Allison Behringer has the tough job of making a podcast about her job at a tech startup — which is doubly difficult when she confronts the truth that the men in her company make more than the women. In this episode, Allison takes us into the negotiation room with her, shaking voice and all. Her raw tape is an honest reminder that we're not alone in these very scary situations, and somehow that makes it easier to have those hard conversations ourselves.
Recommended by: Alex Laughlin, social media editor and host of “The Ladycast”
Notable episode: 5, “What's Your Worth?”
Rotoviz is a website that looks at fantasy sports from an advanced analytics-centric perspective, and its podcasts take a similar approach. In other words, they're not for casual fantasy players but for those deep into the game, and those kinds of people tend to have a deep appreciation for Rotoworld, a website that has made itself invaluable by posting frequent, exceedingly useful (and often nicely acerbic) updates on thousands of athletes. Rotoviz Radio’s “Fantasyland” series (tagline: "Everything you didn't know you wanted to know about fantasy sports") paid homage to Rotoworld by putting together an oral history of the website, providing fantasy nerds with a uniquely satisfying experience.
Recommended by: Des Bieler, reporter and co-host of “The Fantasy Football Beat”
Notable episode: 3, “Rotoworld: The Center of the Fantasy Universe”
“No Such Thing as a Fish”
This is kind of an excuse to share my favorite podcast — the one I recommend to anyone who asks me for a podcast recommendation. The production values are relatively low, there’s no narrative arc, no real storytelling device — just four researchers sitting around a microphone rapid-firing some of their favorite, funniest, oddest and most interesting facts. And it’s the smartest and funniest thing I listen to each week. I picked this episode in particular as one of my favorites of 2016 because it features composer and comedian Tim Minchin as a special guest, and there’s a particular joy in hearing the guy who wrote the music for “Matilda” explain Roald Dahl’s hatred of beards.
Recommended by: Jessica Stahl, editor of embedded audience team and podcasts
Notable episode: 117, “No Such Thing as Dr. No Teeth”
“The World According to Sound”
I never understand when people say they don’t have time to listen to podcasts. Don’t you walk the dog, or take showers, or brush your teeth? Even bite-sized chunks of time can be perfect for podcast-listening — and that’s why I like “The World According to Sound.” Each episode is 90 seconds, containing a neat little story about an evocative, unusual sound rendered in intense aural detail: the rhythm of washing machines, or the sound of grunting athletes, or a recording of ants marching on the surface of a microphone. Sometimes the episodes are spine-tingling; sometimes they make me squirm. But they’re always interesting. One of my favorites: “Whistle Register,” about women who sing in the highest range of the human voice, a la Mariah Carey.
Recommended by: Martine Powers, transportation reporter and producer on “The Get”
Notable episode: 50, “Whistle Register”
I’m sure someone somewhere will pick on me for this, but yes, I listen to podcasts about sound. Very meta, very nerdy. One of my favorites is “Sound Matters.” It’s about sound and how we listen, the stories they tell and all of the possibilities sound brings to the world. This episode in particular is about the sound of life and creates soundscapes from it. One of the first examples is sounds of a jungle. I remember listening while walking home one night. The sound of a bird in my headphones was engineered so well that I actually looked into the sky to try and find where it was coming from. Talk about an immersive audio experience!
Recommended by: Carol Alderman, podcast producer
Notable episode: “The Sound of Life Itself”
I love listening to “Love Me.” It’s a podcast from CBC Radio, all about the “messiness of human connection,” as they put it. That includes an episode about how Google Translate brought a couple together who didn’t speak the same language, or how it’s possible that two people who’ve never met could become best friends – with one of them declining the offer to meet in person. Their second season starts soon, so now’s a great time to download and catch up! My favorite episode is the first full one: “At a Loss for Words,” about how an American journalist and a French U.N. peacekeeper met in Haiti and fell in love with the help of Google Translate. I knew this couple’s story before listening to the episode, but it still made me cry. In a world where brief connection seems easy, but lasting love and commitment seem an almost-obsolete notion, this story gives anyone – single or not – a good deal of hope.
Recommended by: Lisa Bonos, editor and host of “Solo-ish”
Notable episode: 1, “At a Loss for Words”
After I finished creating the final “Presidential” episode this November (and finally regained some time for listening to podcasts other than my own), one of the first projects I was eager to catch up on was “More Perfect,” a spin-off by the great audio team at Radiolab. “More Perfect” had a mission similar to “Presidential” — that is, it journeyed back through American history to help us better understand the country we live in today. Yet where “Presidential” explored the executive branch of government, “More Perfect” examined the judicial branch and created a miniseries around influential stories of the Supreme Court and some of its most important justices. One of my favorite episodes was “Kittens Kick the Giggle Blue Robot All Summer.” Cryptic title, but the episode did an elegant and accessible job of describing John Marshall’s profound influence on shaping the court’s power. Plus, I couldn’t help but enjoy the colorful, feud-filled anecdotes involving two of the “Presidential” podcast’s earliest subjects: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
Recommended by: Lillian Cunningham, host of “Presidential”
Notable episode: “Kittens Kick the Giggly Blue Robot All Summer”
“The Memory Palace”
“The Memory Palace” has always been one of my favorites. Host Nate DiMeo sweeps you through gorgeously sound-crafted moments in time, telling stories from the Ming dynasty and modern American politics, featuring historical figures renowned and reviled. But his episodes from his artist residency at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are something else entirely. Same dreaminess, same loveliness — but with stories that totally enrapture you. My favorite so far in his series follows the life and work of James Vanderlyn, an artist whose masterpiece now lies forgotten in a Met storage room. The story has everything: Versailles, political theater, Aaron Burr drama. I want to go to the Met now — to ask about this painting.
Recommended by: Julia Carpenter, podcast enthusiast
Notable episode: 99, “Full Circle” (Met Residency Episode 3)
“Cape Up with Jonathan Capehart”
I, a Washington Post employee, am recommending a Washington Post podcast. I get that it looks bad. Still, my favorite episode this year was when Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart interviewed former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele in a two-part series right after Donald Trump won the presidential election. The combined 40-minute conversation exemplifies how I wish people talked about politics. I really, truly wish the world had more political conversations like this. In all the words dedicated to analyzing the election, I still remember those two episodes. Capehart and Steele took the time to have a civil discussion about what’s next, taking the time to hear the concerns from either side. I actually am looking forward to hearing the episodes again in a few months to see how the conversation holds up. Regardless of your political views, it was an incredibly polarizing year of politics. Those two episodes buck the trend.
Recommended by: Teddy Amenabar, comments editor
Notable episode: “Michael Steele, Part 1 & 2”
“Here Be Monsters”
“Here Be Monsters” is about fear and the unknown, and it tells stories about people and groups whose stories often go untold: criminals, addicts, sex workers. This particular episode is about a mother learning to raise her transgender daughter, age 6. She talks through a summer where she's enrolling her child as a girl at camp for the first time, without telling any of the teachers ("stealth mode"). You can't finish this episode with dry eyes.
Recommended by: Tessa Muggeridge, newsletter and alerts editor
Notable episode: 45, “Deep Stealth Mode (How to Be a Girl)”