Typically, I focus on one podcast per article to dive into the details, but Crooked Media, a new podcast network most notably for their podcast Pod Save America, has five worthwhile shows that display unique purpose and design: interviews, panel discussion, emotional conversations, and even a game show! I couldn’t share just one.
Lately, I’ve written a bunch about political podcasts including Intercepted, Can He Do That?, and FiveThirtyEight Politics. We’re in an interesting time where politics are very much top of mind, and unsurprisingly, there’s a slew of political-focused podcasts.
“I’m not running against crooked Hillary. I’m running against the crooked media.” Candidate Trump said this on the campaign trail. At the time, a group of former aides to President Obama met on a podcast called Keepin’ It 1600, where they discussed how and why Hillary should be the next president. After the election, they were devastated and confused, so they went on hiatus while they created a new plan of action. They left their position at The Ringer, a network owned by Bill Simmons, to start their own podcast network, and in January 2017, Crooked Media was born.
On Crooked Media’s website, they state their mission: “We’re not journalists, we’re not unbiased, we’re not always serious and we’re certainly not always right. But we promise a no-bullshit conversation about politics where you can laugh, cry, scream, ridicule us daily, share your ideas, and hopefully decide that you want to help fix this mess too. That goes for Democrats who want to learn from our party’s mistakes, Republicans ready to hold Trump accountable, and everybody, everywhere who’s been asking the same question: What do we do now?”
What do we do now? This is the question that dominates many of the political podcasts that go beyond reporting the headlines, the question that keeps the hosts up at night.
Crooked Media’s answer? Activism!
We’ll start with their first and biggest show, Pod Save America. This podcast is the most dedicated to the mission of activism. Pod Save America is a panel show with rotating hosts Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor discussing the news and scandals of the week. This crew won’t try to tell you they’re unbiased or down the middle. They are liberal about proud of it, openly mocking many Republican leaders for their hypocrisy, missteps, and outright lies.
In February 2017, Katie Couric was a guest and it’s hard to tell at times who’s interviewing whom, but that’s part of what makes this podcast great; the hosts facilitate thoughtful and engaging political discussions rather than preach to their podchoir…. Other guests include Trevor Noah from The Daily Show, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, and President Barack Obama.
Pod Save America answers, “What do we do now?” with discussions between the hosts, and interviews with politicians, reporters, and more, so you are more informed and equipped to get out and make a difference. At the end of almost every episode, there is a call to action. Is there a big protest coming up? Here’s where to find more info. Are Republicans trying to abolish health care in secret? Here are the senators that can be swayed. Through their passion for human rights, activism, and transparency, Pod Save America is becoming a staple for news and information on the left. Pod Save America is 60-90 minutes and typically comes out on Mondays and Thursdays.
The second show that Crooked Media created is Pod Save The World, an effort to understand all the foreign policy actions and missteps of the current administration.
Tommy Vietor hosts the pod and interviews one expert in foreign policy, or a previous colleague from his time in the White House under Obama. Some of these experienced guests include Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Mike McFaul, former US Ambassador to Russia, and Tim Kaine, current Senator for Virginia.
These experts put the news of the week in context and provide their opinions of what would be best going forward. One of my favorite episodes includes an interview with Lisa Monaco, Obama’s Homeland Security Advisor and Chief Counterterrorism Advisor, who helps relieve some of the stress about foreign powers gaining nuclear capabilities. Pod Save The World is 45 minutes and drops most Wednesdays.
With Friends Like These is the next podcast in the Crooked Media lineup. Anna Marie Cox, novelist and contributor to The Daily Beast, is the host facilitating discussions across the aisle, whether that aisle is politics, race, feminism, disabilities, or other divisions in our culture.
Anna and her guests share values and discuss an issue in detail to find some lesson or moral for the audience to walk away with, but this show really shines in the episodes where she converses with someone who has different views or perspectives that open the discussion to another level. These episodes often turn emotional, uncomfortable, and fascinating. It’s through these discussions that I question my habits, actions, morals, and the respect I show to my fellow humans.
Culture critic Ira Madison III was on the episode “Discomfort Is the Tool of Oppression” to talk about race and what it’s like to be the “black friend”. This caused many feels for me and I had to question my position on race. It’s not just enough to think of others as equal, but one must also interact, make mistakes, and learn to be a true advocate. With Friends Like These is 60-90 minutes and drops most Fridays.
On the topic of race relations, the last interview show is Pod Save The People with host DeRay Mckesson, a Black Lives Matter activist known for his participation in protests including Ferguson and Baltimore.
He facilitates a discussion with Brittney Packnett and Sam Sinyangwe, co-founders of Campaign Zero for police reform and OurStates.org, a visual resource to see where your state stands in the fight to preserve or achieve immigration, reproductive, voting, and economic justice.
After the panel discussion with Brittney and Sam on recent news and upcoming activism, DeRay will interview a guest about race, social justice, and politics. Recent guests include Congressman Keith Ellison and NYU professor David Kamin, but also musicians John Legend and Katy Perry.
The conversation that has stuck with me the most is DeRay interviewing Edward Snowden about cyber security, the relationship of race and surveillance, and the prospect of Snowden ever returning to the United States. Pod Save The People is a 90 minute show dropping on Tuesdays.
The last show of the current Crooked Media lineup is Lovett Or Leave It, a game show of sorts hosted by Jon Lovett live in front of an audience with three political or comedian guests to rant and mock the week’s news. Breaking slightly from the drumbeat of activism, it’s the chaser to sweeten the palate after a week of heavy stories.
Jon will typically give a short monologue and then bring out the guests. Different segments are rotated including Ok Stop! where the panelists watch a news segment and yell “Ok Stop!” to interrupt and fulminate when the pundits or politicians say something ridiculous. They also feature a Rant Wheel that virtually spins and lands on one of the guests’ half-dozen pre-arranged topics, anything from S-Town’s popularity and backlash to Steve Bannon in the White House to Wonder Woman.
Another segment is Too Stupid To Be True, where an audience member plays a guessing game to win a sponsored Parachute Sheets gift card, but Jon has a reputation of not playing by his own rules… Lovett Or Leave It comes out between Friday and Saturday, and is just over an hour.
I realize that it is a big time commitment to listen to all of the Crooked Media empire, so if you only have time for one of the five shows I would start with Pod Save America. In addition to being the most well-rounded show, they invite the hosts of the other shows to talk about their guests and conversations, so you can get a sample of the whole network. You can find more about these podcasts at GetCrookedMedia.com.
In the spirit of activism, I encourage you to check out democracy.io, a website with a simple form to contact your senators and representatives and share your support or opposition of their actions. By making an effort on the local level, you can make an impact on the national level. I used this form to reach to my Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Representative Earl Blumenauer, to thank them for promoting Oregon values of equality and compassion in Congress, and they all responded to my message with appreciation that I reached out.