There are a lot of ways to acquire information about world affairs. A fun way I’ve found is through podcasts. When they first came out I didn’t “get” them. Then they started to become more sophisticated and some of your big publications, such as CNN, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the BBC got on board. To be sure, the amount of content can be quite overwhelming, not to mention if you have an energetic clicking finger, you could find yourself being subscribed to about 30-50 podcasts and there’s really no way you can catch up and listen to them all. So, I thought it would be fun to share with all of you what I’m listening to right at the moment, as well as what I’ve been the most disappointing with.
Podcasts I subscribe to
1. BBC Global News Highlights (Audio)
This is really a great podcast that is updated twice a day. It provides really great interviews and good discourse on current events and breaking news stories. They run about 21-26 minutes a pop, and the twice a day update can be a bit overwhelming, but nevertheless a great way to get your morning news about world events.
2. Inside CFR Events (Audio)
The number one think tank in the world, the Council on Foreign Relations, offers regular audio transcripts of sessions and seminars that are conducted at their facilities. The topics are very diverse, but are more on the U.S. side of things, as it is a U.S. based think tank. The Council attracts highly prolific politicians and famous scholars in the school of International Relations. Therefore the topics are quite heavy, and do require some background knowledge in IR, but they’re still very understandable and a great way to get informed about certain issues, as well as getting a jump start on any literature or articles that are often relayed to its main web-site. The only issue? They are long, running over an hour they usually consist of a lecture and a question and answer session at the end. The solution I’ve found is that I upload it on my iPod shuffle and listen to a seminar while I’m going for a run. Unfortunately being in Hong Kong where it’s really hot and humid, those jogging sessions haven’t been happening and I have about a weeks worth of seminars to catch up on. Regardless, this is one of my favorite podcasts.
3. NBC’s Meet the Press (Video)
Meet the Press. Is there more to say? The program usually deals with domestic affairs by conducting a discussion that is usually attended by prominent people in both parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, but usually does allocate time for discussion on world affairs. I really enjoy David Gregory’s interview style. He’s not afraid to really press politicians when they decide to be vague and is usually very blunt and sometimes unforgiving until he feels the question has been answered. It’s just a great program, and as I’m not around to watch it when it airs on NBC, it’s great that they offer it as a podcast. The shows are a little less than an hour, but it’s something to have playing in the background during a Sunday afternoon.
4. The Economist (Audio)
That’s right, the Economist offers a podcast and they even made a catchy theme song to go with it. The podcast is very varied and sometimes range from someone reading one of the articles in the current edition to good discussions about economics and foreign policy. My favorite segment is “The Week Ahead” where they look at what’s going to be occurring in the world in the coming week and is a good primer that really compliments the rest of my subscriptions.
5. Fareed Zakaria’s GPS (Video)
As mentioned in our previous post, I’m a big fan of this podcast. Mr. Zakaria regularly interviews politicians, usually those active in the Middle East, and asks some really good questions. He is an IR guy, so a lot of what he talks about is geopolitical, but what makes the video podcast work for me is that he really seems to be enjoying himself when he does it. It’s not boring by any means and he’s not scared to ask some tough questions. I regularly save his interviews and cite them in my research.
6. NPR Programs: Talk of the Nation (Audio)
Ahh yes, NPR. Lead journalist Neal Conan facilitates really good discussions primarily dealing with U.S. politics. The majority of the show consists of people calling in, so for our international readers it’s a really good way to monitor U.S. public opinion of those interested in such topics. The only issue I have is that the topics vary considerably that I’m constantly having to filter and delete segments that just do not interest me.
7. Anderson Cooper’s 360º Podcast (Video)
Anderson Cooper of CNN fame conducts a nightly podcast regarding various issues of the day. Frankly, issues vary considerably, which reflects the quality of the material given. Sometimes the majority of the 20-30 minutes is devoted to one issue, such as the murder of a young woman at Yale, which really cuts down on time for politics. Additionally it seems the program acts a bit like a 6 year old on ADHD, in that topics that were devoted so much air-time the previous day, disappear entirely and then pop up a again randomly a week later. However, Cooper manages to bring in a lot of good commentators and he’s good at facilitating a debate. Debate on a topic usually involves individuals from both sides of the political spectrum. In short, it’s a great podcast to start the day, while doing a morning routine or drinking that first cup of coffee.
Podcasts I’m disappointing in
1. Newsweek (Video)
Talking about a huge waste of time not to mention a great loss of potential, Newsweek fails to deliver on providing quality content that reflects its magazine. Its podcast is dedicated to pop culture, and anything political is put on the back burner. It’s there, but buried and you really have to look for it. This is a huge waste of space so devote your precious time to higher quality efforts from the Economist and the Washington Post. Hell, even do a Fox News podcast if it exists.
2. Die Zeit (Audio)
Die Zeit is a really good German newspaper that devotes itself to doing quality commentary on current events. It does offer a podcast, but after listening to it I’m wondering why they even bothered. It usually entails a reading of one of its published articles, that’s it. No discussion, nadda, zip. Germany still hasn’t figured out the podcast thing and this pretty much reflects it.
But that’s it! Those are my recommendations and what I’m listening to right now. Check them out. But you don’t have to take my word for it.