Tuesday, 31 January 2017

My Six Favourite Podcasts

A person, probably a woman, talking and smiling into
a generic microphone. Little does she know that she is
the cover image for a post on my blog
I don’t listen to much music but I spend a lot of time on public transport and walking around in London. What a predicament! So, instead of listening to traffic or attempting to make conversation with strangers on the tube, I opt to listen to some of the many podcasts that I’m subscribed to. Here are my six favourites. 

(Note: From my choices, I think it will become quite clear what my interests are)

Commons People
This is The Huffington Post’s weekly politics podcast. It is light-hearted, fun, and the presenters are humorous but knowledgeable. Every episode, after discussion of the top news stories, there is a quiz about a topic that has been relevant in the past week. My favourites quizzes from previous episodes are: ‘Grammar or Bog-standard’, where the journalists needed to try and guess whether said politicians attended grammar, state, or private schools. And the ‘Morgan or Less Than’ quiz, where the journalists (with the help of Heidi Allen MP) needed to guess whether said politicians had attended more or less fringe events than Nicky Morgan at the Conservative Party conference… (Now I write this, I realise just how nerdy it sounds)

Page 94: The Private Eye Podcast
This witty podcast hosted by QI elf and Private Eye writer Andrew Hunter Murray is my favourite podcast. Each episode features discussions on politics, investigative journalism, or Private Eye culture to produce a truly fascinating listen. Highlights, for me, include the special episode commemorating Ian Hislop’s 30 years as editor, the episode about the Panama Papers, and the episode on revolving doors in politics. Wry humour and perspicacious politics journalism are a winning combination.

The Weeds
The Weeds is a Vox.com podcast hosted by journalists Ezra Klein, Sarah Kliff, and Matthew Yglesias. In each episode, they dive deep into US policy and politics. The episodes are very thorough and are great if you're interested in more niche US political news.

Coffee House Shots
One of The Spectator’s many podcasts is this short, irregularly occurring one called ‘Coffee House Shots’. Compared to the rest, this is a relatively short podcast yet it manages to summarise and offer analysis on important political events that have happened lately. In recent episodes, Isabel Hardman and co have discussed the UK Supreme Court’s Brexit ruling, Theresa May’s ‘shared society’ speech, and the battle for press freedom. 

Chips with everything
Chips with everything is a technology podcast from The Guardian. It includes the kind of high quality content you would expect from The Guardian. Notable discussions from recent episodes include an interview with the former deputy social media director for the Hillary Clinton campaign and a feature on how the Y2K bug came about. I’d recommend this podcast for anyone who has even a vague interest in technology or technology culture as they cover a wide range of topics. 

Sound Show
Sound Show is a podcast birthed from Joshua Topolsky’s new culture news website ‘The Outline’. This podcast, hosted by sound director John Lagomarsino, is a joy to listen to. Enthralling content and unbeatable sound quality go hand in hand to make this podcast a pleasure for my ears. Just take a listen for yourself:

All podcasts mentioned, plus thousands more, can be found on the Apple Podcasts app and other popular podcast services.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

The US media need to improve their Trump coverage

If you’ve dragged yourself out of bed at any point over the last few weeks, you will have heard about the ‘leaked' Russian dossier stating crude things that President Trump allegedly did in Moscow some years ago. Although many news sites admit that it had been on their radar for a while now, they had decided not to publish it because the provenance wasn’t even slightly credible. Enter BuzzFeed. 

BuzzFeed published the dossier and sparked a media frenzy as mainstream news organisations (such as the BBC and CNN) started to report the story too - admittedly, in a more delicate kind of way. In a press conference following the reports, President Trump slammed CNN as “fake news” and wouldn’t take their question whilst he condemned BuzzFeed as a “failing pile of garbage”.

CNN has a network that reaches millions of people every day meaning when they lay a blow in to President Trump, it has impact. However, if CNN continue to run with stories with little evidence to support it, the impact of their scrutiny will start to diminish. I use CNN as an example but this is the same for any news organisation which decided to report on the Russian dossier.

As for BuzzFeed, they've always been a lost cause in my eyes. I commend them for being a large part of the investigation that exposed the malpractice at Kids Company and for having such a large network. However, their habit of publishing sketchy stories and then saying “it’s up to the reader to decide whether it is true or not” undermines their status as a news organisation and makes the whole news industry untrustworthy.

Another reason, news organisations in general should clamp down on their coverage of Trump controversies is because none of them stick. He is a snake sliding effortlessly though a field of scandals. Analysis of newspaper headlines after the election showed that Clinton’s consistent criticism was for her deleted emails yet there were dozens of Trump scandals. Muslim-ban-gate, Mexicans-are-rapists-gate, sexual-assault-allegations-gate, women-who-have-abortions-should-be-punished-gate, and grab-them-by-the-pussy-gate - to name a few. 

Chart via Media Matters
The more scrutiny the better, right? Wrong. Unlike Clinton’s deleted emails, most of Trump’s scandals could only be explored superficially because it was only a matter of days before the next one came along. This meant that the significance of Clinton’s deleted email was blown way out of proportion because the coverage spanned many months.

If liberal news organisations are trying to turn Trump voters off Trump, they need to realise that controversies don’t repel his supporters. In fact, they make him appear politically incorrect thus anti-establishment (like what many Americans desire). Instead, news organisations should really start scrutinising his policy decisions. The first steps have already been made to repeal Obamacare which could cause 18 million people to lose health insurance. This is an issue which needs far more attention than what it is getting. By covering this extensively, the liberal media might win over some Trump voters but, more importantly, they would be doing an effective job of holding the President to account.

Credit where credit is due though, Vox is getting a name for itself producing in-depth policy analysis. Just before the Obama administration ended they held an hour-long interview on Obamacare and its future. Plus, they have recently also published pieces on possible Supreme Court nominations, Trump killing the TPP free trade deal, and Trump’s plan to cut Medicade. These are all matters of serious substance which need scrutinising and exploring in order for voters to understand what Trump’s administration is achieving. Sadly, at the moment, not many news organisations are rising to that challenge and instead opt to publish the platitude entertaining scandal stories.

To conclude, although it acts as excellent click-bait, the media should try and report less on the next alleged Trump scandal and, instead, home in on the many executive orders he has been signing this week and what they will mean for the American people. As for BuzzFeed, they should go back to publishing quizzes about which character from Friends I would be – and nothing else.

Sources: Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/01/17/18-million-would-lose-insurance-in-first-year-of-obamacare-repeal-without-replacement-cbo-report-says/?utm_term=.70853fcd142f,  Media Matters http://mediamatters.org/research/2016/11/04/study-top-newspapers-give-clinton-email-story-more-coverage-all-other-trump-stories/214309