Sites&Sound: The Best News Podcasts

Have you ever opened up a page of the New York Times and suddenly realized you have the attention span of a gnat? After 150 pages of poli sci reading, your brain is fried and your eyes are blurry. Sure you want to keep with the latest news development in the country and in the world, but you simply have gone over your word limit for the day.

At that point, you have two options: turn on CNN or download a podcast. Unfortunately for the first option doesn’t always work. Your suite might not have a TV. Even if your suite has a TV, there’s a good chance that someone is watching the Winter Olympics, Lost or God-forbid reruns of Jersey Shore.

So you turn to the second option: downloading a podcast. Contrary to belief, podcasts are not for forty-year-old losers who don’t know how to use an iPod. In a 2008 report by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 27 percent of Internet users 18-29 have downloaded podcasts. I bet in 2010, everyone is doing it. Best of all, all podcasts are FREE!

Like TV news programs, there are great news podcasts, good news podcasts and really, really awful I-can’t-believe-I-just heard-that news podcasts. Here’s a guide to help you navigate the iTunes store:

A

BBC Global News

It’s 30 minutes of excellent reporting from around the world. If you know your national news, this is the perfect supplement. You’ll never feel stupid in international relations class again. Updated twice daily.

NBC Nightly News (video)

This is even better than watching TV because there are no commercials. The world might be falling apart, but Brian Williams is in charge, making you feel so much better by the end of the 20-minute newscast. Updated daily.

B

NPR Hourly News Summary

This is the magic pill podcast. It’s 5 minutes of painless news briefs delivered to you by the friendly voices of NPR. The downside: each story is roughly 30-50 seconds. Good luck BS-ing your way through a debate. Updated hourly.

MSNBC The Rachel Maddow Show (video)

Rachel is just as witty on your mini screen. This is a must for all you Keith Olbermann fans, liberal political junkies and aspiring Rhode Scholars. Too bad each podcast runs around 50 minutes. Updated daily.

C

PBS The News Hour with Jim Lehrer

The News Hour without actually seeing Jim Lehrer is painful. The updates are sometimes irregular. While the reporting is excellent, you only get segments of the show. Nevertheless, the Friday David Brooks vs. Mark Shields duels to the death are epic. Updated daily(?).

Credit/D/Fail

The New York Times Front Page

Why? Seriously, are you too lazy to visit NYTimes.com? While the NPR Hourly News Summaries are updated every hour, this 8-minute podcast is only updated daily. What’s fresh news is already old when you plug in your headphones.

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