Podcasts are the hidden gem of the entertainment world, and like most forms of media that we consume these days, they’re almost always available free of charge. The best are artful and distinct: a medium unfettered by ads, open to more interpretation than the visual world, and strangely successful in transforming a listener’s regular space into wherever the hosts or hosts take you. Well-known on-campus podcast favorites are often but not always broadcasted through NPR: “RadioLab,” “All Songs Considered,” “The Moth,” and my own personal obsession: “This American Life,” hosted by Ira Glass.
Juniors Stephanie Wesson and Vic Sliwa had a WRBC show last semester that borrowed the intellectual whims of “RadioLab” podcasts, blending shows around broad topics such as “humor” and providing listeners with perspectives that neuroscience (Sliwa) and philosophy (Steph) majors can offer. Mike Creedon ’15 became hooked on radio when he was twelve years old and discovered “The Moth.” His love of podcast storytelling hooked him on memoirs of all mediums. Other students find themselves drawn to NPR news hours, indie music showcases—such as Seattle’s famously-high quality independent radio station KEXP—and sportscasts.
Podcasts are so varied in genre that a person is bound to find an interest to listen to, regardless of their niche. Jordan Becker ‘15, outspoken male feminist and one of the leaders of the Bates Action Energy Movement, is particularly fond of “Citizen Radio,” which he said is “a blog hosted by vegan feminist liberals” and “so awesome.” Nick Steverson ’15 prefers listening to “All Songs Considered,” a program that showcases new musicians, because it’s “easier to access than TV,” while still guiding him toward artists instead of spending hours surfing the deep recesses of the internet. Podcasts also reach out to the oft-forgotten auditory learners, noted Becker and others.
Joe Richman, founder of the radio and podcast series Radio Diaries, who spoke at a Colby lecture series two years ago, is an outspoken advocate for the power and sway of documentary radiobroadcasting. It’s an older art form than many of the other media types that we more frequently consume, and its storied history often is written off because of its age and connection to “nostalgia-only” programs. On the contrary, radio podcasts—in their mobility, accessibility, and flexibility in length—are often allowed a freedom that other media outlets lack. Radio storytelling, notes Michelle Devoe ’15, is often the most powerful when it follows Richman’s design and is “raw, real, and unpolished.” Although most often connected to major entertainment outlets—CNN, HBO, ESPN, and VH1 to name a few notables—creating a podcast is relatively easy and inexpensive and, much like a blog, the barriers to the world of podcasting are relatively small in comparison to those of TV, books, and movies. This fact also makes the podcast pool seem endless and daunting—but there’s something for everyone. On the long, dreary March walks from the end of Frye Street to Commons, having a story told to you on your way just might be the best way to find out about the latest headlines or book review.