Gateway Episode: “William ‘Clyde’ Gibson”
The writers of The Chronicles of Now satirize, applaud, and transmogrify the news of the day. The podcast, hosted by Ashley Ford, commissions famous authors (such as Roxane Gay, Ben Fountain, and Manuel Gonzales) to create short fiction pulled from the headlines. Some of the stories reach for high concepts; others are grounded and relatable. The pandemic lurks in the background of many. One episode, “Breeze Point,” responds to a viral story from Hong Kong about two mating pandas. “The Extinction Show” imagines a world in which people profit off soon-to-be-extinct animal species. Another entry follows two sisters who share a love of birds but can’t stop fighting about politics; the listener must decide whether the story is about love or polarization. The 10-minute readings—bookended by Ford’s excellent interviews with the writers—are easily snackable, but don’t let the breezy format fool you into thinking you won’t laugh and cry and ponder existential dread.
Gateway Episode: “Proof”
After reporting at the Standing Rock protests, veteran NPR environmental reporter Ashley Ahearn quit her job in Seattle and moved to rural Washington. The protests didn’t stop the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the experience made her question her life and career. Now, she turns her gaze to the sage-grouse: “the most controversial bird of the West,” commonly called the cock of the plains. The show is, in part, a celebration of the landscape and a memoir of her move from a city to the country. She rides horseback, describes what it’s like to move cows, and even records herself as she’s forced to evacuate her home because of wildfire. But her story centers on the grouse, its dwindling population, and the bird’s impact on the people who live in the area. One rancher says, “I know you’re not supposed to try to control things from the grave, but all I want to do is to protect this dirt.” Wilson Wewa, a Northern Paiute/Palouse elder, shares a story of how sage hens help him and his tribe cope with grief. In the end, even though the future doesn’t look good for the grouse, the show remains uplifting; it traffics in courage instead of hope.
Gateway Episode: “Grouse: Stranger in a Strange Land”
Last year, Broken: Jeffrey Epstein covered Epstein’s heinous crimes. Seeking Justice pivots to the survivors whose sense of resolution was warped by his death. When the season opens, the host, White House correspondent Tara Palmeri, is working with Virginia Giuffre, one of the most outspoken victims. They knock on the doors of Epstein’s former employees, trying to persuade them to corroborate Giuffre’s case. Initially, the responses are lackluster, and listeners might fear that they’ll have to settle for almost nothing. But doors do open. One victim, Courtney Wild, divulges the hard thinking she’s done about whether she could also be a perpetrator, since she helped Epstein recruit. Another survivor, Marijke Chartouni, confronts her recruiter, who denies any wrongdoing but also confirms much of Chartouni’s story. Hearing her process this information lets listeners observe the complex psychological impact that sexual assault has on a person. In the final episode, Palmeri describes being raped herself when she was 16 and explains why that felt important to disclose, creating a powerful and rare moment in investigative journalism. Listening to her, one realizes that justice isn’t even half of what survivors seek.