Podcasting Is the New Soft Diplomacy

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The idea, she explained over lunch this week, is simple. Haultain always maintained a relationship with America. For decades, that relationship was forged through watching The Wire and reading books like The Art of Fielding and stacking up back issues of The New Yorker next to her bedside. Haultain’s husband and daughter can recite every line from the Australia episode of The Simpsons.

But around the time Donald Trump announced he was running for president, podcasts began to elbow their way into that relationship. These days, the person explaining the wonders and outrages of America is as likely to be New York Times podcast host Michael Barbaro as it is Homer Simpson.

“I listen to The Daily,” Haultain said. “I listen to Up First on NPR. I listen to Trumpcast. I listen to Ezra Klein on Vox. I listen to Mike Pesca on The Gist. Then I have a whole bunch of historical ones. I just listened to Slow Burn on Slate.”

She has also listened to This American Life, Serial, and the Bela Lugosi–Boris Karloff episodes of You Must Remember This.

Haultain works for an Australian foundation that focuses on legal issues, so her media diet can’t be totally American. She listens to local news while riding the light rail to work each morning. But on the way home — and at night, and on weekends — the voices in her ears are Barbaro’s and Pesca’s and Steve Inskeep’s.

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