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Podcasts Servant of Pod with Nick Quah
Jody Avirgan: The Ghosts of the 2016 Elections

The 2016 presidential election cycle left a deep mark on the podcast world. Few know this better than Jody Avirgan, who produced the popular FiveThirtyEight podcast through that cycle. Though he’s sitting the 2020 cycle out, opting instead to make This Day In Esoteric Political History with the Radiotopia network, Avirgan still has a lot to say about the way podcasts cover the elections. In this episode, Nick and Jody look back on the 2016 politics podcast explosion.

Chapo Trap House

Keepin’ it 1600

Pod Save America

Slate Political Gabfest

Another Round

On The Media

California Love

Episode 9 Transcript: Jody Avirgan: The Ghosts of the 2016 Elections

Season 1, Episode 9

Thu, 8/27 6:01PM • 29:07


podcast, election, feel, moment, people, media, jody, politics, talking, shows, history, lessons, political, thought, world, pod, host, unprecedented, compelling, chemistry


Keeping It 1600 Excerpt, Nick Quah, On The Media Excerpt, Excerpt from Another Round, Jody Avirgan (Excerpt from Five Thirty-Eight), Jody Avirgan

Jody Avirgan 00:01

In 2016, I think it was more just like, this is such a massive story. There was like, an endless appetite for content about this story. And so podcasting was going to kind of take off in that way.

Nick Quah 00:16

From LAist Studios, this is Servant of Pod. I'm Nick Quah. Today, we look back on the 2016 election podcast explosion with Jody Avirgan, host of This Day in Esoteric Political History. Jody Avirgan's journey into the world of election podcasts was half strategic, and half baptism by fire. A few years ago, he knew he wanted to cover the 2016 election and found a home at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver's data driven political news and analysis website.

Jody Avirgan (Excerpt from Five Thirty-Eight) 00:52

Hello, and welcome to the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast. My name is Jody Avirgan. There are just three weeks left until Election Day, and we are going to focus on who plans on turning out and which groups of voters could make the difference for either party. In particular, we will talk about the gender gap and how-- [Fade]

Nick Quah 01:06

Jody knew that their podcast project was a good idea. But he couldn't have known just how big it would become.

Jody Avirgan 01:13

When you have a story that is that overwhelming, yeah, it's gonna lift all the boats. And so you know, I think I've even, with you, chatted about kind of like, if you're in Brazil, and there's a World Cup--

Nick Quah 01:25


Jody Avirgan 01:25

--And you have a World Cup podcast, your podcast is going to be big, just because the story is that big. Now I also think there were particular things about podcasting, and particular things about the show that we were working on, and the other shows that were successful, that helped. But I also--I don't want to dismiss the fact that it's just a massive story. And when you're covering a massive story, you feel it. And you know, I felt it like, immediately, right?

Nick Quah 01:45


Jody Avirgan 01:45

We formally launched that show pretty late. And within two weeks, the show felt fully formed, like it had its own sort of backstory, its own sort of history. We were getting letters from people referencing stuff that we had been--said on the show, as if it's stuff we said all the time when we'd actually done like two episodes. Like I could just feel the like, rocket ship of that show, but also just the news taking off, and it never really slowed down. Ever, I guess.

Nick Quah 02:10

When people were responding to the show strongly, what were they responding to? What did they want from you guys, from your perspective?

Jody Avirgan 02:18

It's interesting. I mean, I think, you know, certainly at FiveThirtyEight, the ethos is, we're going to help cut through the bull**** narratives and try and bring some data-centric, more empirical analysis and context. And so, I think, when you find yourself in an election, and in a world that feels like it is sprinting away from rationality and empiricism, you know, there's a certain sector of the population that kind of really responds to media or conversation that tries to really like, hold on to that. I also think--and this gets to some of my kind of basic ideas just about why podcasting is powerful--I also think people responded to just like, the nature of the group that we had, and the chemistry that we had, and the fact that, you know, this was intentional, like we worked a lot on like, the chemistry on the show, and recognize that that was a big part of the show. And there was even a point, I think it wasn't until 2017, but Micah Cohen, one of the co-hosts of the show, I think he asked at one point, he said, you know, is there anyone out there who listens to this podcast who doesn't like politics or doesn't follow politics? And we got, like, we got dozens and dozens of emails back from people saying, "Yeah, I just kind of like hanging out with you." And it was just such a nice reminder that this medium in particular is about chemistry and intimacy, and all those buzzwords that we maybe feel a little icky about, because they're buzzwords, but they are actually true, you know, and that was a big part of it, is I think we just had a show with good chemistry, and people like to spend time with us.

