🤠Howdy, Git Yer Lasso ☎️ Slate's Christina Cauterucci💁♀️
💌Podcast The Newsletter is your weekly love letter to podcasts and the people who make them.💌
My business partner, Kate (💖), got me onto Xou Xou Phone Lassos, which are basically just tethers that you attach to your phone to make a phone necklace. (It is in part why we named our company Lasso, besides the fact that podcasting is often called the “wild west.”) I have become such an advocate for phone lassos. I can walk around my apartment with my phone dangling around my neck, taking work calls or listening to podcasts. You can also wear it on your shoulder like a purse (pictured, photo 7) and swing it around your neck like a heck hula hoop (pictured, photos 1—4.)
If you’re a heavy podcast listener, I recommend the Xou Xou Phone Lasso. Wearing it, your podcast is attached to your body and your hands are free to do other things, like changing the cat litter box, hand-writing your memoirs, cross stitching, or eating noodles. Is comes in a variety of gorgeous colors and styles, and is the perfect for any accessory for any podcast nut, like me. Not only is it practical, but as you can see by the photos above, it’s fashionable and ups your cool factor by 20-25x. [This newsletter is NOT sponsored by Xou Xou but obviously should be. LMK if you are able to pull some strings. ]
⭐️NOTE JUST FOR YOU:⭐️ I am thinking of pushing out another weekly newsletter that is simply a discussion thread for YOU (like this) because I’d love for all of my readers to connect with one another, and I’d like to build a direct connection with you. Do you think this is a good idea? Would that be TOO many emails? Are you interested in hearing from other Podcast The Newsletter readers, and sharing your own podcast recommendations? Let me know! Email email@example.com.
ps If you are pleased with Podcast The Newsletter, please spread the word!
👋q & a & q & a & q & a👋
Slate’s Christina Cauterucci
How has Outward changed since it began?
For the first year of the show, we organized each episode around a specific theme. So, for example, in our episode on spirituality, we talked about astrology and the Enneagram, interviewed a gay Mormon who’d struggled with her relationship to her church, and discussed a video series that imagines a world in which AIDS never existed.
Now, we try to peg our shows a little more to the news cycle—loosely, though, since it’s a monthly show. It helps us feel tied to the moment and part of ongoing conversations about queer culture. Our episodes are also a bit shorter now, because we heard from our data people that listeners aren’t into 70-minute podcasts. Now you can consume us in bite-sized (45-minute) pieces.
The other big change we made around our one-year anniversary was one of our hosts. Our founding member Brandon Tensley left us for CNN, so he’s dead to us now (just kidding, we still drink together), and we’ve replaced him with a brilliant new co-host, Rumaan Alam. Rumaan is a gem—he immediately clicked with us, and it’s been cool to have a non-millennial and gay dad perspective on the show.
What has surprised you about being a podcast host?
On a chat show, for me, there is very little correlation between the amount of preparation I do and how well the show turns out. Most of the magic is in the interaction, so even if I come having read every possible article on whatever topic we’re discussing or having scripted the most perfect bit of analysis on the political dust-up of the week, it doesn’t necessarily make the show sing. The best moments are when someone says something surprising and we can dig into it on the spot. I used to over-prepare because it helped me deal with my nerves as a new host, but now I read and write just enough to have a few ideas to bring to a conversation with a group of friends.
Women get criticized for the voices all the time. What is your relationship with yours?
I’ve gotten plenty of rude emails about my voice and speech patterns. But by the time I started podcasting, many women in audio had already bravely and generously spoken out about the harassment and insults they’d received. So when the same thing happened to me, I was able to recognize it as part of a pattern that had everything to do with the way people refuse to hear women as voices of authority and nothing to do with me.
Like a lot of people, I’m my own worst critic, and it wasn’t until I heard myself on podcasts that I realized I sometimes say certain letters or words in strange ways. Over time, I’ve come to love and accept that as one of those human-diversity-patchwork-of-life things. I’m still scared to listen to recordings of myself, but every time I do, I’m like, “hey, I do not sound bad!” I owe each of our producers a vacation home for making that happen.
If you were going to start a new show and it could be about anything, you didn't have to worry about it succeeding or the logistics or any of that...what would it be?
When we were brainstorming a queer podcast for Slate, I jokingly pitched a show called “Lesbians I Love,” where I’d just interview a bunch of celesbians I love. So I’d have Ashlyn Harris, Samira Wiley, Kristen Stewart, or whoever in the studio, and just kind of drool over them on the mic and ask them about their lives. It’s a completely inappropriate and terrible idea, and I’m not actually sure all those people identify as lesbians, but if journalistic ethics and common decency were no object, I’d make the hell out of that podcast. Actually, I think Alice on The L Word: Generation Q kind of stole that idea when she had Megan Rapinoe on her talk show, so it’s old news anyway.
