Podcasting through the Crisis

CJR has praised it before, but the best explainer I’ve seen—scratch that—the best explainer I’ve heard on the how the world’s financial system became mired in bad mortgage debt was a May episode of Chicago Public Radio’s This American Life, co-produced with NPR News.

The hour-long piece entitled “The Giant Pool of Money” was reported and assembled by Alex Blumberg, one of the program’s regular producers and once my radio professor, and Adam Davidson, NPR’s international business and economics correspondent. And it’s excellent: understandable, comprehensive, and engaging.

Last weekend, Blumberg did another great spot looking at the role of Securities and Exchange Commission chair Chris Cox and his agency in the crisis.

And Davidson is now doing extra innings, conducting interviews and answering listener questions on the crisis on a newly minted emergency NPR podcast named “Planet Money,” which, in under two weeks, has become iTunes’s second most popular offering. If you are confused by the crisis and a podcast listener, ad this to your mix. And if you’re confused by the crisis and not a podcast listener, well, now might be the time to start.

Davidson and producer Laura Conaway strike a conversational tone, which goes a long way towards blunting the often-anxious news. And as a reminder to how often that news changes, the team is careful to mention the exact time they start recording—because who knows what could happen in a couple of hours…

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.