Nick Quah 03:51

Well, that sort of like, chemistry-driven, conversational format seemed to be like, the format standard for the genre. Thinking about the other ones, like Slate's Political Gabfest--been around for a very long time--it kind of feels like this sort of like, master--

Jody Avirgan 04:03


Nick Quah 04:03

--format here. And then, you know, there was the NPR Politics podcast, I think one of the critiques that came out after 2016 was that the format itself was part of this problem in which like, it created this sense of a self-reinforcing bubble.

Jody Avirgan 04:18

So you know, I will offer a mild defense there of like, the bubble, in the sense of like, you want to have your world, you want to have your lingo, you want to feel like people want to join something that feels familiar. You know, that doesn't mean that you can't introduce new perspectives, and new voices, and so forth. But I also think people like their comfort zone; it's called a comfort zone for a reason. You know, I will say on the FiveThirtyEight podcast, one of the things that I really liked about doing it and just kind of one of the reasons I wanted to work at FiveThirtyEight was because I found this challenge of marrying, kind of dispassionate, analytical approach with what we need to show some personality to be very compelling and like, I thought that was one of the successful things of that podcast was, it took a site and a kind of journalism that sometimes can be a little more difficult to find quote-unquote "voice." And on the podcast, you know it naturally, you know, in every sense of the word has to have voice. And I thought that was really healthy for the site. I kind of liked the little tension there between those two sides of the site. And it was something we always played with, and was at times challenging too, to find that line. But I found that particularly compelling, as just someone who was trying to make the thing each week.

Nick Quah 05:32

Let's go back to 2016 a little more.

Jody Avirgan 05:34

You should charge me for therapy. Let's go back to 2016 a little more. Let's really like--let's pick at those scabs. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 05:40

Yeah, that's--I mean, I wasn't going to actually go to a not too far direction there. So 2016 was--that election cycle, I feel, was very formative for me writing about podcasts because I was watching this cohort grow up. And, you know, when I think about that period, I think about like, there's a couple of moments that really stood out to me of like, oh, there's something with this medium that's really punching well above its weight, and the proliferation of like, FiveThirtyEight, and NPR Politics, and that kind of show was a big part of that. But it was also these sort of really key tangible moments, like when Hillary Clinton showed up on Another Round, for example.

Excerpt from Another Round 06:15

Well, before we get started, we saved you some bourbon. We don't know if you'll partake. I've got so much still to do. If it were--if this were the last event of my day, I would take you up on it. So we'll raincheck that. Next time. Okay, raincheck, got it. And since you won't drink it, I guess I'll have to. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 06:30

So that moment was where I started feeling that the old rules didn't apply anymore, that there was an opportunity here for something new. Do you remember that episode?

Jody Avirgan 06:38

I do remember that episode. That was relatively late that they announced it and you don't, I mean, I don't know. At the time like, that didn't pop to me as necessarily a sign of like, oh, podcasting has, has reached a new level and maybe I felt like... Well, let me put it this way: after the election, I did an interview with someone who said like, do you think podcasting had an effect on this election? And you know, to me, I think the answer was pretty clearly no. Like, I think podcasting had a moment. It was replacing a lot of legacy media. It was like, convening a certain kind of conversation, but I don't think it reached a level where it was like, shifting one way or another. You know, I'm curious what you think. I wouldn't be surprised if even maybe by 2018, that answer might have been slightly different.

Nick Quah 07:27


Jody Avirgan 07:27

You know?

Nick Quah 07:28

By that time we had institutions built, like, The Daily, for example.

