peace in a pod Society

We are the world

As living with COVID-19 becomes an everyday struggle, everyone sequestered at home is taking to podcasting

All conversations these days wind back to the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind and occupying all our news feeds: the virus. Yes, that one. Between frantically keeping up with the global numbers, finding ways to protect ourselves and others, it’s hard to find much mindspace for anything else.

The podcast space offers some respite from the high-pitched blame games on television and the sometimes confusing density of text. A search on for podcasts related to COVID-19 throws up some 174 results, most of which have been launched in March. There are also special daily shows introduced by regular broadcasters such as NPR and BBC (Corona Virus Daily and Corona Virus Newscast, respectively). Indian platforms Newslaundry and Suno India and mainstream news outlets too have dedicated substantial time and resources to episodes on the pandemic.

Take away

To cut through the sound clutter, here are a few shows that are worth taking a listen to. Even though these are U.S.-based, they’re plenty to take away for Indian audiences.

Don’t Touch Your Face from Foreign Policy, hosted by staffers James Palmer and Amy Mackinnon, launched on March 5 as a daily podcast that “tracks the crisis and explores what it means for people’s everyday lives.” The first episode in the series discussed the need for local solutions to the pandemic, and the importance of understanding local contexts even as we take lessons from what other countries are doing. Other episodes have looked at issues such as mental health (which is a popular theme recurring in other podcasts), conspiracy theories and misinformation, at-risk groups, and most recently (as of this writing), how media has covered the pandemic. In conversation with host Mackinnon, Roxanne Khamsi, science editor and former chief news editor of Nature Medicine, parses the nuances of coverage and where the media needs to be not only more careful in their use of language but also more critical of new research claims.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has become a reliable go-to site for many COVID-19 trackers, and their daily podcast, ‘Public Health on Call’, has since March 3 been addressing — in a comfortingly measured tone — some of the anxieties of the moment. Professors from the University weigh in on different aspects of the pandemic, from explaining what it means to “flatten the curve” to considering the human rights implications of restriction strategies.

Deep and fine

Epidemic, from Just Human Productions, launched a little earlier than the previous two, has infectious diseases specialist Dr. Celine Gounder engaging with invited guests on a range of issues related to the pandemic. Joining her on the podcast is Ronald Klain, former chief of staff to two American Vice Presidents (Al Gore and Joe Biden) who provides a macro-level planning and governance perspective. Despite the somewhat alarmist title of the podcast, the conversations provide “depth and texture” to the various questions that we are all asking, for instance, “Are the right people making the right decisions using the right science?”

Apart from these institutional podcasts, it would seem that everyone who is sequestered at home is taking to podcasting, as living with COVID-19 becomes an everyday struggle.

From staying-at-home teenagers in New York to families in Germany to working-from-home techies in Ireland, there are a number of experiential podcasts that tell us we are not alone in these anxious times.

The Hyderabad-based writer and academic is a neatnik fighting a losing battle with the clutter in her head.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:40:18 AM |

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