precisely for the ways that it doesn’t fit the mold of traditional news media. I know that the podcast won’t change as a result, but it does change the way listeners might interact with the show.
We’ll see, who knows. Enough of this screed, hop down below for this week’s recommendations!
Last month I had the great fortune of attending the 2017 Third Coast Conference, put on by the Third Coast International Audio Festival. Though it was only my second year in attendance, I already feel an unabashed love for Third Coast and all that they have done for the furtherance of narrative audio storytelling. Following their work over the years has only served to make me that much more of a perceptive listener to, and observer of, the world of audio. In this present moment, adopting a bird’s eye perspective of the podcast landscape reveals the Third Coast organization and conference’s indelible fingerprints on this century’s communal listening experiences. From Re:Sound, to Radiotopia, many of audio’s major players can credit the organization as having been integral in their growth. That its rise in prominence has coincided with that of the podcast medium is largely by design and not mere coincidence.
Thinking critically about podcasts is sometimes a maddening affair.
You know as well as I that, despite being an audio-first experience, podcasts are not music. They’re also not film, or television, or books. They’re kind of their own thing, a wondrous melange of all of those other forms. Yet thus far every approach to covering podcasts has sought to shoehorn them into one of those other models of evaluation. The lack of an extant model makes for a challenging scenario. There is no Lester Bangs or Pauline Kael in the podcast world for critics to emulate and aspire towards. This is down to the relative youth of the medium and the contraction of media outlets for such writing. Perhaps more significantly though it is impacted by the ease with which one can review films and albums since they are usually self-contained and exist within a densely woven tapestry of historical antecedents. Radio and podcasting, it would seem, haven’t been a part of the broader shared cultural lexicon in any meaningful way since the advent of television.
This Tuesday opened in strikingly somber fashion, with the announcement that the Trump administration will be rescinding the provisions of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA for short. The DACA program, a sort of stopgap measure enacted by the Obama administration following the many Congressional defeats of the proposed DREAM Act, covers nearly 800,000 individuals who are the children of undocumented immigrants. This is an act of unprovoked, unmitigated hatred, full stop. To see it any other way is to fundamentally misunderstand the aim of the program, to not grasp the complexity to childhood immigration, or to be willfully afflicted with cultural myopia.
While the move affects immigrants from many countries, it will be hardest felt by individuals of Latin American origin, particularly those from Mexico. This is in line with the campaign rhetoric frequently spouted by then-candidate Trump, whose animus towards the country and its people is seemingly now becoming official White House policy. In an increasingly divided nation, such broad-brushstrokes attacks only serve to legitimize the fallacy that immigrants are the real threat to America.