More seriously, I’d love to do a narrative show about people learning new skills after age 80. I used to do a series at Slate called Interview With An Old Person, where I’d… interview old people, and it turns out literally every old person is a joy to talk to. The podcast would be a mix of that type of interview and the story of the old people learning and trying and failing and succeeding at new hobbies. Ideally they’d be hobbies with good audio potential, like tap dancing or vlogging.
What's something that listeners of The Waves and Outward, the people who know you pretty well, would be surprised to know about you?
I think most people who know me would be surprised to learn that I once worked on a Republican political campaign. It was the summer after my first year of college, I was back home in New Hampshire, and I took a job with a political consulting firm. They put me on the reelection campaign of the Republican mayor of Manchester. I opposed pretty much everything he stood for, but the job paid well and I didn’t have the guts to quit. Luckily, they made extremely poor use of my time: I was tasked with phone banking and door knocking during business hours, when no one was home or answering their phones. I’d also take a book to the riverside park for three-hour lunch breaks, Gchat with friends who had similarly shitty jobs, and indulge in lengthy internet rabbit holes. (I remember spending one full day educating myself about the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.) Despite my best efforts, the mayor won reelection and eventually ended up in Congress. I interned for his opponent’s campaign and considered it my penance.
What is the most rewarding thing about making Outward?
I love it when friends or friends-of-friends I respect tell me they laughed out loud on a crowded train while listening to the show, or that a conversation we had gave them something new to think about. Even better is when a brand-new listener sends us an email to tell us they discovered the show and immediately went through the entire back catalog to listen to every episode. Strengthening queer pride, building queer community, and enriching the landscape of queer culture and cultural criticism is so important to me, especially as LGBTQ publications and brick-and-mortar spaces shutter. I derive so much joy from the thought that our podcast might make some people we’ve never met even more excited to be queer and seek out queer culture.
The Waves isn't a comedy show, but you so often say things that make me lol. Do you think being funny helps you be a good podcast? Is your humor appreciated? Are you the funniest one in your friend groups? When did you first discover that you were funny?
Omg STOP IT. (Thank you.) Sometimes, on a podcast about feminism and gender, there are a lot of sad and enraging news items to discuss! A show without fizz and fun would get despondent and flat really fast. So we work hard to keep a good balance of light and heavy on each show, both for the sake of our listeners and to satisfy our own interests. I also try to get a laugh out of my co-hosts whenever I can because it tends to relax everyone (including me) and encourage spontaneity, which always makes the show better. I want our listeners to feel like they’re part of a dinner-party conversation, not a conference panel.
🎙️I discovered Ghosts In The Burbs thanks to my friends at The Bello Collective, after the show had completed. I felt lucky to have so much catching up to do, but have been carefully choosing when to listen, kind of like savoring the last candies in a very expensive chocolate box. A chocolate box from a company that has closed and will never make another batch of chocolates again. My soul felt JOLTED TO THE CORE today when I saw an announcement in my feed: Ghosts In The Burbs will be coming back for another season on Friday, March 13. If you haven’t subscribed, do it now! This is a gift I truly didn’t see coming, but it’s one I feel we all deserve. #spookyblessed.
🎙️I finally listened to T.H. Ponders’ Accession, a show about art and the love and magic behind it. ICYMI, last week I was raving about The Lonely Palette, and if you listened to that you will enjoy Accession, too. But Accession is very different. Ponders isn’t talking about the history or what you see when you look at a piece of art, he is inviting you inside of the piece to enter the minds and hearts of the people depicted. Each canvas in the world T.H. Ponders has created is like Alice’s Looking Glass, and on Accession, with masterful audio, warm and careful guidance, and synergistic music, Ponders beckons us inside to hang around for a little while. I started with Nighthawks, where we are invited inside the painting as a casual observer, and then once again after learning painting’s historical context, and all that Edward Hopper was truly painting post Pearl Harbor. (A zeitgeist, not a story. God, please listen.) I also recommend Shipwrecks and Ruins and Three Ghosts. For both, Ponders was able to get me to see something I never thought I’d be able to see.
🎙️Attention: Starting tomorrow, the Iditarod is ON which means Iditapod is, too, a daily podcast that lets you along for the ride. I binged last year’s season and loved the mix of stories, tiny interviews with mushers, the sounds of Alaska and barking dogs, the rampant use of the word “booties,” the science and history behind all aspects of the race, and the sense of place that the podcast is able to create. The excitement of the race ramps up as you progress through the season—I feel different listening to episodes at the end of the race than the beginning. I have never been so excited for this race! I feel like I’m IN it.
