The podcasts that help me keep up with the world

The podcasts that help me keep up with the world

This International Podcast Day, a shout out to other podcasters that feed my brain and inspire my own work.

Isabelle Roughol
Isabelle Roughol

Before I was a podcaster, I was a listener. The kind who absorbs multiple podcasts daily since circa 2006. It is my primary source of news and often how I get ideas for Borderline. Here are my regular listens to keep up with world affairs. (For best effect, learn French.)

The daily news

The New York Times’ The Daily 🇺🇸 needs no further introduction. Michael Barbaro and team make use of their newsroom’s talents and expertise to illuminate one top story each day. The credits are so long, it seems they know only read them in full on Fridays. That’s the number of people it takes to make a deeply reported, fact-checked and produced podcast every day. I can only dream.

Today in Focus 🇬🇧 follows a similar model at The Guardian with fewer names in the credits, more than made up for by the delightfully named sound designer Axel Kacoutié. It and the Daily often end up covering the same topics, but it’s well worth listening to competing approaches from different newsrooms and nationalities, especially on foreign affairs.

Un Jour dans le Monde 🇫🇷 is an hour of drivetime world news on French public radio hosted by Fabienne Sintes, easily the most authoritative yet friendly voice on the radio today. A longtime US correspondent, she was often, I felt, the only French journalist who actually understood the United States. Yes, I’m a fan.

Extras: Full Story 🇦🇺 from the Guardian Australia and Le Parisien’s Code Source 🇫🇷 copied the format in their respective countries. I also catch one of the morning news bulletins on France Inter. I consume British, American and French media every day, others more sporadically. It’s a useful routine to keep my perspectives varied, but it’s not a fast one.

The commentary

Pod Save The World 🇺🇸 is partisan and does not pretend otherwise. It is hosted by Tommy Vietor and Ben Rhodes, who both worked in the Obama administration, and part of the unabashedly pro-Democratic party outfit Crooked Media. Once you’ve put your skeptical hat on though, Pod Save the World offers an insider look at how foreign policy is made. It’s like stepping into the State Department’s kitchen. Vietor and Rhodes also often interview journalists with unparalleled expertise and young democracy activists all over the world.

Oh God, What Now? 🇬🇧 is the smart-yet-funny-yet-smart podcast helping me keep up with the wild world of British politics. It is the most aptly named podcast I know. Formerly called Remainiacs, it’s stepped away from its anti-Brexit roots to cover all of British politics… yet that still ends up being about Brexit most weeks. When I’m in a particularly obsessive phase about politics, I also listen to The Bunker, by the same Podmasters crew, and The Guardian’s Politics Weekly.

OGWN co-host Ian Dunt was on Borderline earlier this year talking about liberal democracy’s fight for its life. Check it out.

Géopolitique 🇫🇷 is the reason I’m a journalist. The 3-minute audio editorial played at 8:17 on France Inter throughout my adolescence. I timed my breakfast to listen to the legendary Bernard Guetta school me in foreign affairs. (I was not an especially cool teenager.) Guetta has now passed the baton to the no-less-experienced Pierre Haski. The morning show also hosts similar daily audio columns on domestic politics and economics, both smart and unmissable. I only long for the day at least one of these three agenda-setting fixtures of French media will be entrusted to a woman’s voice.

Extra: Histoires du Monde 🇫🇷 by Anthony Bellanger is a ligher look at geopolitics through funny — but always telling — stories Bellanger gleans in the foreign press. You’ll occasionally find his anecdotes illustrating my own work in Borderline. (Imagine if American mass media made this much room for high-quality world news…)

The interviews

The Europeans 🇪🇺 are Katy Lee in Paris and Dominic Kraemer in Amsterdam. Their podcast was born of a damning observation: many of us news nerds in Europe are more familiar with the political agenda in Washington DC than in our own backyard. Touché. Their podcast comments on top news and brings in guests from around the Old Continent.

Each week on G Zero World 🇺🇸, Ian Bremmer interviews world leaders, journalists and activists about the global agenda. His address book is unparalleled among geopolitical nerds.

Ian Bremmer was on Borderline too last year, predicting 2021. Did we get it right?

Foreign Policy Playlist 🇺🇸 has mastered the low-investment route to good geopolitical podcasting – curate other people’s work. Every episode highlights a good podcast from around the world and plays an excerpt. A good tool to keep this list fresh.

Got other geopolitical podcasts to recommend? Do tell.

PodcastBehind the scenesGeopolitics

Isabelle Roughol

Journalist. Founder & host of Borderline. Former international editor of LinkedIn, foreign editor at Le Figaro, reporter at The Cambodia Daily. Global soul, messy accent.


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