Slate is an online magazine that addresses any and every topic a choosy consumer could ask for. Politics, film, television, sports, other stuff – they’ve got it all over at Slate. But I’ll be honest with you… The last couple years? They haven’t been very good to the website. Well, actually, they’ve probably been very lucrative. What I mean to say is, “they haven’t been very good to the website’s quality.” The site is much more interested in generating page views through contrarianism and grabby headlines than it is in publishing meaningful, thoughtful journalism. This is most rampant in the pop culture sections of the website. Despite all of that, Slate stands strong in one area: podcasts. And with the recent release of a new daily show – Slate’s The Gist with Mike Pesca – the site hopes to continue that streak.
Some of Slate’s strongest products include the Political Gabfest, the Culture Gabfest, and Hang Up and Listen. The two gabfests are pretty self-explanatory (Hang Up and Listen is a sports podcast), and all of the shows are structured similarly – three Slate contributors discuss 2-3 topics from the week in their particular area of interest. I listen to most of them on and off as a way to keep up with current events. They are well-considered and usually entertaining. I have even been known to check out Double X and Mom and Dad Are Fighting, dealing – rather exclusively – with women’s and parenting issues, respectively.
In an effort to keep this train going, Slate launched The Gist, a daily podcast featuring Hang Up and Listen‘s Mike Pesca. Pesca has been known to appear on the other shows and is knowledgable in a wide variety of topics. The first episode of The Gist, appropriately titled “Episode the First” features Radiolab‘s Jad Abumrad interviewing Pesca about his career. It is a great way to get a sense of whether The Gist will be for you.
But really, any episode is accessible. Ranging between 20 and 30 minutes, Pesca usually tackles a couple of items from the days news, whether they be related to sports, politics, pop culture, or anything else he wants to talk about.
Your interest in the show will probably be determined by your interest in Mike Pesca. He is definitely a personality. Almost every episode ends with an Andy Rooney-esque “Spiel.” These can be a little grating and complain-y, just like Rooney’s often were.
After almost two weeks I still don’t have a strong feel for Pesca’s voice. I like the shorter length, preventing too much of a commitment, but it sometimes feels like Pesca and his correspondents only manage to scratch the surface of their topics. Surely the makers are still finding their sea-legs; who knows what the show will become. Until then I have no problem skipping an episode every now and then.