Podcasts that fill the gap

A roundup of our favorite podcasts on stories and analysis of the West.

 

Podcasts have come to fill a unique role in the media landscape, and their proliferation has encouraged better storytelling and analysis. Here, a round up of some our favorites that fill the gap.

Threshold

Independent, in-depth narrative storytelling on how “humans are changing — and being changed by — the planet.” Funders include Montana Public Radio and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. The first season is dedicated to the American bison, including the possibility of free-roaming herds returning to the West, the notorious slaughter of Yellowstone bison, and tribal work on bison restoration.

 

Mountain & Prairie

Conservationist Ed Roberson interviews innovators of all stripes who are “shaping the future of the American West” — ranchers, writers, athletes, artists, conservationists, entrepreneurs. Funded by listeners, Mountain Khakis and Palmer Land Trust, its recent guests include Montana rancher-activist Alexis Bonogofsky, historian Sarah Dant and best-selling author Hampton Sides.

 

Go West, Young Podcast

This podcast is produced by Aaron Weiss of the Center for Western Priorities, a project of the Resources Legacy Fund, which focuses on conservation and equity. Current episodes include advice on whistleblowing from former Interior Department climate scientist Joel Clement, the Navajo Nation’s post-coal future, and the battle to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund.   

 

The Modern West

This Wyoming Public Media podcast covers Western news, cultural stories, interviews, oral histories and more. Recent episodes include the fight to make land conservation a priority, the climate-change-induced migration of birds of prey, and how women are redefining what it means to live in the West.

 

Open Spaces

Also by Wyoming Public Media, this covers news and public affairs topics of concern to Wyoming and the entire West. Recent episodes included the reduced transparency in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the legacy of Matthew Shepard’s murder, whether the presence of grizzly bears affects the outfitter and guide industry, and an interview with U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.

 

Range: Stories of the New American West

Hosted by journalists Julia Ritchey and Amy Westervelt, Range incorporates humor, music and commentary to cover the “stories, issues, and trailblazing entrepreneurs of the New American West.” Recent topics include the challenges a new clothing company faced in manufacturing in the region, affordable housing in resort towns, and West Coast women in high tech.

 

Desert Oracle

This podcast grew out of a self-published print quarterly by political blogger Ken Layne, originally distributed only near his home in Joshua Tree, California. “The Voice of the Desert” examines the ways wild, harsh landscapes inspire people, from the mythic to the macabre to the mundane. The zine has a cult following, and the new podcast, notes New York Magazine’s  Heather Havrilesky, is “moody, concise, hilarious and really fucking weird.”

 

Media Indigena

This Indigenous current-affairs podcast is funded solely by listeners. Based in Canada, its mission is to “share stories which keep Indigenous peoples alive, in every sense of the term.” The last few episodes feature discussion of a not-guilty verdict for the white man who killed a young Native named Colten Boushie, an arts exhibit spanning 300 years of colonialism, and why it’s misleading to call Native languages “lost or dying.”

 

outLANDish

A partnership headed by the U.S. Forest Service, this podcast is part of the agency’s “Your Forests Your Future” initiative, which aims to increase the relevance of public lands. Recent stories include the great American through-hikes, animal migrations and discoveries made in glaciers.

 

Home of the Brave

By author and This American Life contributor Scott Carrier, this podcast is funded solely by listener donations. Season Two is a series about the U.S.-Mexico border and the current immigration situation, including a 2005 interview with the late Charles Bowden. The first season included a series on Bears Ears National Monument, with segments on industrial tourism, ancient petroglyphs and an interview with author Terry Tempest Williams.

 

The Last Best Stories

Host Jule Banville, who teaches at the University of Montana School of Journalism, puts it best: “If you live in this place or have visited this place or sometimes just see it in your dreams, you might know there are tales to tell here.” Podcast stories are unique to Montana but resonate widely. Some recent topics: an ambitious 1980s cover band, a visit to a Death Café, where the living discuss dying, and a woman trying to find a buyer for a tiny town that her late husband’s family owned for nearly 70 years.

 

Bundyville

A collaboration between Oregon Public Broadcasting and Longreads, Bundyville delves deep into the far-right politics and fringe religious beliefs that motivate Cliven Bundy, his clan and their followers. “From prophecies and nuclear testing to white supremacists and radical plans to shrink public lands, Bundyville explains how one family has beaten the federal government twice — and why this battle has just begun.” Hosted by freelance journalist Leah Sottile, recent episodes include how the Bundys are seeking to expand their influence, the real-world consequences of their ideological fight against government, and a look back at the Bundy ranch standoff in 2014.

 

Nuestra Tierra

A project of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, this podcast tells the stories of Latino and Hispanic communities in New Mexico and across America — “authentic, land-based cultures with direct and unbroken generational ties going back thousands of years.” Recent episodes cover the outdoor experiences of Borderlands communities, outdoor recreationists building businesses and community ties, and Latinas in the conservation movement.

Jodi Peterson is a contributing editor at High Country News. 

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