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Still Processing: New Podcast Review

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What is Still Processing?

Still Processing is a new culture podcast by The New York Times, hosted by writers Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. The Times describes Still Processing as follows: “we’ll be talking about the TV we’re watching, the movies we saw, the music we’ve heard, the books we’re reading, and tech etiquette”.

Before I get into discussion about Still Processing, it should be that The New York Times has been upping their digital game lately. This was recently discussed in the September 8th 2016 episode Recode Media podcast that featured editors Sam Dolnick and Clifford Levy. The two went into detail discussing how to move The Times into the digital age, including investments in digital media such as virtual reality, customized push notifications, and podcasts. So while podcasts are not new to The Times (the Book Review podcast has been ongoing for 10 years), they’ve certainly seen an increase recently. The Run-Up, the Times’s 2016 election podcast, only started in August, for instance. So if this trend continues, The Times will see many podcasts hit the scene in the next 6-12 months.

You’ll Like Still Processing if You Like:

  • Slate’s Culture Gabfest
  • CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera
  • This American Life
  • Revisionist History
  • Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!
  • Call Your Girlfriend

Who Hosts Still Processing?

Still Processing is hosted by Wesley Morris, staff writer and critic for the New York Times, and Jenna Wortham, staff writer for The New York Times Magazine.

You may know Wesley Morris from his time at Grantland, where he was writing often smart, insightful criticism about film. He was also often featured in the various Grantland podcasts, including The Bill Simmons Podcast. He has also been guests of other podcasts, such as the Longform Podcast, and Slate’s Culture Gabfest. I’ve been a fan of Morris’s for a long time, and it’s good to see him finally with his own podcast to discuss topics on his own terms.

Jenna Wortham is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, and is highly acclaimed for her pieces that intersect technology and culture. I’m not as familiar with her as I was with Morris, but going through her articles, I was surprised to see that I was actually familiar with many of them, including “How I Learned to Love Snapchat“, and “The New Dream Jobs“. She’s a great writer, and if you wind up liking Still Processing, and I highly recommend reading her past articles.

Review of Still Processing: “First Date | Episode 1”

Episode one of Still Processing, entitled “First Date | Episode 1” can be split into three distinct acts. The first is a discussion between Morris and Wortham about their topics of culture of the week. This episode’s topic is centered around Colin Kaepernick and Leslie Jones, and the hosts give their opinions on the two stars’ approaches to racial tensions that are ongoing today. The second is an ‘on-the-street’ talk about dating, and involves interviews with strangers in Central Park on the topic. The third and final act is an interview with Tika Sumpter (“Southside With You“) on the challenges of first dates.

What’s Right?

In my opinion, Still Processing adds a breath of fresh air to the podcast medium for a series that features two or three people discussing an individual topic. This is due to their fresh perspectives on race and culture, and the on-the-street reporting. The first is that their perspectives on race (they are both black) bring a new and educated take on cultural topics, and it is refreshing in an industry and medium that is far too often solely focused on white culture. In my opinion, long-running podcasts such as the aforementioned The Bill Simmons Podcast and The Joe Rogan Experience are growing stale purely for this reason. The second, is that the on-the-street reporting, is a feature that I am excited to see exploited in future episodes to come. It is interesting that you don’t see this sort of on-the-street discussions more in today’s podcasts. It’s a feature often utilized by radio stations (I personally think of CBC Radio and NPR when I think of this). It provides an extra layer of depth and “realness” to podcast conversations which can otherwise seem forced. So kudos to Still Processing for pushing the medium forward.

What Can Be Improved?

Portions of the podcast which could be improved moving forward. Pointing to I was saying in the previous paragraph – banter or laughter in podcasts between two or three people can seem forced. However, I’m encouraged by the professionalism of both hosts to move this podcast forward to ease this issue as they create more episodes. The other item is what worries me about all these new New York Times podcasts – what about advertising? Neither Still Processing or The Run-Up have advertising yet, so I wonder how they will get over those hurdles – will there be advertisements at the front of the show as often with podcasts, or will they find another way to earn revenue? Just some thoughts as I was wrapping up the show.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this is a very well-produced show with two very high-quality guests and I look forward to seeing where they take the show in the future. I highly recommend that you subscribe now to see what the hosts have in store. Separately, I also look forward to seeing what other podcasts The Times has in store as they ramp up investment in the podcast medium in the coming months.

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