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In the Moment: The Media Helping Us Wade Through the Pandemic

Decoder Ring Apple Podcasts Graphic

Across our different backgrounds, disciplines, and approaches to teaching in PWR, one thing that holds us all together is our commitment to thinking about the power of communication—what stories we tell and how. The pandemic has disrupted everything, including what media we consume. CPIC asked the PWR community to share recommendations for media that have held our attention and gotten us thinking—even in these distracting and frightening times.

Below, we offer a sample of ideas that came up in our recent survey asking for your stories and recommendations. First, we’ve included some ideas based on your Covid-life situations—followed by a lightning round of quick, at-a-glance recommendations.

Living alone or with just one other (adult) human? Try livestream and podcasts!

“I've found myself listening to KQED's livestream a lot -- while cooking or tidying or just for some background noise. This never occurred to me as a thing to do before! But it's been useful on a number of fronts. First, just that sense of being in conversation (especially with Forum, as listeners phone in) -- since I live alone I often go days without actually talking to someone in person. Second, a sense of place -- since this is my first full year of actually staying in California (instead of spending some months up in Oregon with family). And third, of course, the content itself, between interviews with scientists and artists, to live coverage of news events in a time with a *lot* of news events. I'm sure I'll keep this habit up long past the pandemic.” –Becky Richardson

“I have really enjoyed listening to podcasts, specifically NPR's Code Switch and the New York Times' The Daily. I usually listen to these while taking outdoor walks or cooking or cleaning. Their stories are timely and compelling, covering a range of topics like the pandemic, the November 2020 election, political and civic unrest, and systemic racism.” –Roberta Wolfson

Living with Small, Medium, or Large Children? Try not to go insane!

“Because we're stuck with our kids all the time, finding podcasts that we enjoy (and don't cringe through) that our kids can enjoy too, has been essential. One we love is called Decoder Ring and looks at cultural phenomena (like Bart Simpson or Cabbage Patch Kids or unicorn poop) and discusses how and why they came to have a featured role in our pop culture. We find that the podcasts Decoder Ring, several episodes of Bay Curious, and WOW in the World all spark great dinner conversations, and no one goes insane.” –Kath Rothschild

“I get recommended single series podcasts from my son, who is much more attuned to what's out there than I. Podcasts are great because I can listen to them after lunch on the couch in a constructive rest position and frequently doze off in the middle and come back, as if I'm part of a dream that keeps lingering even as I come and go.” –Anonymous

Media for Thought During Pandemic times

Battlestar Galactica. “This Bush-era sci-fi series about how democracy perseveres amid the strain of an existential threat (and can fracture into paranoia and authoritarianism) seems all the more pertinent amid the pandemic.” –Kevin Moore

Watchmen on HBO. “Blending a beloved superhero comic with critiques of white supremacy, racism, and vigilantes.” –Lisa Swan

Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. This book is “about the disturbing history of ‘disaster capitalism’ and the influence of the Chicago School of economics; could not be more pertinent during COVID.” –Kevin Moore

The New York Times’ limited-run podcast Rabbit Hole. This podcast asks “the question ‘what is the internet doing to us?’ and I've been thinking about it non-stop since I listened to it in the spring” –Nissa Cannon

Lightning Round Recommendations (from Ruth, Hayden, Kevin M., Nissa, Tessa, Lisa S., and others!)

Film and Television

  • Small Axe by Steve McQueen (on Amazon Prime)
  • Sneaky Pete (on Amazon Prime)
  • The Real Housewives franchise (on Hulu)
  • I May Destroy You (on HBO)
  • Raised by Wolves (on HBO Max)
  • Insecure (on HBO) - Cool connection: The co-creator/writer and star of this show, Issa Rae, graduated from Stanford in 2007!
  • Borgen (on Apple TV)
  • Babylon Berlin (on Netflix)
  • Master of None (on Netflix)
  • Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (on Netflix)
  • I'm Thinking of Ending Things (on Netflix)
  • Unorthodox (on Netflix)
  • The Dig (on Netflix)


  • Division Street by Studs Terkel
  • Working by Studs Terkel
  • Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code by Ruha Benjamin 
  • The Fifth Season trilogy by N. K. Jemisin 
  • Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtara
  • Deacon King Kong by James McBride
  • Barbarian Days by William Finnegan
  • Little Gods by Meng Jin

 News and podcasts

  • KQED Livecast
  • Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American
  • Nature Podcast
  • Science Mag
  • Philosophy Talk
  • Machine Ethics
  • Casey Fiesler’s YouTube channel
  • Ethics of AI in Context

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