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Podfather Reviews: Please save me from this governmental podcast hellhole

OK. Here it goes: podcasts made by the Internal Revenue Service. How about the U.S. Department of Agriculture? Are you bored yet?

The federal government agencies and bureaus you love to despise or feel indifferent about actually are trying to make podcasts too, and, to almost no one’s surprise, most of them are terrible. 

Do not make the mistake I made by trying to review these pitiful excuses of MP3 files. My eardrums are figuratively eviscerated from listening to some of these shows. No, really, go spend an hour outside throwing frisbee with that pet dog you definitely have, or call your grandmother. 

Whatever you do, don’t listen to some of these pods. But if you want to see how far this hellhole goes down, read on, brave soul.

“PCD Sound Bites”

I remember laughing to myself at the thought of robot overlords controlling our lives, just after seeing the movie The Matrix for the first time. 

But the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may already have a robot running one of their podcasts. At least, the host, Latoya Simmons, sounds almost as programmed as Siri or Alexa.

"PCD Sound Bites," a podcast extension of the CDC’s journal “Preventing Chronic Disease,” are short episodes where public health experts are interviewed on a variety of subjects such as obesity and diabetes. And sometimes the guest speakers have something interesting to say about their research. 

That is, if you can actually hear them from the scratchy phone recording and ignore the cheerful droning from the mechanical-sounding host. These episodes honestly feel more like agency public service announcements than actual podcasts, to be honest. 

Rating: 1 out of 5 earbuds

U.S. Department of State podcasts

The podcasts this gigantic federal department produces are marginally better compared to the CDC, but not by much. Most of the podcasts in the department’s archives were produced during the Obama administration, and, while the content can sometimes be like watching paint dry on a wall, the production value is markedly improved.

The department produces various series that have bland names like “Meet The Ambassador” or “Global Views,” which would send most people running for the hills. And for the most part, these people aren’t wrong. 

The hosts of these series do a decent job at keeping these interviews conversational with other State Department employees they’re interviewing, but the problem might be with the interviewees themselves.

U.S. Department of State officials may be knowledgeable on topics regarding foreign affairs, but that doesn’t mean they make great interview subjects. Especially when one of them launches into a jargon-filled, monotone lecture on international corruption. Yikes.

Rating: 2 out of 5 earbuds

“Direct Current”

Ah, yes. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Coincidentally, this light comes from the U.S. Department of Energy, which helps make sure the lights and electricity are on anyway. Admittedly, this is actually a government-sponsored podcast I would listen to.

The host and other producers put together surprisingly refreshing energy-related narratives that had me tuned-in completely through each entire half-hour episode.

The way they mix sound effects, music and quality narration makes it feel like I’m listening to a podcast by Gimlet Media or NPR, which is a pretty nice compliment given how great podcasts from those two organizations are. 

Some of the stories on the podcast are intriguing — particularly the inside story about the Manhattan Project, in which U.S. scientists developed what would become the nuclear bomb in downtown New York City. 

The U.S. Department of Energy can definitely make a compelling podcast. The rest of the federal government — not so much. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 earbuds

Liam Niemeyer is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University’s Honors Tutorial College. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Will you jump into this hellhole? Let Liam know by tweeting him @liamniemeyer.

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