Updated Oct. 12, 2020:
Ever feel left out when all of your friends are talking about current events? Try listening to a news podcast.
We're not talking (just) about podcasts like Serial. We mean those hard-hitting news podcasts, designed to keep you informed and maybe a little entertained, too. The podcasts you can't wait to download from iTunes every morning so you sound a little bit smarter than everyone in the office.
Podcasts are an excellent way to get the news for a lot of reasons. One: they’re delivered directly to your phone or computer. Two: you can listen when it’s convenient for you and while you’re doing other things, like laundry or commuting. And three: podcasts feature great, long-form interviews and analysis that go beyond the soundbites you hear on TV. We’ve picked 17 of the most popular, most divisive, best news podcasts for this collection. Some are daily news podcasts, some are weekly, and some come out...well, when they come out. Whether you want a podcast that aims for straight facts or one with a host who isn't afraid to share an opinion, you'll find one that works for you.
Looking for more podcasts? Check out our roundup of personal finance podcasts.
How often: Daily Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Sticher, Spotify Episode length: 20-30 minutes
Hosted by New York Times journalist Michael Barbaro, this popular podcast focuses on current events in the form on long-form journalism and current events. Start an episode when you leave for work and you'll be all caught up on today's big story by the time you walk in.
How often: Daily Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Sticher, NPR One, Pocket Casts, Spotify, Amazon Alexa Episode length: 12-15 minutes
Not to be outdone by The New York Times, NPR has also released a daily news podcast to go along with their reliable staple of shows like Car Talk. The show predictably covers the Trump administration, but it also veers into pop culture. Up First also focuses on brevity, giving listeners everything they need in a little over 10 minutes — perfect for busy mornings.
3. NPR News Now
How often: Hourly Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Sticher, NPR One, Pocket Casts, Spotify, Amazon Alexa Episode length: Five minutes
Five minutes of news, on the hour, every hour. Seriously: you will get twenty-four of these podcasts every day. This is the ultimate podcast for news junkies who want to be updated on the latest stories.
Don't have the patience to listen? Here are our picks for best news websites.
How often: Twice a day weekdays, daily at weekends Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts Episode length: 25-30 minutes
Compiled highlights of various BBC news shows, including Newshour, World Update, Newsday, The Newsroom, and Outside Source. Each episode is thirty minutes long and you get one in the morning and one in the evening. BBC is one of the only sources of truly global and (mostly) unbiased news, making this podcast a must-listen for any news junkie.
5. PBS NewsHour
How often: DailyAvailability: Youtube, PBS.com Episode length: 60 minutes
One of the most significant nightly news programs in America, NewsHour is well-respected for its analysis and original reporting. The podcast offers audio versions of the nightly broadcast. Unlike other daily podcasts, PBS NewsHour also produces a weekend version.
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How often: Daily Availability: Apple Podcasts Episode length: 45-60 minutes
One of the most popular radio shows in America, now conveniently delivered directly to your phone or computer. Host Marco Werman brings you stories from around the world in PRI’s hour-long daily broadcast. Sometimes political, sometimes cultural, each story is a reminder of "just how small our planet really is."
How often: 2-3 times per week Availability: Apple Podcasts Episode length: 90-120 minutes
"Unfilter" the news with this podcast from Jupiter Broadcasting. Hosts Chris and Chase are media watchdogs and topic deep-divers who help reveal the important news stories that mainstream media outlets aren’t covering. Reviews on iTunes describe Unfilter as "Windex for the news"—essentially, clearing away mainstream media’s obfuscations.
8. On The Media
How often: 2-3 times per week Availability: Apple Podcasts, NPR Episode length: 30-45 minutes
On The Media isn’t exactly a media watchdog, but it isn’t exactly a lifestyle magazine either. It exists somewhere in between, featuring commentary on all types of media: emails, Yelp reviews and mainstream news outlets, just to name a few. If you’re looking for entertaining commentary on the way media is changing all around us, give OTM a shot.
