Discover more from Follow Friday
Should podcasters fact-check?
Plus: Succession impressions, In-N-Out's super-secret menu, and two wonderful podcasts about music.
Welcome to Follow Friday! Most of this week’s edition is a little different, because I got all mad about an Annoying Thing happening in the podcast-verse. But first, some fun recommendations…
The single best thing I saw online this week: I’m a couple months or years late to this, but consider me one of today’s lucky 10,000: Taylor Graysen and James Neal impressions of the Succession characters are just incredible, and I am making important plans to scroll back and watch all of their past videos. In particular, Neal deserves some sort of award for his Tom Wambsgans mouth-acting, as seen in the video above.
The best podcasts I’ve heard recently
I could take or leave the opening hour of banter in this episode of Get Played — it’s fun and entirely listenable, but it pales in comparison to the “music theory” segment that starts around 53 minutes in. Musician and Twitch streamer Zane Carney joins hosts Heather Anne Campbell, Nick Wiger, and Matt Apodaca to analyze some of their favorite pieces of music from the Legend of Zelda video games. Zane’s explanation of why the Great Fairy theme is basically jazz blew my mind, and that’s just the first one.
Via— Sentimental Garbage is a podcast about “the culture we love that society can sometimes make us feel ashamed of,” and I loved this recent episode about “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” as performed by Cyndi Lauper. Caroline O’Donoghue brings on Tom McInnes to (over-)analyze the song and it’s in equal measures hilarious and profound. Who really are the fortunate ones, and who gets to walk in the sun? Makes you think.
One more podcast-y thing: A must-read article, Spotify’s podcast plan is going off the rails. And hey, speaking of Spotify …
Thanks for reading Follow Friday! Subscribe for weekly podcast recommendations, links, videos and more. It’s free!
Why we need a standard for fact-checking in podcasts
This week I lurked in a Pew Research webinar, “The Pulse of Podcasts,” which was mainly about the most popular genres of podcasts and some trends among listeners. But a few minutes of the adjoining panel discussion got me really fired up.
For context: Pew had found in a survey that 87 percent of listeners expect the news they hear on podcasts to be “mostly accurate,” but that Republican podcast listeners were more likely than Democrats to trust what they hear, and to report they were hearing news on podcasts that they wouldn’t have heard elsewhere.
In a vacuum, there’s nothing wrong with considering alternative viewpoints. And the fact that people generally trust their favorite podcasts to tell them the truth is a credit to the intimacy of the medium. But as Post Reports co-host Elahe Izadi pointed out, that could be a “recipe for disaster” if those podcasts are spreading misinformation.
Alleged presidential candidate and confirmed conspiracy nutter Robert F. Kennedy Jr. recently appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience, repeating well-worn lies about the COVID-19 vaccine, with Rogan’s agreement and assistance. This is hardly the first time the show has endorsed dangerous misinformation, but the temperature is even hotter now: An actual vaccine scientist who tried to rebut Kennedy’s claims after the fact was harassed on and offline by fans of Rogan and Elon Musk, who also got involved because of course he did.
Spotify should take responsibility for this. They paid $200 million to own Rogan’s show and publish it exclusively on their platform… In an ideal world, a teeny tiny fraction of that treasury could be allocated towards fact-checking what guests say and, when necessary, providing listeners with more accurate corrections in the same episode.
“I make my podcast in my kitchen, pretty much just me,” said Bridget Todd, the host of There Are No Girls on the Internet, on the Pew panel. “Yet I can take the time to fact-check, I can take the time to make sure that I’m reporting things that are correct.”
“It’s a real problem when huge names in podcasting, people who take up a lot of space in the conversation, say things like, ‘Oh, well, I’m just a comedian. I don’t really know what I’m saying. How could I fact check?’” she added. “And the reality is, if you’re making millions of dollars a year through your podcast, you can fact-check. You can do some baseline editorial standards before you put this content out to millions of people.”
Surprise surprise, Spotify is not stepping up. To paraphrase Logan Roy, they are not serious people.
