Slate is launching new podcasts left, right and center these days, which is of course a great thing. First we had Felix Salmon’s awesome finance podcast Money, then Mike Pesca’s inimitable, loquacious and erudite The Gist, and now recently, even a SCOTUS-themed podcast, Dahlia Lithwick’s Amicus. These are all great and you should check them out (I’m speaking like the card-carrying Slate Plus member that I am).
The latest addition to the roster caught my attention for a different reason, however. David Plotz, former editor (now head of Atlas Obscura, which is also great), has started a series of interviewing podcasts called Working. He was interviewed about the show in a separate podcast segment, and he described how he had been influenced to do the show by Studs Terkel’s 1970’s Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. The interesting thing was that Plotz himself realized, and acknowledged, that his selection of people was starkly different than Terkel’s.
Where Terkel had interviewed people from all segments of society, Plotz had stuck mostly to the creative classes (that is according to himself, since there have only been two installments so far). As mentioned, Plotz noted this himself, but he didn’t seem apologetic about it, or finding it a shortcoming, but rather he presented it as an intuitive and normal choice.
The fact that this feels normal seems very much in line with the rest of the current media debate, in line with the lack of debate and solutions about inequality that we can see in all media. There are much more stories on increasing productivity and how to squeeze a few extra minutes of valuable time into our days rather than how to create new levels of productivity for the masses.
Granted, podcasts are mostly an “elitist” media (an interesting discussion about the audience of podcasts can be found on a recent Mediatwits podcast), but it is largely the same in most other mainstream media outlets, except a few outlets that are clearly on the left, such as Mother Jones.
Given the potentially massive impact that inequality is bound to have globally, both in developed and developing countries in the coming decades, it seems like a vast hole in our media debate.