Back in my college days, I had a 45-minute (each way) commute to school. Being in my 20s, I spent my car-bound jaunts mostly listening to ’90s alternative radio and (shudder) cassette tapes from my favorite bands. How I wish iPhones and podcasts had been around back then. I would have tapped into the best news podcasts and learned so much about art, news, history, politics, etc., instead of amassing a near-encyclopedic knowledge of bands like Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots and the Counting Crows.
For you lucky souls who now get to make long commutes with smartphones at the ready, here are some of the smartest and best news podcasts that will make your journeys worthwhile and keep you caught up on what’s happening in the world, from breaking news to new-to-you.
The Best News Podcasts
Host Marco Werman fleshes out news and human interest stories from around the globe – with cool tunes thrown in – in this weekday podcast. Recent shows touched on fast fashion entering the secondhand market, a radioactive capsule that went missing in Australia, the resilient Odesa Opera and more.
“NPR News Now” Hourly News Summary
No more waiting for the top or half of every hour; now you can get your news whenever you want it from NPR, in handy five-minute chunks. It’s updated hourly, every day and every night. Yes – if you’re dying to find out what’s new at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday, NPR will sate your newsy appetite.
NPR’s “Up First“
Just need to know the major news to start your day? The hosts of “Up First” are awake in the wee hours of the morning to collect the three biggest news stories that you need to know about – in an an episode that’s just around 10 to 15 minutes!
Los Angeles-based KCRW hosts this weekly roundtable discussion, which features – you guessed it – a guest from the liberal side of the political spectrum, a centrist and a guest with a more conservative bent. It’s one of the best news podcasts for gaining a well-rounded knowledge of current events, without the self-imposed digital news and politics bubble so many of us find ourselves immersed in these days. During the lively debates you’ll learn how all sides feel about hot current events.
True to its name, “The Daily” is a daily podcast from The New York Times. Every weekday, you can load up an episode and find out what’s going on in the world. Listeners can also enjoy the Sunday Read, a special type of episode that airs every Sunday and features a recent New York Times article in full. It’s a daily conversation with some of the best journalists in the business.
Looking for a more global perspective? “Global News Podcast” is a daily podcast that features the top stories from BBC News, about the biggest things that are happening all around the world.
If you want to know how the news is affecting the business world, this is the podcast for you. “The Journal.” from The Wall Street Journal covers all the latest news through the prism of what it means for business and the economy. In their words, it’s a podcast about “money, business and power.”
More Interesting Podcasts for Your Commute
“Stuff You Missed in History Class“
This weekly podcast makes learning fun again. On any given day, you might hear cohosts Tracy V. Wilson and Holly Frey talking about ghost ships, the latest in technology, the history of baking in America or the ancient stone city of Great Zimbabwe.
This podcast from the Smithsonian brings stories about technology, art and history to life. The anecdotes are pulled from the hallowed institution’s 154 million treasures, including comedian Phyllis Diller’s joke file – a cabinet that held 50,000 typewritten jokes that she’d perform during her standup routines – to the days when it was legal to send a baby through the mail. Check out the “Artist in Dissidence” episode, which chronicles the career of provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
“The Modern Art Notes Podcast“
From John Singleton Copley to avant-garde multimedia artist Pipilotti Rist (whose 1997 work is strikingly similar to Beyonce’s car window-thrashing “Hold Up” video), host Tyler Green (a historian and award-winning critic) explores all manner of art in his weekly one-hour show. Recent episodes have explored the works of Italian artist Medardo Rosso and the portraits of Gustav Klimt.
Hosts Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt – the duo behind the best-selling “Freakonomics” books – spin yarns about politics, talent, technology and fascinating phenomena in this podcast. For example, some episodes have delved into the psychology behind bad decisions, why we still use cash in a debit card-laden society and 10 ideas to make politics “less rotten.” Ha!
Food, food, glorious food. Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley discuss everything from flexitarian diets to the growing problems facing cacao cultivation to how and when the first restaurant was invented. They even look into the popularity of seltzer. (Seriously – everyone is drinking it! Is there something I’m missing?) Episodes air every two weeks, and even if you’re not a gourmand you’ll find yourself fascinated with the topics.
What do you think is the best news podcast? Let us know in the comments.