Out of the Campaign Flowerbed and Into Vox’s ‘The Weeds’
Caitlin LambSunday,31 January 2016
“It’s not meant to go viral, and it’s not meant to be for everyone.” That’s how Ezra Klein, Editor in Chief at Vox.com, described his latest endeavor, Vox’s podcast titled The Weeds. The first show aired on October 2, 2015, and Klein, along with Vox’s senior editor, Sarah Kliff, and one of their writers, Matthew Yglesias, have been doling out weekly shows and some mid-week specials ever since. So far, Klein’s words ring true; the podcast hasn’t quite gone viral yet, and it’s content certainly isn’t for everyone. But for those of us who can still hear the word “politics” and not roll at our eyes as visions of Trump standing at the podium, Vox’s The Weeds offers some political commentary that you won’t hear on the evening news. That isn’t to say that they don’t discuss the current election train wreck; it would take a saint to resist that urge. But their focus remains on the less-discussed topics of policy.
As mentioned, this content isn’t for everyone. If you are only interested in learning about the major debate topics that have conservatives and liberals taking sides, or if you aren’t at all interested in those topics, this podcast isn’t for you, because for Klein, Kliff, and Yglesias, policy is the name of the game. Interested, but worried you’re not up to date on policy issues? No worries here; the hosts do a pretty good job of explaining what they are talking about. They also occasionally offer up some out of the ordinary policy arguments, as they did in one episode when they discussed how MTV’s 16 and Pregnant played a role in the decline of teen pregnancy since the mid-2000’s. So my vote for entertainment factor is split. Hate politics? Don’t bother downloading this. But for the rest of us, this podcast is definitely worth your time.
No complaints on sound quality here; the audio is crisp, the voices balanced, and there’s no feedback. As for how concise each show is, it’s important to remember that this is politics, and they are political writers; there is a tendency to stay on some topics too long, wander aimlessly off of others, and to glaze over points that don’t match that show’s particular agenda. However, despite these tendencies, the shows kept me engrossed, which was surprising because I wouldn’t have thought that topics of policy could keep me entertained. Part of that is how well the three hosts interact. Klein, Kliff, and Vglesias each bring in their own unique knowledge and experiences. I found their debate on gentrification interesting, and for someone who thought they knew a decent amount on this subject, I was surprised by many of their points. I also particularly enjoyed the mid-week special featuring an interview with former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. It was a side of the political machine that we don’t often get a look at, and Klein kept the conversation rolling well with his questions.
When Klein first helped to launch Vox.com, he claimed that his goal was to “create a news website that would be as good at explaining the world as it is at reporting it.” While the topics of the podcasts aren’t groundbreaking reporting by any means, they are well explained, and they are a nice break, particularly from the over-repeated news on the current elections. We all know that political podcasts are a dime a dozen. But by taking the angle of focusing on policy topics that don’t always make the evening news, Vox’s The Weeds seems to have carved out an internet niche of its own.
Criteria Scores: Entertainment Factor: 9/10. Sound Quality: 10/10. Conciseness: 6/10. Engrossing: 8/10. “Je ne sais quoi” factor: 8/10. Overall score: 8.2/10.