Jody Avirgan 07:32

Yeah. And even like, we haven't mentioned Pod Save America, which I think, you know--

Nick Quah 07:36


Jody Avirgan 07:37

--at the time, was Keeping It 1600, and then turned into Pod Save America, you know, and I mean, I think like, they obviously--very different kind of charge than a place like FiveThirtyEight. But, you know, by the time they got to 2018, they were really like, organizing and mobilizing, and I think like maybe did have like, some effect. And it's hard to disentangle all these things, because there was already going to be a wave in 2018, and so were they just more a reflection of it than a cause? You know, but I think, um--

Nick Quah 08:01


Jody Avirgan 08:02

But I do think like, at that point, they were showing the power of a podcast to like, organize people in a really compelling way. And I think I, you know, there's equivalence on the right as well. But in 2016, I think it was more just like, this is such a massive story. There was like, an endless appetite for content about this story.

Nick Quah 08:22


Jody Avirgan 08:22

So podcasting was going to kind of take off in that way.

Nick Quah 08:26

Yeah, Pod Save America was definitely something that I want to talk about. It was one of the moments that really stood out to me, was the creation of Keeping It 1600, but--

Jody Avirgan 08:32


Nick Quah 08:32

So, that question that you raised here, like, whether podcasting had any impact, for the most part, for a long time, I think I came down where you do, which is, the answer's no. I--it was--the election forged that genre, and it forged the medium in a lot of ways, but ultimately, it didn't lead to any sort of specific outcomes. And I think I've kind of softened on that position. Because I think this is like the eternal question with news media in particular, sort of, do we--are we overestimating its impact in some ways, and are we underestimating its impact in other ways? And I feel like here, for me, I--no, I don't think it had a direct impact that like, it didn't change the outcome of a race. But it did, I feel, like, solidify certain feelings. And it did sort of contribute to this culture of like, politics as entertainment. And I don't I don't think that's insignificant or immaterial.

Jody Avirgan 09:21

Well, and you know, and to your point about bubbles, I mean, I think certainly, like, you look at the taxonomy of like, Chapo Trap House, and Pod Save America, Joe Rogan, Ben Shapiro, you know, like, I think you certainly can see, you know, we're living in an age of these bubbles, and these silos, and podcasts are either reflecting or reinforcing that, and so forth.

Nick Quah 09:39


Jody Avirgan 09:39

I'm gonna say something very glib here, but like, to the--and that I'm thinking of for the first time--but like to your question of "did it affect the race," like, one concrete example of in favor of saying it did not affect the race is that for several weeks on the FiveThirtyEight podcast, we were sitting there going, "the Midwest might be a problem for Hillary Clinton," like, "she may want to go there" like, "we may want--" like, and they didn't, in a way that maybe they should've, and um--

Nick Quah 10:01


Jody Avirgan 10:02

And we ended up where we did. Again, that's glib, but like, you know, in a world in which the most influential people are listening to the podcast, and taking their cues, and it has like, the kind of real impact that maybe other mediums have, or had in the past, maybe Nate says, you know, "Michigan seems like it could be a problem." And the Clinton campaign sort of realizes that. You know, there's a million reasons why Clinton didn't win that campaign. The Comey letter was--no one could have expected that, you know, we can get into all that. But, um--

Nick Quah 10:30

Hyper-chaotic, multivariable reality.

Jody Avirgan 10:32

When we sit here, and we make the list of "media that affected the 2016 election," you put Facebook up there, you maybe put Twitter up there. I don't think podcasting is in that echelon.

Nick Quah 10:45

Yeah, I mean, I'm absolutely not. And I think that's--that's a bit of the point here is sort of, while it did not play that outsized of a role, like, it did play some role, and that is not insignificant, I think, and for, especially, people who were activated by those podcasts. So it, I think, kind of leads me to the second thing that really sort of stood out to me during 2016, which is even then, I felt like when shows like Keeping It 1600 came out, when Chapo started like, bubbling up, when the New York Times released The Run-Up, I had this sort of, really, this big sense that we're looking at the beginning of some institutions here. And it kind of happened that way, especially after 2016 turned out the way it did. Like, a lot of the big shows we have today were sort of seeded in that moment.

