Podcast Network Spotlight: APM Podcasts
APM Podcasts: What is APM?
American Public Media (APM) is a content producer which is part of the larger American Public Media Group (APMG). APMG serves as the non-profit head of several organizations, some of which are radio networks (Minnesota Public Radio and Southern California Public Radio). APM distributes many podcasts and radio shows, but this spotlight will focus on content produced in house (mostly … it’s complicated as you’ll see!). There are major offices of APM in both St. Paul, Minnesota and Los Angeles and many of the shows are produced in one of the two locations.
The pedigree of the APM staff is stellar, and I have come to expect first-rate editing and sound design from every new show. Within the last year, APM debuted four new shows: In the Dark, Historically Black, Terrible, Thanks for Asking, and The Hilarious World of Depression. They also experienced some change, bringing on Francis Lam in place of the retiring Lynne Rossetto Kasper on A Splendid Table and bringing on long-running radio show and podcast TBTL.
During my interview with Madeleine Baran, host of In the Dark, back in November of last year, I learned that APM Reports is a sub-group of APM focusing on long-term investigative reporting. Some of the shows are under this umbrella right now and there are actually some older documentaries you can find under APM Reports Documentaries which were formerly produced by American RadioWorks.
As you’ll be able to tell by looking through this list of what they have to offer (as of August 2017), APM is a mash-up of shows that all cater to the ever curious listener who wants to learn.
Terrible, Thanks for Asking (Twitter: @ttfapodcast)
Officially: “You know how every day someone asks “how are you?” And even if you’re totally dying inside, you just say “fine,” so everyone can go about their day? This show is the opposite of that. Hosted by author and notable widow (her words) Nora McInerny, this is a funny/sad/uncomfortable podcast about talking honestly about our pain, our awkwardness, and our humanness.”
My take: Sure, there’s sadness embedded within this show, but ultimately the stories in TTFA tell of hope and community. TTFA has had a “mini-season” over the last several months which has produced episodes just as great (and long!) as its regular season, so I can’t wait for it to return this fall. Everyone experiences various periods of mental health – so why should anything less than positive feelings be stigmatized? This show puts all those feelings out there and says, “You’re ok. It’s okay to feel however you feel. There’s hope.” It’s hard to pick a favorite episodes, as many have appeared on my Delicious Ingredients lists, but I really loved Episode 4 with Danni Starr, a former DJ, who suffered from post-partum depression.
The Hilarious World of Depression (Twitter: @thwofd)
Officially: John Moe “tries to understand the mysterious connection between comedy and despair, by sharing the struggles and triumphs of the people who make us laugh. Hear from some of the top names in comedy about their intimate experiences with clinical depression.”
My take: It took me a few episodes to get into THWOfD, but I look forward to its return too. I love the idea of comedians (or just generally funny people) talking about depression – it’s not necessarily that depression is funny, but like with TTFA, THWOfD guests remove the stigma attached to depression and anxiety by sharing their stories and how they’ve learned (or not) to cope while doing a job that requires them to be “on” and funny all the time. Its mini-season has featured a couple of terrific episodes with listeners’ coping playlists which were a lot of fun to listen to.
The Splendid Table (Twitter: @SplendidTable)
Officially: “A culinary, culture, and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone. Each week,
award-winning host Lynne Rossetto Kasper host Francis Lam leads listeners on a journey of the senses and hosts discussions with a variety of writers and personalities who share their passion for the culinary delights.”
My take: I have scant experience with The Splendid Table – I listened a little bit while Rossetto Kasper was the host, but haven’t listened since the host change. But it’s a long running show similar to the BBC’s Food Programme, and I do think it fits in nicely with the portfolio of APM shows.
Too Beautiful to Live (TBTL) (Twitter:@TBTL)
Officially: “TBTL (Too Beautiful to Live) is a daily weekday podcast from Luke Burbank and co-host/producer Andrew Walsh. It is about life. It is about current events. It is about popular culture. It is about Luke’s weight on that day. Let the fun begin.”
My take: TBTL is another show I have only caught a few episodes of – its arrival on APM is fairly recent, so I look forward to learning more about it in the APM newsletters and press releases. But can you imagine producing a DAILY podcast? Wow. These guys do a ton of work.
In the Dark (Twitter: @apmreports)
Officially: “Child abductions are rare crimes. And they’re typically solved. For 27 years, the investigation into the abduction of Jacob Wetterling in rural Minnesota yielded no answers. Now APM Reports and Peabody Award–winning reporter Madeleine Baran reveal how law enforcement mishandled one of the most notorious abductions in the country.”
My take: In the Dark was the best podcast of 2016 – just fantastic. Its flow was crisp, production and editing was impeccable, the sound design was perfect, and of course, the reporting was out of this world. I had the pleasure of interviewing Madeleine Baran in person last year at APM in St. Paul and it was a major fangirl moment for me. I have much to say about the way the show approached the many aspects of this case – it’s truly terrific investigative reporting and was well deserving of its Peabody Award. Read my 5-star review here.