(Check out some of our reviews while you're at it.)
How often: 2-3 times per week Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts Episode length: 45-60 minutes
Everyone knows Supreme Court cases are super important, but do you understand the legal intricacies? The host of Slate’s new podcast, Dahlia Lithwick, will help you understand the ins and outs of every case with the help of the nation’s top lawyers and legal experts. Want to look impressive at cocktail parties? This is the podcast for you.
10. The Weeds
How often: Twice a week Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify Episode length: 45-60 minutes
Politics can be dirty, but they can also be messy — as in, you don’t know what you’ll have to dig through to get to what matters. The Weeds, hosted by Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, and Sarah Kliff of new site Vox, totes itself as a "policy podcast." They don’t just take a look at what’s happening in the news, but in the context of the broader implications of rather than simply what politician put his foot in his mouth most recently. They get lost in the weeds so you don’t have to. Read more here.
11. Pod Save America
How often: Twice per week Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Episode length: 60-90 minutes
Like your political news with some inside information and a left-leaning slant? This irreverent podcast, hosted by Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, all formerly of the Obama administration, is unabashedly liberal and, currently, anti-Trump. They’ve taken to promoting activism in their episodes, repeatedly asking the question, "What can we do about ... ?" and encouraging listeners to take a stand at rallies, town halls, and marches. Read more here.
12. Best of the Left
How often: 2-3 times per week Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Episode length: 60-90 minutes
If you only have time for one political podcast (and you are liberal-leaning), make it Best of the Left. It collects audio from multiple sources around a particular current events topic, giving historical context as well as diving deep into multiple aspects of the issue. The show is also interspersed with music, voice mails from listeners and activism segments.
How often: 2-3 times per month Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Episode length: 60 minutes
KCRW’s political podcast emulates the classic debate setup: someone on the left, someone on the right and someone in the center to moderate the discussion. The discussions are more lively and the opinions more thought-out than what you’re used to seeing on the Sunday morning TV shows, but it can be frustrating to listen to. Each issue is capped with a time limit, and oftentimes the commentators have just barely scratched the surface of the issue when it’s time to move on.
How often: 2-3 times per week Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Episode length: 15-20 minutes
The New Yorker’s description of this podcast keeps it simple: "A weekly discussion about politics, hosted by The New Yorker's executive editor, Dorothy Wickenden." Often, this short podcast is that simple. Wickenden chooses a topic and selects some of The New Yorker’s best writers to discuss it. But the resulting discussions are complex, lively and unique. The only downside to this podcast is that it’s very insider, focusing much more on the politics and not so much on the real impact of the issues on the American people.
How often: Weekly Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Episode length: 60 minutes
Slate’s most popular podcast and one of the most popular political podcasts in the world, Political Gabfest is described as "the kind of informal and irreverent discussion Washington journalists have after hours over drinks." While the three hosts claim to be outsiders, at this point, they’re well-established political analysts, so expect a little inside baseball.
16. No Agenda
How often: 2-3 times per week Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Episode length: 120-240 minutes
From the outside in, No Agenda seems more like a cult than a radio show. Full of inside jokes and weird conspiracy theories, No Agenda is tough to get into for the uninitiated. Though there’s no set agenda (hench the title), No Agenda typically covers current events and attempts to shed light on facts that they feel mainstream media are glossing over.
17. The Bugle
How often: 2-3 times per week Availability: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify Episode length: 30-45 minutes
You might know John Oliver from The Daily Show or his HBO show Last Week Tonight. You probably don’t know Andy Zaltzman, his co-host on The Bugle. It's British satire, and I mean it when I say British. It is very British humo(u)r. Don’t expect to learn much from The Bugle, but if you’re already pretty well-informed and you need a pick-me-up, The Bugle has your back.
Hey, where's ___?
Don't see your favorite podcast? We probably left it off because we're part of a worldwide media conspiracy. Or we just haven't heard about it! Leave us a comment below with a link to your favorite news or opinion podcast.
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Image: Alex Blăjan
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