Behind the Scenes

Our Media Thanksgiving List

The podcasts, websites, and apps Slate-sters are thankful for.

Thanksgiving cornucopia
We’re thankful for a bountiful cornucopia of media delights.

Photo illustration by Ellie Skrzat. Photo by Jennifer Barrow/Thinkstock.

In true Thanksgiving tradition, Slate Plus asked Slate staffers to share what they’re most thankful for in the media world this year. Here are the websites, podcasts, apps, and more that Slate-sters said filled them up with gratitude.

June Thomas, culture critic and Outward editor

I’ve been a stationery nerd for as long as I can remember, but 2014 was the year I discovered a genre that marries two of my great loves: writing instruments and podcasts. The Pen Addict podcast is more than two years old, but every week pen blogger Brad Dowdy and podcast entrepreneur Myke Hurley, spend an hour or so prattling on delightfully about “the analogue tools we love so dearly.” A newer arrival on the scene is Erasable, a biweekly show “by and for those who love wooden pencils.” The three hosts—Johnny Gamber, Tim Wasem, and Andy Welfie—are graphite-obsessed, funny, and great company.  

Laura Helmuth, science and health editor

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for science Twitter. There’s a huge community of science writers, students, scientists, and others who just love talking on Twitter about science and who use Twitter very effectively to stick up for science and justice. One of my favorite recent science Twitter eruptions was Manicure Monday, when scientists hijacked a Seventeen magazine hashtag to show off all the fun stuff you can do with your hands that doesn’t involve nail polish. More recently, after an astronomer wore a sexy ladies shirt while announcing the landing of a spacecraft on a comet, science Twitter came up with a great hashtag, #scishirt, for scientists to show off their geekiest, funniest, nonsexist-iest shirts. Speaking of which, I need to go tweet a photo of my Teach the Controversy T-shirts.

Katy Waldman, words correspondent

Two podcasts I’m loving (and I’m sure I’m very late to both of them!): Nerdette, hosted by Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda, and Pitch, from Whitney Jones and Alex Kapelman. The first is just fascinating, good-humored interviews with the creators of nerd culture—defined broadly as anything you might get excited about—and the second is music history and theory plus lovely, evocative production. (Don’t miss the delightful episode in which second-graders create sound poems by interpreting wiggly lines as vocal scores!) 

Aisha Harris, staff writer

I am thankful for the site Anyone who’s ever watched a Gene Kelly movie can attest to the wonderfulness that is (was?) his posterior. That such a shrine to one of cinema’s greatest gifts actually exists is a testament to the social good the Internet can accomplish.

Jeff Friedrich, associate editor

I’m thankful for Jesse Brown’s Canadaland podcast! Forthright, smart, kinda righteous-sounding interviews and media criticism, from a Canadian perspective.

David Plotz, host of Slate’s Political Gabfest

I’m thankful this year, as in so many years, for Jason Kottke and He finds what I want to find before I know I want to find it. And he doesn’t make a big production out of it: It’s simple, smart, and clean. 

Laura Anderson, assistant editor

I am thankful for Carolyn Hax, who, despite having written an advice column for the Washington Post for 17 years straight, continues to give consistently wonderful, wise, witty advice in her column and weekly chats. 

Dan Kois, culture editor

I am thankful for Clickhole. Nearly every day, the Onion’s new parody viral site (and viral parody site) publishes something that makes me laugh while simultaneously throwing my hands up in the air like LOL NOTHING MATTERS.

Rachael Larimore, senior editor

For years, I’ve been resentful of Pinterest. It’s the territory in the mommy wars that has been staked out by smug stay-at-home moms who can craft homemade, hand-sculpted, multitiered birthday cakes. With rolled fondant! I effing hate fondant. But then I told my youngest son, 5, that I would make him a Minecraft Halloween costume. Not a terribly hard task—cardboard boxes, colored duct tape, a few hours of time—but time consuming, and I wanted some tips. So I sucked it up and actually registered. Pinned a few things. Survived Halloween. But as it turns out, there are plenty of things to check out on Pinterest that are not in any way smug or obnoxious. And as the mom of three picky eaters, I’m happy to search for recipes without trekking back and forth to the library for cookbooks. Even if they end up appealing only to me. Plus, there are cocktails

Betsy Woodruff, staff writer

I am profoundly grateful for the Umbrella app. It’s one of the few apps on my phone that I actually paid for (I think it was $2), and it’s more than worth it. The app sends an alert in the morning if it’s going to rain and, thus, if I should bring an umbrella to work. Life before this app was bleak, fraught, risky, and often drenched. Now that I have it, I no longer make frantic sprints to CVS to buy crappy $8 umbrellas that fall apart after three uses. I don’t know what this says about my life, but Umbrella has genuinely improved it. 

Abby McIntyre, copy editor

This year I‘m thankful for discovering, by way of their excellent book #Newsfail, the daily podcast Citizen Radio. Filled in equal parts with hilarious improv bits and radical progressive politics, it‘s an incredibly fun way to get an outside-the-mainstream look at the day’s news.

Ayana Morali, executive producer of Slate Video

The Discovery reality show Alaska: The Last Frontier is AMAZEBALLS.

Chris Kirk, interactives editor

Sure, the podcast renaissance is spawning great new podcasts like Serial and The Gist, but sometimes the old stuff works just as well. It’s a good thing Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast has been around since 2006; Carlin brings harsh, appalling history to life, and after you finish his latest series on World War I, you’ll find yourself plunging into those eight years of archives—and even paying for old episodes, for another fix. You’ll not only come away with a fascination with history you haven’t felt since you had that one hippie-haired history teacher in high school, you’ll feel a new appreciation for the modern world and its relatively trivial worries.

Jennifer Lai, associate editor

This year, I’m eternally grateful to Pocket, a free read-it-later app that has truly saved me from countless hours of heartbreak and frustration. Before discovering Pocket, I always felt overwhelmed by all of the articles I wanted to read later—there was never really a way to save them all in one easily accessible place, and it drove me insane. Email was clumsy, bookmarks never synced correctly, and neither of those solutions could be taken offline. Pocket essentially solved the question: “Now, what was that article again?” At the risk of sounding way too smitten with an app, Pocket has even changed my commute home—after work, I open up the app on my phone and voilà! All of the articles I’ve saved over the course of the day are ready for my long offline commute home. And if I want to pick up reading on my laptop when I get home, I can do that. Technology is magic!

Forrest Wickman, staff writer

This year I am thankful for Mail Kimp.