1. Democracy Now
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez's daily “war and peace” report does essential reporting on social movements and politics, and recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.
2. Making Oprah
A three-part docu-pod outlining the history of the Oprah Winfrey Show, from tabloidy Chicago cult hit to life-changing national institution to a distributed legacy of self empowerment. Oprah gave an interview for it, and so did many of the people who worked for her over the years. Their stories about Winfrey’s star power and purpose (and grinding work environment) make for one of the most revealing portraits of her yet.
3. Missing & Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?
This eight-part series brings awareness to an ongoing political and social cause: the disproportionately high numbers of Indigenous women who have gone missing or been murdered in Canada since the early '80s.
4. This Nashville Life
The Country Music Machine 101, through the eyes of one of the subject’s newest students — singer Kelleigh Bannen.
5. Making Gay History
Host Eric Marcus plays his old transcripts of interviews with some of LGBTQ History’s most interesting figures. Episodes are super short and heavy on the powerful emotions.
6. RuPaul: What's The Tee?
Sometimes you just want to fill your head with some kooky conversation. There’s none better than the chatter of RuPaul and Michelle Visage — their banter has been perfected over the course of years. But the duo also shine in interviews, with great legends of Hollywood and the drag world.
7. Tax Season
From Brooklyn, quickly — the most newsmaking interview show in rap.
8. United States Of Anxiety
A conversation with Trump supporters in Long Island, which provides compelling, specific evidence for how jobs, heroin, and the internet helped secure his victory.
9. Another Round
Lots of smart friends riff on pop culture on podcasts. Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton set themselves apart looking at the world through a critical and emotional lens.
Each self-contained episode of Gravy looks at the distinct food culture of the American south, with an eye for the political, social, and environmental shifts that impact what we eat and why we eat it.
This podcast, entering its fifth season in January, is hosted by a rotating cast of black women from Toronto and provides a local perspective on music and pop culture.
12. 2 Dope Queens
A showcase for Phoebe Robinson and The Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams, and a valuable platform for other up-and-coming comedians worth keeping an eye on.
13. Denzel Washington Is The Greatest Actor Of All Time Period
Comedians W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery started out trying to review every Denzel Washington movie made. Now, they provide a hilarious, and important, running commentary on contemporary Black Hollywood.
14. Hidden Brain
NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam’s explores pop psychology. The best episodes take on the science behind the news cycle: try the one about discrimination on Airbnb.
15. There Goes The Neighborhood
A zoomed-in look at how gentrification happens in New York City.
This series of interviews with writers and editors is still the best window onto how good journalism happens, and what ingredients it actually requires in all sorts of different cases.
17. Bodega Boys
That Desus and Mero now have one of the only good late night shows on TV and still have energy left over to go back and forth on shit that matters for over an hour every week proves that they have more juice than pretty much anyone alive.
18. Maeve in America
A hilarious Irish comedian living in New York meets new Americans.
19. Chapo Trap House
If not the voice of the future of liberal politics, a place where people will be trying to figure out what the Left should be doing in an anti-smarm era.
A scrapbook of true crime stories from the past century or so. Never extra and always empathetic: the storytelling is tidy and the stories are eye-opening examples of the social deviance that’s more normal than we realize.
21. See Something Say Something
Buzzfeed’s Ahmed Ali Akbar and guests talk about the many different ways to be Muslim in America.
22. We Eat Art
Funny, accessible interviews with working artists, like self-taught illustrator Molly Crabapple.
23. Who Weekly
Lindsey Weber and Bobby Finger’s bi-weekly celebration of bastardized celebrity is about how easy it is to manipulate attention, and how good it feels to not look away.
24. On Being
Interviews with spiritual leaders spanning faiths and secular life, that often surface as much revelatory history and context as a great book would.
25. Still Processing
Field trips and earnest culture conversations from The New York Times Magazine's Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris.
Comedian/journalist brothers Jeff and Eric Rosenthal are the Terry Gross of hip-hop, going through current projects and life stories with artists and behind-the-scenes characters alike.
Host Jonathan Goldstein tries to fix terrible moments in people’s lives. There’s wit to cut the schmaltz, leaving listeners with beautiful stories.