Jody Avirgan 11:27


Nick Quah 11:27

And I don't know if you felt that way, when you sort of saw the early versions of those in 2016. But like, I remember listening to those shows, and like, "I think this is gonna be around for a long time."

Jody Avirgan 11:36

I maybe didn't feel it as--in a way, because when you're in it, you know, it's more just like, "we're covering a story." And I just want to get to like, November, you know, and get some sleep. And I could tell that like others were doing that same thing. But I will also say, immediately after the election, I recognized that a) you know, news is not going anywhere, and this conversation that 2016 prompted is not going anywhere, and we're gonna have to, we're gonna have to grapple with our new reality for years to come. But the other thing I recognized was that, you know, I'm a sort of watcher of the podcast space as well, and I recognized like, oh, all of these politics podcasts have like, a pivot moment right now. There's like, a real challenge in front of them right now. And I just sort of like, could see how each show grappled with that moment. I didn't have much time to listen to all the shows, but I did go and listen to everyone's first episode after the election, just to hear kind of how they took it on, because it was so--I mean, for us, you know, that was one of the more memorable shows I've ever hosted, and it was just kind of like a big moment. I think it had a--and it was sort of polarizing, and a lot of people kind of like, couldn't listen to it, or listen to it and then unsubscribed, or listened to it and felt like, a deeper bond with the show, but you know, like, I could tell Keeping It 1600, maybe they had changed to Pod Save America by that point, had the biggest challenge in that moment.

Nick Quah 12:57

Right, they had the big "mea culpa" episode.

Keeping It 1600 Excerpt 12:59

We've all grown up in the Obama administration, and we were taught to not worry about the horse race, and focus on the substance, and focus on the stakes, and keep our heads down. And I think it's fair to say that, at times on this podcast, we got away from that. You know what, though--? And and I, and I just, I just want to, I want to say that I think going forward, it's going to do us all some good to focus a little less on what's going to happen in politics, and a little more on what the stakes are for real people.

Jody Avirgan 13:28

Yeah. And I thought that was right. And I thought they nailed it. And I thought that they had the most divergent paths, like, you know, maybe this is too extreme, but I think there was some version of their first show after the election, that doesn't go well. And that thing maybe completely falls apart or something. And I've talked to them a little bit about that. And they recognize that that was like a big moment. And it wasn't just about a mea culpa for them, I think it was about a like, we've learned some lessons and we are going to, you know, put one foot in front of the other and go forward in this way. The Slate Gabfest, I think I've just always admired that. It has a lot of the sort of core ingredients we've been talking about. And I think that they, you know, throughout the election and post election were just, in many ways, best positioned to just say, like, we are who we are, you know, like, we've always been a show that has just kind of like, tried to be clear eyed about the world and all the complexities of it. So they were able, I think, to just kind of keep moving forward. And every other show had like, you know, their lane and their angle, and they had to sort of like grapple with that lane in that angle in the new reality.

Nick Quah 14:26

I think the the post-election episode that I remember the most is the one from On The Media, which I know you're a big fan of.

On The Media Excerpt 14:32

I hope that it's some sort of clarion call, but you know, what I most hope--Brooke, and Kat, and producers, and audience, is that we are not all passengers on the ship of fools. What the **** does that mean? I don't know what that means, either. What's, what does it mean? Why would you want to end on the line of we're all going to hell?

Nick Quah 14:55

That, to me like, that's, I feel like--I think it really captures the moment.

