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The best new podcasts for the week of November 2, 2019: Finding Fred and more

The best thing about podcasts is that you can listen to them while you’re doing other things: Washing dishes, going for a run, coloring, and especially, driving. But there are so many podcasts these days that it’s simply impossible to keep up. New ones are debuting all the time, and it’s hard to know whether they deserve a spot in your feed.

Every week, we highlight new and returning podcasts we couldn’t put down. Whether you’re looking for the latest and greatest or you’re just dipping your toe into the vast ocean of podcasts, we’ll find you something worth listening to. This week, we’ve got podcasts about healthcare, Reno, Toronto, the UN, Biggie and Tupac, and Mr. Rogers.

News podcast


Tradeoffs Podcast

Elizabeth Warren released her Medicare for All plan on November 1, along with a calculator that’s supposed to tell you whether you’ll save money if it went into effect. To pay for it, she would tax billionaires; companies would also be taxed, as a replacement for the money many currently spend to give employees healthcare.

There’s a reason healthcare is a huge issue in the Democratic primary. The U.S. spends twice as much on healthcare as countries like the U.K, Australia, Japan, and Sweden. Prescription drugs cost more and administrative costs are higher. The second episode of Tradeoffs examines another facet of high medical bills: hospital mergers, which have been taking place for decades. The show, hosted by Dan Gorenstein, Sayeh Nikpay, and Anupam Jena, aims to untangle the knotty issues around insurance, the economics of hospitals, and other topics that simply don’t have easy answers.

Culture podcast

The City: Reno

The City Reno Podcast

If all you know about Reno, Nevada is based on Reno 911, you might not know the city is going through what Mayor Hillary Schieve calls a “Reno revival.” Why not a Reno-ssaince? Probably because I wasn’t consulted.

In an echo of other U.S. cities that see tech booms with rising housing prices to match, Reno’s median home cost set records this year, continuing a trend. With newcomers moving in to work at Tesla, Amazon, and Apple, low-income residents find themselves struggling to find a place to live as rents creep up. In the podcast’s second season, host Robin Amer and reporter Anjeanette Damon investigate the city’s changes by highlighting a strip club and its colorful owner, who are at the heart of a battle over what Reno was and what it might become.

Politics podcast

The Gravy Train

The Gravy Train Podcast

In 2018, Doug Ford was elected premier of Ontario, Canada. The win made headlines in the U.S. because he’s the brother of the late Toronto mayor Rob Ford, who died in 2016.

Prior to Ford’s death, those in Canada’s neighbor to the south mostly knew him because he’d admitted to smoking crack cocaine. Jordan Heath-Rawlings hosts The Gravy Train, a podcast that examines Ford’s life and tumultuous time as mayor. Many people seemed steadfast in their support for him, despite the many scandals that plagued him. In Ford’s 2010 election, Heath-Rawlings sees a bellwether of the populist politics that have cropped up around the world.

News podcast


UN-Scripted Podcast

In the 1963 movie Charade, Audrey Hepburn made working as a simultaneous translator at UNESCO seem very glam and full of thrills. Cary Grant also dealt with murder and mishaps at the United Nations complex in New York in North by Northwest. What goes on there in real life might not be quite as pulse-racing, but it is interesting and important.

Kacie Candela and Stephanie Fillion report on the UN and host UN-Scripted to give listeners a behind-the-scenes look at what happens at the headquarters. Sometimes they bring you interviews, including with Russia representative Dmitry Polyanskiy, who has ardent opinions about both fake news and dogs. Occasionally, guests are fairly tight-lipped about their experiences; they are diplomats, after all. Other episodes recap big events or breaking news, like the UN General Assembly. In either case, it’s not a topic typically covered in podcast form.

Culture podcast

Slow Burn: Tupac and Biggie

Slow Burn Season 3 Tupac and Biggie

The first two seasons of Slow Burn were about impeachment. Though Richard Nixon resigned before he was impeached, there was an official inquiry because of Watergate. The second season focused on Bill Clinton, who was impeached but not removed from office.

Season three departs from the purely political to cover the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. Host Joel Anderson starts with Shakur, who was on trial for sexual assault when he was shot five times in 1994. The attack didn’t end his life, but it was the start of a feud between the New York rapper and Biggie Smalls. Shakur suspected his former friend had something to do with the shooting, according to Anderson. He’ll examine the lives and careers of the two musicians, as well as their deaths, which took place with a year of each other.

Culture podcast

Finding Fred

Finding Fred Podcast

There’s a classic This American Life episode from 2001, where Fred Rogers helps Davy Rothbart with some problems happening in his Chicago neighborhood. It aired a couple of years before Mr. Rogers’ death, long before the current nostalgia many are feeling for the soft-spoken television host.

In 2007, one university professor put the blame for millennials’ so-called snowflake-iness squarely on Mr. Rogers’ cardigan-adorned shoulders. Such criticism misses much of why he was so beloved, though. It wasn’t just that he told children that they were special. As guest Ashley C. Ford tells host Carvell Wallace, Rogers was a genius of empathy. Not only did he take the thoughts and feelings of children seriously, but he also gave them tools to grapple with them, whether it was just everyday anger or feeling frightened and confused after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated.

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