🎙️Decoder Ring does such a great job of snatching up tiny moments in culture and unfolding them to see why they punch above their weight. The new episode is technically about the movie You’ve Got Mail, but it’s really about Barnes & Noble, the internet, and the 90s. I worked at Barnes & Noble corporate after the dust had settled from Borders going out of business, while Amazon was on the rise. At that point, Indie bookstores were closing and for many people who lived away from cities, the Barnes & Noble was the only bookstore for miles. It *became* their independent bookstore. This is why, when I was there, we set up 700+ stores on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—something I do not recommend doing!!! The big bad B&Ns had become cultural centers for people to meet, browse, listen to music, gift shop, read magazines, and destroy the bathrooms…all with the privacy that small bookstores do not offer. If you’re here because you’ve followed me from book publishing or if this story interests you, listen to Print Run, a book about the writing industry. The new episode talks about why Indie bookstores are so important, and why publishers need to invest in them and believe in them. And here’s some news that would surprise You’ve Got Mail’s Joe Fox—Barnes & Noble’s new plan to save themselves is to act like an indie.
🎙️Goddamit do I love Invisibilia, and the new season is here, titled “7 Hail Marys,” stories about people who come up with improbable workarounds to desperate problems. Episode one, Two Heartbeats A Minute, is a rollercoaster that goes to beautiful heights (animal language, the sound of whale communication, optimistic technology, heart beats!, human/animal connection!) to disturbing lows (humanity ending “very quickly,” says an environmentalist. “One or two generations.”) The problem is humans destroying the earth they live on, the stakes are high, and the solution does seem desperate. But at this point, isn’t it worth a try?
🎙️Pop quiz: What’s the difference between the podcasts Motive (NPR,) Conviction (Gimlet,) Verified (Stitcher,) and Uncover (CBC)? I CAN NEVER REMEMBER, EITHER. Here’s a hint: two are about the satanic panic, two are about sexual abuse abroad. In a pinch I’m not always able to remember which is which. (It’s not due to lack of creativity, the shows change themes each season, so the name must be vague. Still, confusing!) But here you go: Uncovered and Conviction cover THE PANIC, as I like to call it, and Motive and Verified are the ones about sex crimes against female tourists. And although I can’t always differentiate between the names, they are all very different in content. I am a few episodes into Uncover and am getting the full story of the satanic p. Conviction focuses on one innocent man who was put in jail in all the mess, and the ten-year-old son who put him there, John Quinney. Motive follows a group of young women who were sexually assaulted by a man who ran a travel company for students studying in Spain, and Verified is about a policeman turns sexual predator, and a group of fearless women from around the world band together to bring him to justice. THEY ARE ALL GREAT. An interesting thread that ties them all together is that in the s panic stories, the children victims banded together to tell a story that wasn’t true, and to incriminate the innocent, while in the cases of the abused women in Motive and Verified, the victims are joining together to take down a legit predator. The power of these women comes from them deciding to speak up, together. Something cool thing about Verified: the host prompts you to text a number to receive photos of the story’s subjects as the episodes unfold. I can’t NOT text to get this bonus content.
🎙️T.H. Ponders (of Accession, above) recommended Imaginary Advice and I’m so grateful, it is so beautiful and strange. It’s BEYOND. Ross Sutherland’s experimental audio project tells stories of fiction that feel like giant worlds each to its own. The result of mixing fiction, non-fiction, and audio essays creates something that feels more true than anything. I started with Black Eye with Abi Palmer, a modern retelling of Francis Godwin's 1638 science-fiction novel The Man in the Moone. The story starts quite ordinary and grounded. But as things got stranger and stranger, my heart felt lifted off the ground and into the universe into a black hole, propelled by a flock of geese, into the arms of an alien world. My favorite part of the whole thing was the end, where Ross peels back the curtain and explains how the storytelling process unfolded. It’s a valuable lesson in storytelling. I would have paid for it.
🎙️Ponders also recommended Short Cuts, short documentaries based upon a theme. I thin you’ll like it if you’re a fan of The Moth. I listened to Endurance, which was so creative because the presenter, Josie Long, is literally jogging around, testing her own endurance, as she sets up these stories about endurance. The effect is emotional and physical.
🎙️How have I never heard of PUF, also known as Jemima Wilkinson? An American preacher born in Rhode Island to Quaker parents in the late 1700s, Wilkinson claimed to have died and come back to life as a genderless evangelist named the Public Universal Friend (PUF) in 1776, and afterward shunned their birth name and gendered pronouns. PUF’s followers developed into the Society of Universal Friends, a group of mostly unwed women who believed in free will, opposing slavery, and supporting sexual abstinence. (Hence why they were so short-lived.) Throughline, a show that goes back in time to understand the present, has a truly unbelievable piece on PUF and the power of micro-histories, the complex stories PUF tells us about social, religious, and gender shifts during the American Revolution, and why PUF is important today.