Jody Avirgan 14:59

Yeah, I know. I mean, on our show, you know, we had a really tough episode. And we had a lot of like back and forth. And, you know, I was in a--I was, more than anything, I was just tired. But you know, I was in a place where I was like, really, I was hit. Yeah, there's a bit of a trope of like, FiveThirtyEight and others sort of botched the 2016 elections in terms of prediction, and I, you know, I have all sorts of ideas about why I thought FiveThirtyEight actually did a pretty good job of predicting it and, you know, 30% chance things happen all the time. You know, but I will say, like, the way that I described kind of the mood in that room, and the way the site sort of met that moment, was, you know, shocked, but not surprised, was kind of where my head was at. And I think like, I wanted to be honest to those feelings. And I remember, you know, in those conversations, like, we were like, "Well, this was, you know, this was something we expected could happen, and it happened in x, y, and z ways." And this is going to set up a really compelling, and interesting, and unprecedented moment in American politics. And you know, I remember asking on that show, like, you know, but at what cost? And I think that those conversations, like, you know, yeah, that broken Bob exchange is perfect. You know, it's like you have your right brain and your left brain and they're just like, smashing together in real time. And you have to just kind of like, be honest to that.

Nick Quah 16:13


Jody Avirgan 16:14

And again, I think podcasts are really good for that. Podcasts are really good for like, talking through what you know and don't know. And so I was just grateful to have that space to sort of process, while at the same time trying to help make sense of it.

Nick Quah 16:30

So after the 2016 crunch, Jody wasn't going to do another elections podcast for 2020. He's done with that type of grind. But he's not done with politics. More in a minute.

Jody Avirgan 16:58

Hello, and welcome to This Day in Esoteric Political History from Radiotopia. My name is Jody Avirgan. This day: July 16, 1863. Riots are spreading throughout New York City. They'd started a couple days earlier in lower Manhattan. Now they have spread to Brooklyn and Staten Island. Houses and businesses burning, mobs of people with bats and clubs roaming the streets, and the reason? A civil war draft. The riot was in response to a new draft that had been-- [Fades]

Nick Quah 17:28

You might notice nowadays that Jody isn't talking about election polls. Instead, he is co-hosting This Day in Esoteric Political History with Columbia political historian Nicole Hemmer.

Jody Avirgan 17:39

You, earlier, kind of asked me what I learned throughout 2016. One of the things I've definitely learned about myself as a host is I think I really like to be surrounded by people who are smarter than me, and experts. So like, having Nikki, who's actually a historian is really wonderful. And you know, I love talking with her but she also just like, knows her stuff. It's really nice. And that's definitely growth on my part, to realize that like, oh, you're better if you're the least smart person in the room.

Nick Quah 18:07

Yeah, and it feels like this is--it feels like you're--you can take a little bit of a breather with the show.

Jody Avirgan 18:13

Yeah, well, it's a little bit of a breather in that, you know, we intentionally are not talking about the latest, you know, crazy thing that has happened in the world. We're looking at history and then trying to sort of draw some connections. But I think it also--I wanted to do this show, and in general, I'm very drawn to history. And I think like, you can see it in the rise of media over the last few years, like, history is having a moment. I think people are looking to the past, people are recognizing that there are lessons from the past, not tidy lessons, but like things to, you know, like I was saying before, things that can kind of give you space to think and process. And so, you know, we did some historical stuff at FiveThirtyEight. Some of my favorite moments were when we would just look at a past election and sort of draw some lessons. And then my work at 30 For 30. You know, that's a history podcast and I really liked doing stuff there that was about the past but, you know, the themes and the lessons and some of the echoes were very apparent and would help us process this current moment. And this show is very much inclined towards that as well. And I've really, personally, and I think we're hearing from audiences, that that's happening. Like, people are just sort of appreciating hearing something from the past that again, like, walks you right up to the edge of then giving you some, you know, a few more tools to help process the present.

Nick Quah 19:30

Right. So I'm--I listen to the show a bunch, big fan of it.

Jody Avirgan 19:34

Thank you.

Nick Quah 19:34

This sort of thing of talking about a moment in history--could be 40 years ago, it could be 100 years ago, and trying to rhyme it at the present somehow. And whenever I listen to the show, I am both comforted by the feeling that this too shall pass--that's--that was a--that's a big reason why I go to this show is to get that a little bit of salve that way, but I also get a bit of some of melancholia associated with like, "ah, ***, we're doing this again? We're going through this again?"

