Some really worthwhile recent podcasts


The news I just got on my phone reminds me of something I meant to share a few days back.

The news is that a cop — actually, now former cop, Brett Hankison — has been indicted in the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

And it reminds me of some podcasts of “The Daily” that I meant to recommend earlier, but forgot.

Most directly, it reminds me of the two-part series the NYT podcast did on “The Killing of Breonna Taylor” on Sept. 9 and 10. Here’s the first part, and here’s the second.

It was really educational. It started with the recording of an incident that happened long before Ms. Taylor’s death, which actually led to the changes in Louisville police procedures that eventually led to the raid that killed her.

It provided a reality-based understanding of what happened. It was horrific, but also contained all the complex texture of real life. You had the fact that this kind of policing was actually based on “reforms” from what had gone before. You were appalled at the bad intel upon which the raid was based. You were as shocked as the cops were when it turned out her boyfriend (who they didn’t know was there) had a gun, and he fired it and nearly killed the first cop in the door by hitting him in the femoral artery. You felt the fear that caused the boyfriend to shoot, and the cops’ panic as they turned their attention from their initial purpose to getting an ambulance to the scene.

And you mourned the shocking tragedy of this young woman’s unnecessary death.

And, when Hankison was indicted today, you had the background to think, “Well, if one person was going to be indicted, he was the one.” (That is, if he’s the one — and the sketchy reports I’m reading indicate he was — who, in the podcast, was described as stepping away from the apartment entrance during the confusion and firing wildly at the apartment and a neighboring apartment, through the walls and windows. That guy was fired back in June, if my memory serves.)

The podcast gave insights that exceed the simplicity of the black-and-white demands of protesters, or of idiot presidents who criticize those who protest.

Anyway, I recommend it, if you can get past the paywall (I’m not sure how that works with podcasts; I’m a subscriber).

And I also recommend one from a couple of days earlier, which was less depressing — even uplifting — but also ultimately distressing.

It was called “Who Replaces Me?” It was the story, told in his own words, of a veteran black cop from Flint, Mich. You learn of his background as a kid who grew up with a father in prison, determined to be whatever his father was not. You hear about him becoming a cop, and amazing his trainers out on patrol, because on every call, he knows and understands the people on the scene.

You hear about him being the guy who intervened when white cops weren’t giving any basic human consideration to black suspects. You hear the stories of when he has “given out his cellphone number, driven students to prom and provided food and money to those who were hungry.” You hear his quiet pride at the service he provides to his community.

And then you hear of his dismay and disillusionment at such events as the killing of George Floyd. It’s the voice of a guy who finds himself contemplating retirement, but wondering, “Who Replaces Me?”

It’s the story of a hero — the real kind, not the cartoon sort. The kind of guy whose narrative doesn’t fit easily into the narratives of left or right.

Anyway, if you can, I recommend listening to that, too…




15 thoughts on “Some really worthwhile recent podcasts

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Actually, I had thought The Daily had kind of fallen off lately, until these three.

    For awhile there, I had been listening to it more or less, well, daily, and getting a lot out of it. But then there was a stretch when all seemed to be about things that didn’t much interest me — so I’d listen to NPR or something instead.

    But I thought these three programs were excellent. I learned a lot.

    I’d had a similar experience with “The Argument,” the weekly podcast that the NYT put out on Wednesdays. I used to not want to miss it, but I felt like the quality had fallen off as the personnel changed. It started out with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt, and it was good. Then Leonhardt, who had felt to me like the guy holding it together, left (with no explanation that I ever heard). And he was replaced by Frank Bruni. I really like Bruni’s columns and newsletters, but he hadn’t really gotten into the swing of it when he left, too. (Again, I don’t know why.) I’ve heard one program so far with just Ross and Michelle, and it wasn’t all that great.

    I guess podcasting is something where people run out of steam after awhile. Or something…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I was curious enough about that that I wrote to Frank Bruni to ask about it, using an address on his enewsletter. Under a headline saying, “Why did you leave The Argument?,” I wrote:

      Just thought I’d ask. I was sorry to see Leonhardt leave because I thought he did a good job, but I thought, “Hey, I really like Frank Bruni’s columns — this should be good, too.”

      But now you’re gone as well.

      What’s going on there? If you can talk about it, I mean And maybe you have, in a previous newsletter or something, and I missed it.

      By the way, I’m a former newspaperman and now a blogger, so if you respond but don’t want me to use it, let me know…

      I posted something today about some recent NYT podcasts, and that’s what caused me to think of this and write to you…

      I gave him that warning so he’d know there was a danger of being quoted, unless he opted out. You know, in case it was something like “We can’t stand each other.” I didn’t want him blindsided. (It’s kind of against the rules.) And I just wanted to know, as a fan — not necessarily for the blog.

      But I got an autoreply saying he couldn’t respond to all his email, which is what I expected.

