Power to the Podcasts: What Vassar students are listening to

In recent years, the world has been engulfed in an auditory revolution. People across the globe—young people especially—have found something of value in podcasts, whether that be comfort, intellectual discoveries or new ways to exist in our complicated lives. 

There are a few reasons why podcasts have become so popular. From my experience, people who listen to podcasts are generally more engaged with the happenings in the world around them, from pop culture to political news to criminal investigations. 

Podcasts are also extremely convenient—compared to music, the longer audio format makes it easier to multitask and engage in longer activities without the pressure to select or queue up songs. They are neat, organized and deliver clear and concise stories, comedy shows or deep-dives into the news. 

I spoke with four students on campus to learn about their favorite podcasts and get a better sense of the value that they find in listening to them. 

Julia Vitale ’25 has been listening to the podcast “You’re Wrong About” by Sarah Marshall for nearly two years now. For her, listening to podcasts is about learning new ideas and information, which “You’re Wrong About” has enabled her to do. 

“You’re Wrong About,” a podcast that updates biweekly, has been educating listeners about misunderstood events in the media since 2018. The podcast has covered people such as Yoko Ono, Monica Lewinsky and Anna Nicole Smith, with topics ranging from the O.J. Simpson Trial to Stockholm Syndrome. 

Vitale values the way in which “You’re Wrong About” disrupts preconceived notions of worldly topics so that she can think about them in new ways. “I really love the way that they reframe big media and historical events that a lot of people don’t really understand…,” she told me. “They [focus on] a lot of women, so it’s a very feminist podcast, the way that they reframe maligned women of the past and humanize them in the eyes of the public.” 

Podcasts serve as an important part of Vitale’s day. “I listen to podcasts every day when I wake up (I have a rotation) and every night when I go to sleep,” she said. Sometimes, she even listens to them when she’s walking to class.

Like Vitale, Noe Rueschemeyer-Bailey ’25 listens to podcasts not purely for entertainment, but also to learn about news and the political world. Her favorite podcast is “Pod Save the World,” produced by the political media company Crooked Media. Founded in 2016, Crooked Media produces about 25 podcasts which cover a variety of political or cultural topics and events. The company’s two most famous series are “Pod Save America,” which concentrates on American political discourse, and “Pod Save the World,” which dissects foreign policy matters. 

Rueschemeyer-Bailey especially loves “Pod Save the World” because of its hosts, Tommy Vietor and Ben Rhodes. Before podcasting, Vietor and Rhodes both worked in the White House under the Obama administration. Rueschemeyer-Bailey finds their combined knowledge of the American and international political systems to be fascinating. “We have ideas about what to think about American politics based on what we hear from experts, but we don’t often hear from experts with opinions on American foreign policy. [It’s] a really refreshing perspective…,” she shared.

By listening to “Pod Save the World,” Rueschemeyer-Bailey has grown to be confident in expressing her opinions and engaging in political dialogues. “I could talk about any political [matter],” she said. Not only has listening expanded her political knowledge, but “Pod Save the World” has inspired Rueschemeyer-Bailey to keep pushing for what she believes in. “I feel motivated to keep up the fight.”

Vietor and Rhodes’s accessibility as human beings and not just removed celebrity figures is also an important factor in Rueschemeyer-Bailey’s love of “Pod Save the World.” “They’re very genuine and down to earth, [and their discussions are] not processed.” She continued, “They’re also just hilarious… The thing about “Pod Save the World” is that they’re just like my best friends. They share personal things about their lives, and I feel like I really know them.”

It’s because of the familiarity of the hosts, the content itself, and the ability to balance listening with other activities that podcasts are such an engaging source of media. Madi Donat ’23 [Disclaimer: Donat is the Humor Editor for The Miscellany News] listens to podcasts because they are an easy and educational way for her to multitask. “[Podcasts] are fantastic for someone like me who loves to always be consuming information but also likes doing other things. In a way, it actually helps me focus sometimes, and I feel like I absorb so much information by essentially doing nothing!” 

Donat, who mostly listens to nonfiction podcasts, loves the show “You Must Remember This,” a podcast about the history of American film. She also loves the “Mystery Show.” “[It is]the most beautiful little show about human kindness that I still can’t believe got canceled after only six episodes,” Donat added. 

“You Must Remember This” is a show by Karina Longworth that explores the forgotten or unknown lore of early Hollywood. Since the show released its first episode in 2014, it has gone on to tell fifteen seasons of heavily-researched and entertaining Hollywood tales. Guest stars have included celebrities such as John Mulaney and Fred Savage. 

Podcasts are not only a source of entertainment or education for people such as Donat, but for some, they can also serve as inspiration for self-improvement. Connor Machado ’25 listens to “Jocko Podcast,” a business-focused podcast where former Navy SEAL Jocko Willink and Director Echo Charles talk about what it takes to be a leader in today’s society. “Jocko Podcast” has been releasing episodes since 2015, teaching about discipline, ego, work ethic and ambition. For Machado, this podcast is a way to think through problems, explore new ways to stand up and learn to be a leader in today’s society. 

Machado listens to Jocko Willink because of his willingness to share about his own life experiences. “Listening to people speak about their life experiences or things that they have learned…it feels more personal, especially with this podcast, which is one cut, meaning there’s nothing left out,” he said. Machado continued,“It helps me keep an active mind.” 

While these students’ listening experiences differ, they all share one common revelation— whether you listen to podcasts for entertainment or educational purposes, they are an enthralling and effective way to spend time. Rueschemeyer-Bailey put it simply: “Podcasts are great. There’s nothing you lose when listening to them.” 

One Comment

  1. It helped when you said that this podcast helps with opinions and engaging in political dialogues. My brother told me last night that he was looking for a media podcast that he could watch during his free time, and he asked if I had any suggestions. Thanks to this helpful article, I’ll be sure to tell him that he can try the media podcast that I know as they have good reviews.

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