🎙️Every Little Thing feels like the cutest little show that is bursting with interesting ideas. Each episode answers questions about tiny things that you might think are too insignificant to have an entire podcast episode dedicated to them, but Every Little Thing proves that you are wrong. (Kind of like The Boring Talks.) And whoever you are, there is a topic just for you. How Police Sketch Artists Read Your Mind brought on sketch artist Kelly, who in real time, drew a shockingly accurate portrait of Lex’s friend, who was described to Kelly from Lex’s fuzzy memory. It’s so interesting to hear what questions she asks Lex to create her piece of art, the methods she uses to get details without being leading. You can see her sketch on Instagram. And of course I could not NOT see it. Podcasters are luring me to text them and to check out their Instagram accounts and I’m not mad about it.
🎙️Ear Hustle (stories from San Quentin State Prison) is back for a season five! In Myths and Monikers, Earlonne and Nigel ask inmates about their nicknames and the stories behind them, plus some prison myths that have made the rounds throughout the system. It’s striking to hear because it makes you think about the power of why we tell stories—it’s almost a human need. These men are stripped of all of their freedom and power, but they can’t be stripped of their stories. Nobody can steal us of our own myths! Including the myths we are able to tell about ourselves.
🎙️“Tell me a bedtime story,” Beach Too Sandy, Water Too Wet’s Christine begs her co-host Andy, and Andy begins to read her what makes for the premise of this show: dramatic readings of one-star reviews on the internet. In a way these DO feel like bedtime stories (or Jack Handy’s Deep Thoughts.) They’re read with sincerity although they are RIDICULOUS, the climatic music in the background adds gravity to each situation. You KNOW I was ALL OVER this one-star reviews of Disney properties. (I am on an airplane as we speak, headed to Disney World, no lie.) Disney podcast episodes are always so emotional for me—I am defensive and protective about Disney. But these critiques have such character that I TRULY appreciate them. For example: “I ridden the boat for the Magic Kingdom with my kids when an employee named ANDERSON yelled my children because they were giving potato chips for the pigeon in the boat.” This review sets my brain on FIRE imagining who Anderson is, what drives Anderson, who these kids are, I bet they’re sticky, what the parents are wearing, who the writer is, where the writer is now, etc. Each of these reviews tells us so much. The best part of the Disney reviews is that these complaints are most certainly pointless. Owners of small businesses might read their Yelp reviews, but Bob Chapek probably isn’t.
🎙️Over The Road is an 8-part series from Radiotopia and Overdrive that celebrates long haul truckers by interviewing a bunch of them from across the board, and getting on the road with host and musician “Long Haul Paul” Marhoefer. I love this project and Paul is perfect host. First of all, his voice is like Burl Ives as the snowman in Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer—and the storytelling feels just like it, to me. Better yet, Paul is able to see himself in everyone he interviews and has a lot of empathy for them. Paul doesn’t just tell us stories, he makes us feel like we’re along for the ride. The latest episode lets us empathize with people who can’t seem to figure out why they’ve chosen the hard life of trucking. What drives anyone to choose the life path they have? Are these jobs or professions? Lots to reflection for the listener, too.
🎙️Sure, this episode of Reply All was basically just like Starlee Kine’s Mystery Show, but that’s probably why it was so great. The Case of The Missing Hit is also reminiscent of my favorite episode of The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Hard Day’s Pete, which I bring up in conversation about once a week. On Reply All, a listener calls in to say he is haunted by a song he remembers, in great detail, from his youth. But he can find NO trace of it on the internet. It’s too specific and strange for him to have created it himself, right? But is anything untraceable on the internet, really? The journey of PJ tracking the the song and the song’s composer isn’t as much fun as a Starlee journey, but still, it’s a fun, rewarding ride.
🎙️Robert Evans is constantly, appropriately being praised for his ability to tell a story with top-notch research and journalism. On Behind The Bastards, he invites a comedian (who pointedly knows nothing about the subject) to learn about the topic along with the listener. For parts one and two on John Ronald Brown, “the worst surgeon ever,” Robert is joined by Sofiya Alexander (Private Parts Unknown, 420 Day Fiance.) JRB somehow got away with botching more than 600 sex reassignment surgeries on transgender patients over the course of his career. Most of his patients were too poor to afford the fees of legit surgeons, who often had to be hired post-surgery to pick up the pieces of Brown’s horrific, dangerous work. Brown was eventually convicted of second-degree murder after the death of a 79-year-old patient in his care. This is his story. (It’s awful.)
🎙️I love you!