Jody Avirgan 20:03

That's very well articulated, kind of like, what history does to us. I, you know, that first one is one that I've always been a little uncomfortable with, like, I don't want history to be a salve, right? I don't want history to be something of like, well that--"we got through that, so we will get through this," and like, well, we got through that, and a lot of people suffered, and a lot of people had to work really hard--

Nick Quah 20:25

And a lot of people died.

Jody Avirgan 20:26

--and a lot of people--yeah, and a lot of people like, put their ass on the line to effect change, and, you know, and so that's as much of a lesson as "this too shall pass." But I also, again, don't want to dismiss that simple comfort of just like, you know, and with the Coronavirus in particular, like, this happens to me all the time, like I have, I just have to keep reminding myself that like, this is a temporary thing, this pandemic, like a year from now--oh god, I'm going to say something that I might regret. But like, no matter how incompetent our government is, like, a year from now, the pandemic will probably be over, and I have to remind myself of that, while at the same time recognizing how awful it is, and all the other things that shows us about the state of our country and so forth. So, you know, I think yes, you're right. History kind of does that for me, but then, oh, God, the like, we're repeating ourselves. We're making all the same mistakes of the past. I mean, that is just like, you know, that has emerged as probably the number one theme from the show, and I don't know what to do with that other than to say, like, let's try and not make those mistakes again.

Nick Quah 21:30

Does working on this show make you reconsider the use of the word unprecedented?

Jody Avirgan 21:35

Yeah, it does. I think it might be in the show description. But you know, it probably--we should probably take it out. But here's why I don't want to use unprecedented. Like, I don't think we need to measure. It's not a competition between the present and the past.

Nick Quah 21:49


Jody Avirgan 21:49

What we're feeling now is real. What we're feeling now, like, you know, and I hate using the past as like, a weapon to dismiss the present, what happened in the past was intense, and hard, and we should learn lessons, and what's happening now is real, and intense, and hard, and we have to confront it, and, you know, we should not diminish it using the past. So, you know, "unprecedented" has a little hint of that. So you know, I mean, like "tumultuous times," is probably the right phrase and it just sort of acknowledges what's, well, that we're actually living through, you know, some real stuff.

Nick Quah 22:23

One of the greater linguistic cliches, "tumultuous."

Jody Avirgan 22:26

I know, I know. But, you know, these words exist for a reason. They keep getting trotted out for a reason.

Nick Quah 22:31

I want to wrap up by looking at the broader sort of election-slash-political podcast landscape today. We're seeing a lot more right-wing, conservative podcasts in 2020, which now I feel like challenges this narrative about podcasting that it is sort of like, a largely left-leaning medium, both in terms of its production and consumption. Are you seeing the same thing at all?

Jody Avirgan 22:55

I think, I mean, I think it's--look, the right has always had talk radio. And, you know, I think we still undervalue how critical talk radio has been to the right over the last year.

Nick Quah 23:04

I believe your co-host is somebody who wrote a book on that.

Jody Avirgan 23:07

Correct. And Nikki's whole thing is she looks at sort of conservative media, you know, this is the cliche, the right is always on talk radio, the left has never been able to kind of get there. And they tried Air America and so forth. And podcasts may be kind of starting to reach that, you know, I mean, I think on the right, I think as the medium grows, you will inevitably see the various factions in our country find their way into the medium. And you know, and obviously, like Joe Rogan is a really good example of a sort of not traditionally left-wing podcast empire growing, and I think Ben Shapiro has a lot of listeners as well. And so you know, you're seeing that, but I still don't feel like there's the electricity around a right-wing podcasting ecosystem as there is on the left, even in this cycle. But you know, maybe I'm wrong. But yes, I agree. I mean, like there's a podcast called We The Fifth, which I often disagree with vehemently in terms of their politics, but I think it's a wonderful podcast in terms of its good faith, and I think it is--got really good chemistry and so forth. And that's a show that is like, convening--you can tell it's convening a lane, and it's building its audience, and I think it's gonna have a big year, I think you're certainly starting to see that it's not just lefty podcasts out there.

