Reveal ★★★★★ (Update)

Reveal ★★★★★ (Update)

I originally reviewed Reveal back in October 2015, so it’s time for a refresh. The original review is also copied below this update.

Reveal, from the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, is an investigative reporting program that tackles critical issues in our country. This year, the podcast has spent a considerable amount of time on immigration, including some front-lines reporting from the border. It is also known for shining a light on the Flint water crisis, pulling back the curtain on rehab centers and other residential treatment and care facilities, and investigating problems within the justice and education systems in the United States.

Al Letson is the host of the podcast, and I’ve already written several times about how I think all audio projects he touches turn to gold, but Reveal is a journalistic stalwart capable of long-term sustainability because it has a phenomenal cadre of reporters from diverse backgrounds. It also partners with other investigative outlets around the U.S. from time to time to tap into an even greater reporter pool.

When I first reviewed the show, I asked for longer episodes. Wish granted! The episodes are now typically about an hour long, a perfect length to really dig into an investigation. And bonus – there still are shorter episodes once in a while (which I love in podcasts – I appreciate the diversity in length, makes a show feel innovative and creative) in the form of “Al Letson Reveals” – and they are short (15-20 minutes) but meaty. These are fiery, no holds barred discussions where Letson broaches a controversial issue involving the guest, and they talk it out.

Letson is a master at asking the questions you or I would want to ask, in a professional way, while getting just emotional enough to eliminate that sterile factor of a “news” person conducting the interview. He sticks to the facts but is definitely trying to make a point.

Some of my favorite Al Letson Reveals segments were a profanity-laden interview with Vicente Fox about “the wall,” two unbelievable conversations with Roger Stone and Richard Spencer, and an inspiring discussion with Pussy Riot.

The show does have a fair number of rebroadcasts, which can cause me to lose interest temporarily. Reveal used to just re-release them without any additional notification on them that it was a repeat, and I would listen for five or ten minutes and then realize I’d heard it before – I’m glad that practice has stopped. It has been mitigated recently by the “rebroadcast” tag being added after the title. I’d almost rather the show release new episodes every other week instead of replaying old content to fill out a schedule, or release an older episode when the topic comes up again in the news.

But the CIR is a powerhouse of investigative reporting. Their website includes a page on “How to Leak to Us” – including an encrypted option for more sensitive whistles blown. The pieces obviously take many months to compile, refine, edit – and the quality of work is tremendous because of it. I am truly thankful that Reveal exists – and I hope that the work done by the team prompts policy and regulation change in some of the areas they’ve investigated. They’re providing a valuable service to our country by reporting on these topics.

What do you think of this podcast? Leave a comment below and let’s discuss! Also subscribe to my twice-monthly newsletter

Audible Feast Ratings
I review all podcasts on the following eight areas. They don’t all always apply, but it helps me fairly evaluate each show.

Educational Value 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I can’t count the number of times I’ve started a sentence with, “I heard this on a podcast called Reveal …” when I am recommending something to my husband or to my fellow Podcast Brunch Club Houston members.

Pop Culture Value 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Host Listen-ability 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Flow & Production Value 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Humor 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Investigation 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I love that Reveal covers a breadth of topics, but manages to keep most episodes very current with something that is making headlines. This is only possible with the great, large team of reporters on staff and a commitment from the CIR to excellent journalism.

Storytelling 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Makes Me a Better Person 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Overall Audible Feast Rating: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Start with These Episodes:

Take No Prisoners: Inside a WWII American War Crime
Ripped Apart: Families Separated at the Border
Inside a Rehab Empire

You May Also Like … (or You May Like this Show if You Like …)

In the Dark, Missing and Murdered, Someone Knows Something, Frontline, On the Media, Embedded, Slow Burn, Latino USA


Reveal (website)

********************Original Review – October 2015***********************

Reveal is an investigative journalism podcast similar to PBS’ Frontline. Some of the content featured on Reveal has also appeared on Frontline (Rape on the Night Shift, 6/23/15). It is a part of PRX and affiliated with the Center for Investigative Reporting, a non-profit news organization known for shining light on corruption, fraud, government abuses, and scandals. The podcast contains stories not just from the CIR but also from other public news reporting organizations across the country.

Reveal is hosted by Al Letson. Episodes are pretty short, which often leave me wanting more. Some episodes are less than 15 minutes, which is really short for something that is distributed once a week. I hope as the podcast grows they think about increasing the length of the episodes. Reveal makes up for this a bit by offering multiple episodes as part of a series on a topic – the most recent was on missing persons/unclaimed dead bodies. You still have to wait a week to hear the next installment, but I like the thread woven through several episodes.

I was previously introduced to Al Letson as a charismatic, engaging radio host on State of the Re: Union, a podcast he hosted for about 5 years. It is an excellent production also worth reviewing and I will spend some time on it in a future post. I started listening to it as the series was ending and he mentioned he would be starting Reveal. I would have listened to it anyway just to hear him host, he’s that good. But I quickly found I loved the format, quick pace, and content of Reveal.

The podcast has been published in its current format since about March 2015 as far as I can tell. Content includes police corruption, a series on guns, fracking, an expose of working conditions, among others. I don’t think there are a lot of other great podcasts like it on the air. If you like shows like Frontline, 60 Minutes, Nova, or Dateline, or documentary specials on MSNBC, Nat Geo, HBO, or PBS, you’ll probably enjoy Reveal.

Audible Feast Ratings

Educational Value 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Pop Culture Value 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I’m giving 4 stars here because while Reveal doesn’t address entertainment or celebrities, it does give insight into a lot of current events and topics in the news.

Host Listen-ability 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Flow (both planned podcast flow and advertisement-impacted) 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Humor 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Investigation 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Storytelling 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Makes Me a Better Person 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

This is one of those podcasts that makes me feel like I can converse more intelligently with friends, family, and co-workers. It has given me several “Did you know …” openings to start a conversation (usually with my husband!). And I love when I hear something on TV or read it in the news and I’ve already heard something about it on Reveal.

Overall Audible Feast Rating: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

You May Also Like … 

Criminal, Sword and Scale, Planet Money, Radiolab, This American Life, Serial, Freakonomics Radio, Slate’s Working, Science Vs, State of the Re:Union, Documentaries, Frontline: Audiocast


Reveal website

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