The Best of On Air Fest—And Other Great New Podcasts

Media Lists Podcasts
The Best of On Air Fest—And Other Great New Podcasts

I had the chance to attend the annual On Air Fest at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. This Podcastapalooza has installations, tapings, panel experiences and plenty of industry networking opportunities. Big name talent were in attendance like Krista Tippett from On Being, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, musician Kevin Morby, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, Mo Rocca of Mobituaries and Connor Ratliff of Dead Eyes. I loved every minute. These were some of my favorite live tapings:

Talk Easy With Sam Fragoso
Min Jin Lee Episode
Filmmaker, producer and interviewer Sam Fragoso manages to get guests to open up in ways you’ve never heard. When Min Jin Lee, author of Pachinko and Free Food For Millionaires sat down with Sam, it felt like a therapy session. She discussed coming to America from Korea, the racism she experienced at Yale and, ultimately, her journey into writing. At one point in the conversation she says to Fragoso, “Your parents must be so proud of you,” because of his thoughtful and beautiful questions.

Carmel Holt with Valerie June
Carmel Holt has been interviewing musicians for over two decades on radio and podcasts. Sheroes is about gender, inequality and misogyny in the music business. Singer, poet and self taught musician Valerie June was the perfect guest. She discussed her career aspirations and the difficult road she traveled to success, all from a female angle.

Audio Vanguard Award, Audie Cornish interviewed by Kara Swisher
Audie Cornish is the host of the new podcast The Assignment for CNN, but you’ve likely heard her on NPR’s All Things Considered. Kara Swisher is a well-known tech journalist and now the host of It’s On and Pivot. They discussed the news business including changes at CNN, the Don Lemon controversy and the state of the podcast business. Nothing was off limits.

In other podcast news, these are a few that I’m currently obsessed with.

A new Serial saga takes us to Wyoming, stories of catfishing, identity theft, little-known events in history and unsolved crime mysteries. Get your earbuds out, you’re headed to binge-ville.

Rachel Maddow Presents Ultra
Ultra lays out what happened when sitting members of Congress tried to overthrow the government in the lead up to World War II. It starts with a U.S. Senator and a mysterious plane crash. It then goes to bombings, protests, sedition trials and pro-Nazi propaganda. The story’s themes of “America First,” anti-semitism and undermining democracy all resonate in today’s political climate. It’s eerie how history threatens to repeat itself. Rachel Maddow is such a terrific storyteller with expertly reported facts. Steven Speilberg liked Ultra so much, he optioned the podcast for a movie.

Bear Brook season 2
The 1988 gruesome murder of Sharon Johnson is the center of this series. Jason Carroll is serving a life sentence for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Three men were allegedly involved, but only Carroll got convicted. The series gets into false confessions, why they happen and how police use certain types of interrogation techniques to get the confession they want. Make sure you finish, because the final episode (number eight) brings a big surprise.

Love, Janessa
We’ve all gotten those messages on social media, the Nigerian Prince who needs money or the “Hey baby you’re hot let’s talk”. Love, Janessa looks at who’s behind those messages. Popular cam girl Janessa Brazil’s photo has been used for years to scam people. The CBC’s Hannah Ajala talks to victims and looks to find the real Janessa. How did her image become a grift that went around the world? Does she have any knowledge of this? It’s a wild ride with a satisfying ending.

Deep Cover, Never Seen Again Season 3
A woman goes missing in Travelers Rest, S.C. The detective in this small town is determined to figure out what happened. It’s an unsolved mystery until her name pops up years later in New York City. Host Jake Halpern takes you to dark, unexpected corners to piece together the story and ultimately find the truth about people who lead double lives.

The Coldest Case In Laramie
This latest podcast from the New York Times and Serial is about a cold case. Reporter Kim Barker grew up in Laramie. She was haunted by the 1985 unsolved murder of Shelli Wiley. Barker goes back to the scene of the crime and finds a twisty, turny, uncomfortable maze of how the case was (mis)handled. I loved how short the episodes were.You can easily binge through the whole thing in a sitting or two.

The No-Good, Terribly Kind, Wonderful Lives And Tragic Deaths of Barry and Honey Sherman
In 2017 a Billionaire couple was found gruesomely murdered in their Toronto estate. The Shermans were so well known and loved, even prime minister Justin Trudeau attended their funeral, along with 7,000 others. Their deaths left everyone wondering why, and the mystery is still unsolved. Was it Barry’s business practices in the big pharma industry? Was the family involved? Host Kathleen Goldhar looks into potential scenarios in each episode. Everyone seems to have a theory.

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