Hello, let me introduce myself: I am this blog’s resident podcase. Or rather, I’m the one who takes it upon themselves to power walk for 50 minutes everyday, come rain or shine, from Dalston to Angel in the interests of saving £1.20 on bus fare. And there are only so many times that you can strut down Kingsland High Street to Rhianna at 8am, without feeling like the time could have been slightly more constructively employed.
In my opinion, the geniuses behind developing the podcast deserve an equal amount of adoration as if they had invented the teleport. Armed with a funny, informative or even moving podcast, life admin, like going round the supermarket, walking to the bank, or standing on the tube with no room to read a book without going cross-eyed, no longer seems so crushingly dull and a waste of life.
Of course, there are definite drawbacks to relying on podcasts as a means of learning about the world. Lest this descend into an Apple-sponsored advertisement for podcasts, let’s explore some of these.
Most obviously, podcasts are not a very good way of getting your daily dose of news. I’ve dabbled in the past with listening to the BBC’s Newspod as I walk in the morning. This is a less painful alternative to trying to make out the Today programme through the squeaks and crackles of bad radio signal.
Newspod is a daily programme, recorded from what I can tell at around 3pm the previous day and drawing together from the various BBC radio national news networks. It’s a great round-up for after those heavier weekends when you can’t really remember what you spent your time doing never mind what was going on with the rest of the world. But usually you end up listening to pieces you’ve heard before. Either that or you’re perpetually a day behind. Better this than not being informed of current affairs at all I thought at first- then quickly realised this kind of attitude was probably not going to turn me into a first-rate hack.
A much better alternative to this I’ve discovered is the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent, a more in-depth analysis of a certain topical issue. I recently enjoyed a really thought-provoking exploration of what the Big Society would mean for local communities. The pace of radio programmes like this and Woman’s Hour, with more contemplative interviews and debates, work better as podcasts than faster-paced news programmes.
This brings us to another podcast drawback. Unless you’re fine with running the risk of being flattened by a bus, there are inevitably going to be moments when your brain is distracted from an interesting but fairly undemanding tribute to Pete Postlethwaite, only to tune back in to find things have moved on to a fiendishly complicated explanation of the strength of the Euro- and you’ve missed the vital facts.
But this is always going to be a danger with audio journalism in a world where stimulus, significantly from an onslaught of sophisticated multimedia, comes at us from all directions. Gone are the days when a family would gather excitedly round a wireless and hang on its every word. And this is, I think, a real shame. There is something really nice about a radio, or indeed television event, that brings people together to socialise. But of course there is also something really very sad about an X Factor-type event that means everyone postpones several months of socialising and life-enriching plans to stay in on a Saturday night.
And crucially, what the podcast does for me is to transport me from a dreary, rainy Tuesday morning to a Sunday lunchtime, eating a cheese toastie and giggling along to I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue with Mum, Dad and brother. Not only do I arrive at university with a few topical conversation starters and ideas for features, but feeling really soothed by the intelligent, witty and friendly voices of Radio 4.
In short, I arrive after listening to podcasts, with just a little more faith in and affection for the human race. Now that makes a podcast even better than a teleport, surely.
Listen With Jenny
A podcast for every occasion
Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4, currently The News Quiz great for cheering you up on a Monday morning– I always make myself wait to catch up with it until then.
The Media Show, BBC Radio 4 or Media Talk, from the Guardian both great for in-depth debates, best listened to when you can give a little more concentration to the activity i.e. on a long bus journey. They also discuss accessible, less special-interest topics like age discrimination for presenters and whether Ann Widdecombe should be allowed to carry on horrifying the nation on a weekly basis. The Media Show is good for any City student who finds themselves craving more than two hours of Roy Greenslade a week, as they love having him on. Listening to both in quick succession recently clarified the difference between the BBC and Guardian: the former informed, entertained and educated, the latter did all this but also started with a
joke about one of the female guests receiving 6 inches (of snow) that morning.
Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4 I still really can’t believe that they manage to produce such a high-quality programme every day. Great for listening to when you’re brains feeling a bit frazzled at the end of the day but you’ve still enough curiosity about the world to be interested in Annie Lennox’s life or whatever debate the Archer’s has thrown up this week.
Guardian Focus Podcast similar to From Our Own Correspondent- great for when you’re feeling switched on and desperate to get your teeth into a meaty issue.
As you can see my podcast experiences are still fairly confined to BBC Radio 4 and the Guardian. I’d love suggestions on what else I might enjoy. Watch this space for podcast reviews as I branch out and try out some new ones over the next few weeks.