      So I was surprised when I got this followup today:

      I just had trouble fitting “The Argument” into everything else and it was never at all certain or even likely that I’d stay permanently and also it gives the podcast more flexibility to rotate voices in and out. That’s fine to be on the record. Thanks, Frank

      Anyway, I thought that was nice of him, and I appreciate it. And looking at what he does for the paper and his readers, it makes perfect sense that a podcast was maybe a bit much. If there were any other reasons, well, that’s his business…

  2. Bryan Caskey

    I really need to listen to more podcasts. I don’t listen to them that often, but when I do, I really enjoy them. My wife is big into podcasts, and she really enjoys them.

    What do you listen to out there, commentariat? What are your top 5 podcasts you’ve got to recommend?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      They’re a great thing to listen to while getting in those 10,000 steps a day.

      Aside from these, I’m also fond of the NPR One app. It takes you through one report after another from public radio — some of which are podcasts, or podcast-length — and if you’re not interested in one, you can click and go to the next. I’ll listen first to the latest newscast, then go on to other stuff.

      There’s only one thing I don’t like about it — you can’t back up. So if I get home and want to blog about something I heard, it’s a hassle, unless I thought to email it to myself while it was playing…

  3. Barry

    I listen to Clark Howard’s Podcast every evening when I ride. Love it. It is by far my favorite. Excellent information and I’ve used his advice many times to make my life easier. He’s also, I believe, the most kind human being in the world. Who else in media devotes time to listening to people that ridicule his advice? He always answers their criticism respectfully and usually cheerfully.

    I recently finished The Plot Thickens: I’m Still Peter Bogdanovich – I also really enjoyed it. TCM Primetime Host Ben Mankiewicz acts as the host. So well done. Peter is fascinating. There are 6-8 episodes I think. I learned a lot and he actually talked about the murder of Dorothy Stratton, his girlfriend. Peter was at the top of his game at a young age. But things can change.

    Earlier in the summer I listened to Fatal Voyage, the Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood for the 2nd time. There are a number of episodes so it takes quite a bit of time to complete.

    Earlier in the summer I also listened to podcasts about JFK Jr’s life and the plane crash as well as one about the search for Job Benet Ramsey’s killer. It was excellent because the Ramsey family participated.

    1. Barry

      Btw- Clark Howard is not a political show at all but he has “nicely” ridiculed the federal dept of education on shenanigans under Betsy Devos. He never mentions her by name but he’s mentioned several things the dept of education has done to screw college students with respect to unethical actions and student loans.

  4. Barry

    I can’t believe I left out SwingState

    It’s hosted by Tom Ashbrook, formerly host of On Point from WBUR and NPR. Tom is one of the best.

  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Here’s hoping Joe Biden can hang onto his lead, in spite of events continuing to conspire to shake things up.

    First, RBG died, making the nation’s political mood even more angry and divided.

    Then, people took to the streets in Louisville over what I mentioned at the top of this post, which you know has to have Trump dancing with glee.

    I’m so sorry about Justice Ginsburg. I’m so sorry about Breonna Taylor. But please, if we could just be calm for a short time…

    Just 40 more days, people. Just 40 more days.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Trump keeps accusing Biden of taking naps instead of campaigning.

      Hey, I wish the whole country would take a nap until this is over. No news. No reacting to news. Just… calm… until this is over…

  6. bud

    Wow! Just watched Bernie’s speech on the election. He really got on to Trump over his outrageous voter meddling. Fantastic job. It’s a crying shame we don’t have him as our nominee instead of the ultra milquetoast Joe Biden. Oh well. In the words of our president it is what it is. All you Bernie supporters out there I get it. Biden is awful, just awful. But grab that nose firmly with thumb and forefinger and vote straight party ticket. It’s the only rational thing to do.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Thank the Lord above Joe is the nominee, so that our nation has a chance of ridding ourselves of Trump.

      Not trying to argue with you, Bud. I just figured someone should respond.

      Here’s hoping the Bros listen to your advice…

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    Speaking of podcasts…

    Today I listened to this week’s “The Argument,” during which there was considerable discussion from perspectives of left and right (which were sometimes the same, by the way) about ideas for changing the court — not so that this side or that one can “win,” but so the stakes in these court opening would cease to be so dire. The title was, “A Battle Over the Battle for the Supreme Court.

    So that, in other words, the “nonpolitical branch” would stop driving the politics of the “political branches” off a cliff.

    A lot of the suggestions make me pretty nervous, but they were interesting. If you can listen to it, I recommend it…

    By the way, if you are NOT a subscriber to the NYT, and you try to listen to these and you can’t, let me know. Then I might stop writing about them so much — or, if I do, I’ll throw in a lot more description for those who can’t listen…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I ask that because when I’m listening, they’re always interrupting the podcasts with promos that urge people to subscribe to the NYT.

      Why would they do that if people who DON’T subscribe couldn’t listen? Or at least, listen to a certain number before running into the paywall?…


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