Three Public Radio Podcasts We Can’t Stop Listening To

By Nicole |

Fred Armisen of SNL and Portlandia does his best Ira Glass impression on an episode of This American Life. Photo from

Fred Armisen of SNL and Portlandia does his best Ira Glass impression on an episode of This American Life. Photo from

As a Texas native, I typically listen to public radio in my car, enjoying those moments when I’m laughing way too hard at Peter Sagal for me to get out of my seat and take groceries inside. However, I recently moved to a new city and rely on public transportation to get around, which seriously cuts into my public radio listening time.

But public radio is there for listeners like me too, boasting a robust digital presence and the most popular podcasts out there. Using my hometown public radio station’s mobile app, I can even stream my Austin station on my phone, allowing me feel like I’m visiting Texas without the pricey plane ticket!

Many public radio stations also have podcasts of their most beloved shows available for download. Here are the three that I’m listening to now:

  1. Radiolab out of WNYC explores big-picture questions on science and philosophy through unique and unexpected soundscapes. Jad Abumrad, the host of the show along with Robert Krulwich, was an experimental music composition and production major at Oberlin College and brings unconventional – sometimes dissonant and atonal – sounds to his radio stories. It’s one of the most original shows out there and well worth a listen.
  2. Snap Judgment, produced out of Oakland, California and broadcast on numerous public radio stations across the U.S., delivers raw, compelling stories that dare listeners to hear a story from the ears of another. Its host, Glynn Washington, won The Public Radio Talent Quest in 2008 out of over 1,400 entries and launched Snap Judgment shortly after. The show’s rich sound editing creates a listening experience that’s an aural pleasure as well as yummy brain food. Download the podcast and see what I mean.
  3. Any list of podcasts would be incomplete without This American Life, the top-downloaded podcast on iTunes with around 850,000 people downloading each week. Fun fact: the show is distributed by Chicago Public Media and distributed by Public Radio International (PRI)not by NPR, despite popular belief! (Dropping this nugget of knowledge is sure to blow the minds of your public radio junkie friends.) On any given episode of This American Life, I could be crying, laughing, or learning – but usually all three. Ira Glass’ signature show has been a staple in my podcast library for a long time, so if you’ve never listened in, it’s time to remedy that.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Many local stations are producing their own local and national content on music, news, sports, and more. So what do you think, public radio fans? What are some of your favorite podcasts to listen to when you’re on the go?