The best new podcasts for the week of November 23, 2019: Word Bomb 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 hackers and journalists teaming up, terminology, and witch hunts.

Hunting Warhead

Hunting Warhead Podcast

The movie Spotlight shows reporters methodically going through the Archdiocese directories, looking for priests on sick leave. It’s the kind of fact-finding process that readers don’t often get to see in their daily papers; they’re seeing the finished product, not the story behind the story.

The comparisons between the podcast Hunting Warhead and Spotlight continue, because both deal with child abuse. The CBC and Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang worked together on the podcast, which brings to light how Einar Stangvik, a hacker (though he doesn’t love that word), and Håkon Høydal, a journalist, worked together to take down a site filled with child abuse images. Host Daemon Fairless takes listeners through the often disturbing investigations, which begin in Norway but stretch to Australia, Washington D.C., Ontario, and beyond. It’s a difficult listen about a side of the internet most of us never see.

Word Bomb

Word Bomb Podcast

In the first episode of Hunting Warhead, host Fairless takes time to discuss two terms: Revenge porn and child pornography. Neither is correct and both obscure the fact that the images are abusive.

In the Word Bomb podcast, hosts Pippa Johnstone and Karina Palmitesta do the same for all kinds of words. One episode deals with phrases from the drag community and how they’ve become separated from their original meaning when the world was far less accepting of performers. Some words have different meanings depending on the person, like the word addict. Lest you think they’re just being PC, Johnstone and Palmitesta point to a study that showed physicians placed more blame on patients based on how they were described — as “substance abusers” or as someone “having a substance use disorder.”

Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt Podcast

For my Halloween podcast roundup, I included Unobscured, which takes a macroscopic view of the Salem witch trials in its first season. As Americans, we tend to use this dark, though short-lived period of our history as a parallel for all kinds of more recent events. The thing some of us tend to forget, though, is that it was the people in power doing the hunting.

Of course, the U.S. isn’t the only country with witch trials in its past. The BBC podcast Witch Hunt, from Susan Morrison and Louise Yeoman, is about Scotland’s. A range of historians talk about the hunts, which began in 1590 when a woman was accused of conjuring a storm during King James VI’s voyage from Denmark to Scotland. As one historian points out, this was an impossible crime, and the only means of extracting a confession was torture.

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