Nick Quah 24:20

The other thing that I feel is a pretty stark observation to have is that there's just fewer new political podcasts. There's fewer show generation. And I kind of feel like I have two prevailing theories here, maybe they're both in cahoots. One is the fact that you know, we're going through a pandemic, it is the all consuming story, and it just feels like the lane is not clogged. So not just political podcasts, like Pod Save America and everything Crooked Media, but also just the proliferation of news podcasts.

Jody Avirgan 24:50

Yeah, like daily shows, yeah.

Nick Quah 24:51

Exactly, a daily news podcast. And it feels like a lot of the functions that a new political election podcast would have served are largely taken up by other news podcasts or these prevailing-from-2016 political podcasts, like FiveThirtyEight, like Pod Save America.

Jody Avirgan 25:08

You know, I think a lot of that has to do with, the pandemic took over. And I also think like, there's going to be this interesting moment. It's going to come later than it often does, but I think there is going to be a moment in like, August or September, where people are gonna say, "Oh, right, the election, right," and sort of snap back in there. And so who knows, but the notion of starting an elections podcast right now actually feels really, like, weird, and off, and like, not of the moment, even though like, we are having the most important election of our lives. And to say it's weird to have something like, dedicated to that? I don't know. I'm trying to sort of process through that feeling. I will say though, it is a moment where every story feels like it is connected. Every story is intertwined. You can't talk about politics without talking about race, without talking about voter access, without talking about the pandemic, without-- --talking about inequality, and elections refract those things and they've always been about everything. But a show that is like, we're going to look at the mechanics of the election, and we're just going to follow the twists and turns of the election feels like, inadequate for the moment in the way that we were describing, like, I think the best approach to the moment now is like, open, and versatile, and like, able to take all these different strands that are colliding together and talk about them. And so yeah, weirdly, I feel like the Slate Gabfests of the world, which were always wired that way, which were never like, "here's our little segment in our little specific perspective," it was more like "we're just smart, interesting, people who are gonna try and process the world," those shows, I think, are going to be in a good position. Because that's just kind of what this moment is demanding of us, is like, more kind of bigger thinking. And then the daily shows are interesting, too. But I think the daily shows do that too. Like, they can just do one angle one day, another angle the other day, another angle the other day, and in totality then feel like they're sort of taking on every strand that is swirling right now.

Nick Quah 25:54

Right. So essentially, the task right now is to piece the world together.

Jody Avirgan 27:00

Yeah, I think that's right, and to just like give yourself the space and the ability to, like, be open to a moment where all the rules are out and all the conversations are colliding. And, you know, I think that's one of the, like, hopeful things about this moment, is that we're living in a politics of people recognizing that everything is connected, right? And that you can't just kind of like, have your opinions about economics without being forced to think about race, and you can't have your opinions about race without being forced to think about inequality. You can't think about schools without thinking about housing and like, you know, just kind of like--

Nick Quah 27:36


Jody Avirgan 27:36

--we have to have our head around all of these things together.

Nick Quah 27:40

What are you listening to these days that you're enjoying?

Jody Avirgan 27:44

I--you mentioned On The Media. I still think that On The Media is one of the best shows. I was really excited to join Radiotopia, just because I think, you know, they have shows like The Heart, which just came back to Radiotopia, and Everything is Alive--it's kind of amazing to say that I have any sort of affiliation with the--with shows like that. Ear Hustle. There's a new show--man, this sounds like I'm gonna be a shill. But this new show from LAist, California Love, like, I'm really impressed by that. It's--you know, it sounds fantastic. I still really like Fresh Air.

Nick Quah 28:14

They're the staples, the classics.

Jody Avirgan 28:15

Yeah. Yeah.

Nick Quah 28:16

Jody, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate this.

Jody Avirgan 28:19

Nick, thank you. Yeah, this was great.

Nick Quah 28:31

Servant of Pod is written and hosted by me, Nick Quah. You can check out more episodes at LAist dot com slash Servant of Pod. Web design by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Logo and branding by Leo G. Thanks to the team at LAist Studios: Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G. Servant of Pod is a production of LAist Studios.

This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.