Historically Black (Twitter: @apmreports)
Officially: “Brings black histories to life. Each episode uses interviews, archival sound and more, to examine the intimate stories behind significant personal objects. With hosting from Keegan-Michael Key, Roxane Gay, Issa Rae, and Another Round hosts Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton.” This is a collaboration with The Washington Post.
My take: I believe this was a limited-run series, but I would be thrilled to hear more from Historically Black. A couple of the episodes appeared on my Delicious Ingredients “Best of the Week” lists during its short season in 2016 – the episode on the human computers was well ahead of Hidden Figures in telling those of us who didn’t already know the story of the black women who changed NASA. The celebrity hosts added a lot to this podcast – their voices were so recognizable and they heightened the show’s exposure.
Brains On! (Twitter:@brains_on)
Officially: “Brains On! is a podcast featuring science and kids produced by American Public Media. We ask questions and go wherever the answers take us. Sometimes that means talking to a food scientist or a snake handler, other times that means putting on a play about sound waves or writing songs about sleep. A different kid co-hosts each episode. We talk to them about the interesting stuff they’re doing and the things they think about. It’s a science lesson for your ears – so join us and turn your brains on!”
My take: My young kids like this podcast, but I also like it! Not too kid-ish but still sometimes silly and corny, I appreciate the fun take on science. Brains On! has been broadcasting for a few years and is a member of Kids Listen, an advocacy group for responsible and high quality audio for kids.
Educate (Twitter: @EducatePodcast)
Officially: “Formerly of American RadioWorks) goes in-depth on new ideas and research on how we learn and how we teach.”
My take: Educate is an under-rated show – I rarely hear about it other than when I profile it on my own site (it has appeared on Delicious Ingredients several times) – the segments really remind me of Reveal. I’ve enjoyed learning about DACA from a student and an educator viewpoint and I remember listening to this episode with tears running down my face because I realized how lucky my kids are to have black, male teachers in their school.
The Mash-Up Americans (Twitter: @mashupamerican)
Officially: “Explores race, culture, identity, and what makes us who we are. Hosts Amy and Rebecca get deep with Mash-Up luminaries like Margaret Cho and Nina Garcia about how their mashiness shapes them and their work, while also diving into conversations with experts on language, sex and even genetics to explore the cultural forces at work in every aspect of our lives. We laugh, cry, and ask all the questions. Get to know yourself, America.”
My take: Yet another of APM’s shows that continually appears on my best episodes of the week. Amy and Rebecca are terrific hosts with great chemistry; they’re so honest about their own experiences as mash-ups – I love the point in the beginning of each interview where they simply say “So, Nina Garcia, how do you mash up?” and then we find out the guest’s background and where their parents came from. Some of my favorite episodes have been the aforementioned Nina Garcia episode and this mash-up wedding planning episode.
The Dinner Party Download (Twitter: @dinnerpartydnld)
Officially: “A fast and funny hour of culture, food and conversation: “public radio’s arts & leisure section.” In every episode you’ll learn a joke; bone up on an odd bit of history and then wash it down with a themed cocktail recipe; meet artists of note; have your burning etiquette questions answered; savor an emerging food trend; and hear your new favorite song. Plus, unconventional wisdom from hosts Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam.”
My take: Even though I’ve heard the show many times, I always look at the title of each episode and think for second to myself: “They got all these people in the same room for a dinner party?” But then I immediately remember that the premise of the show is different, and I have a little bit of disappointment. However, I like the short-ish segments with each guest and really love the variety of guests.
Marketplace is kind of its own arm of APM, and has Marketplace, Codebreaker, Corner Office, Politics Inside Out, Make Me Smart with Kai & Molly, and The Uncertain Hour under its wing.
The Tie That Binds
The commonality between so many APM shows is terrific reporting and satisfaction for the curious mind. I have come to expect phenomenal quality and thoughtful editing in every show, and it’s there. APM aims to teach the listener something and sometimes be entertained along the way, and this is a smart strategy because it’s why I and many others are listening to podcasts in the first place. There’s really something for everyone – there are shows about mental health, food, education, investigative reporting, history, interviews, culture, the stock market, entertainment, technology, science, and comedy. It’s a very impressive portfolio, and there are truly no duds.
What’s the Latest with APM?
Terrible, Thanks for Asking and The Hilarious World of Depression will return soon with new seasons but have been producing great content in mini-sodes this summer. In the Dark is also working on season 2. Check out their back catalogues and look for premiere dates!
If you have any feedback on this feature or anything else related to Audible Feast, please shoot me a note at audiblefeast at gmail.com. You can find me on Twitter at @audible_feast. Thanks for reading!