So, how do you end-run a lying host and a cowardly publisher? Here’s my pitch: A nonprofit, nonpartisan fact-checking organization.
Is it sexy? No. Would it convince everyone? Absolutely not. But it would be a step in the right direction.
The way I envision it, this organization would establish fact-checking standards for the industry. Working with professionals from established news organizations, it would teach podcasters how to fact-check their work; it would educate the public about how misinformation works and how to spot it themselves; and it would partner with podcast apps to apply labels to shows and episodes, indicating whatever level of fact-checking they’ve received: Was it done by someone who’s been through training? An anonymous producer? A third party?
That last option is the most important one: The Joe Rogans of the world are simply not going to opt in to fact-checking training. But donations to this nonprofit could pay for a team of top fact-checkers to review the content of shows that have not opted in, labeling misinformation ASAP after new episodes are published and inserting content warnings into the show notes via partner apps.
Another of the Pew panelists, TheGrio Daily host Michael Harriot, correctly observed that misinformation is not a unique problem to podcasting, and that many of the people who most need to be aware of inaccuracies are not going to seek out the truth.
“It’s inherent in all media. If you are into UFOs, you are not going to listen to the podcast that debunks everything: ‘That was a shadow in the sky,’ or ‘That was a lightning bug,’” he said. “People tend to gravitate towards the echo chamber which confirms whatever they think. … You could go a website and read about the aliens that attacked last night, or you read a book about it.”
Fact-checking isn’t a cure-all, and it doesn’t reach everyone. But as someone who loves working in podcasting, I sure would like to feel like we’re doing something to be better than UFO fansites.
As they say, the truth is out there.
The latest from LightningPod
Here’s what I’ve been producing and editing this week
On Grit, HashiCorp CEO Dave McJannet explained that leaders who want to scale their companies have to make something like 10 decisions every single day. “There’s generally one that really needs to be right, but there are eight that if you get them wrong, you will cause real damage to yourself,” he says. “It won’t be fatal, and a lot of times, it’s cultural damage.” He and Joubin Mirzadegan also discuss unstructured problem-solving, why companies grow like trees, misconceptions about CEOs, and more.
And on Lock and Code, Alethea CEO and founder Lisa Kaplan spoke with David Ruiz from Malwarebytes about why businesses need a disinformation defense plan. She explains where it comes from, how to detect it, and the consequences of letting it go unchecked: "I think this is more insidious than malware. I think it's more pervasive than traditional cyberattacks. But I don't think that you can separate disinformation from cybersecurity."
The best thing I’ve read this week
Before I lived on the west coast, every trip out here included a mandatory pit stop at In-N-Out Burger, which famously has a not-so-secret “secret menu.” For Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt visited an In-N-Out in Sausalito, CA for an excellent stunt: “Order and document every single item and option on the menu: Public, secret, super-duper-secret.” Even the staff gets into it:
"Hey—you're back. Still hungry?"
"Yep. I'm going to order a few more weird things."
"So, are you just trying to order everything on the menu?"
Sh*t, I thought to myself. The gig is up.
"Yeah...," I said sheepishly.
"Awesome! I've been waiting for this day ever since I started working here!"
It turns out that there really is a “super-duper-secret” menu. Despite my years of In-N-Out admiration, I had never heard of asking for chopped chilis, cold cheese (ew) or the Flying Dutchman. Or “light” fries:
Everyone knows that In-N-Out's fries are notoriously bad despite being fresh cut in-house—it's because they only fry them once instead of the superior McDonald's-style double-fry—but there are ways to improve them. First, you can get them extra crispy by saying well done. The fries turn out more dry and crunchy than crispy with a fluffy center, but it's a definite improvement. If you're on the opposite end of the spectrum, you can also request your fries light, where they'll come to your tray almost completely blond, limp, and greasy. I dunno. Some people like these, apparently.
Gross. Wrong. Bad. 🙅♂️.
Palate cleanser: Basket Case, but it’s classy af
Trust me and click these:
and Swag Dog