Public Radio’s Top Podcasts: NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Fresh Air, Planet Money, The Take, The Tavis Smiley Show, Up First, The Last Word, This American Life

Top 10 Podcasts From Public Radio Broadcasters

Public radio broadcasters rely on listener donations, corporate underwriting and annual grants from the publicly funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting. NPR’s flagship shows, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, draw audiences of 14.9 million and 14.7 million respectively.

News reports and private messages have circulated among NPR staffers expressing concern that the network is hemorrhaging hosts from marginalized backgrounds. Meet the faces behind some of NPR’s most popular shows.

Morning Edition

Waking up is hard to do, but NPR’s Morning Edition makes it a little easier with two hours of up-to-the-minute news and background analysis. Featuring interviews with newsmakers, commentaries and arts and culture stories.

Each hour begins with a sixty-second news “billboard” read by a local announcer, followed by the NPR newscast. The second segment, known as the “B” segment, consists of features or commentary.

All Things Considered

NPR’s most listened-to afternoon drive-time news program features the biggest stories of the day, thoughtful commentaries and insightful feature reports on arts and culture, music and entertainment brought alive through sound. Weekdays from 4-7 p.m. ET and weekend All Things Considered from 5-6 p.m. ET.

NPR also manages the Public Radio Satellite System and acts as a distribution network for production and distributors like American Public Media and Public Radio Exchange, which merged with NPR in 2018. It also distributes news from its Washington desk.

Fresh Air

NPR, the country’s leading public radio network, features news and classical music programs on local stations. It also produces national programs including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

NPR digital platforms, such as the NPR One app, saw increased average completed sessions among iPhone users in 2022. Individual giving and underwriting remain key sources of revenue for NPR news outlets.

Planet Money

Planet Money is an award-winning economics podcast known for its innovative storytelling. Its stories aren’t dry, academic lectures, but rather colorful explorations of the world around us.

One example is the episode in which they bought a superhero and followed it through its journey, from the creation of the character to its licensing and derivatives. This lesson plan teaches students about how that journey is a microcosm of the global economy.

The Take

The Take features a power trio of musicians with impressive pedigrees. They’ve played in bands like Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags, and Madball. Their videos include “Toxic Takeaways” and “What Does It Meme.”

It’s icky wish-fulfillment to watch big ugly American Sean Briar go after the incompetent French police and blow past his questioning superiors. But hey, it’s entertainment. Rated R for violence, nudity and some foul language.

The Tavis Smiley Show

When it comes to delivering thought-provoking content, The Tavis Smiley Show delivers. The show’s schedule caters to a variety of lifestyles, making it easy for people to tune in.

Tavis Smiley is a renowned talk show host, author, publisher, philanthropist and advocate. He doesn’t shrink from controversy, and he’s never afraid to take a stand. He’s also an experienced moderator, and has hosted live presidential candidate forums for both parties.

Up First

Up First is a great podcast series for people that want to get their morning news quick. Each episode is under 15 minutes and covers three stories that are the biggest news of the day.

NPR’s rigorous reporting and unsurpassed storytelling connect with millions of Americans every day, on the air, online and in person. Their stories make a difference in our country’s lives and help us better understand each other.

The Last Word

The Last Word features in-depth interviews with notable personalities—often conducted on the understanding that they will not be published until after the subject’s death. It’s like a definitive hagiography, but with more comedy.

These examples are automatically compiled from various online sources, and do not represent the opinions of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

A classic citrusy cocktail long tucked away in an old book is pushed back into the limelight.

This American Life

Described as “a sort of dramatized, nonfiction journalism,” this public radio show offers stories with compelling people at the center, funny moments, big feelings and surprising plot twists. This American Life was the first public-radio series to spin off a TV adaptation, which ran on the Showtime network for two seasons.

The episodes are designed to run in three acts and can be used as lecture material or for a class assignment. Instructors should be aware of the show’s liberal bias and potential for student frustration with an overabundance of material.

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