Slate’s ‘Slow Burn’ podcast focuses on journalism history

Season two of Slate’s “Slow Burn” podcast hit my feed last week. It’s going to be about the scandal of President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, which captivated the nation about 20 years ago. I’m sure it’s going to be good because season one was awesome.

via USA Today

And it’s season one that needs the attention of journalism nerds and educators everywhere. It took a deep dive into the Watergate Scandal. Yes, the national event that launched the Washington Post‘s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the cannon of journalism lore. That Watergate Scandal.

However, season one doesn’t truly focus its attention on the reporting of those two intrepid reporters. Instead, it comes at it from a different angle and provides a deeper look into the other players in the situation, many of which did not reach the same level of stardom as some of the others.

Much like radio legend Paul Harvey’s famous segments The Rest of the Story, “Slow Burn” presents little-known or forgotten information from President Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal. And that is important.

In journalism courses, Watergate is always discussed. Educators would be remiss if they neglected to do so. It is a shining example of the good dogged reporting can do, and it highlights a moment when trust in journalism soared to extraordinary levels . . . a far-cry from the “fake news” world we live in now.

The other parts of the story being highlighted are important too. It shows why depth in reporting is important. There is always more to the story, and, since “Slow Burn” is a podcast, it provides the extra benefit of being able to showcase audio from the sources themselves, including archival audio and some of the Nixon tapes.

For students to learn the history of journalism, and specifically about the Watergate Scandal, such supplemental information is crucial. It provides the larger picture. It should be required listening for most, but at least for those practicing or studying journalism.

“Slow Burn” was well received. Sarah Larson, of The New Yorker, praised the podcast, saying host Leon Neyfakh manages the entire story from beginning to end . . .

“with aplomb, vivid writing, deft use of archival and recent audio, and a zesty theme song that evokes seventies TV. Neyfakh, a Slate staff writer, narrates in careful but excited tones, sounding like a wonk who’s truly enjoying himself. All of this is key to what makes listening to ‘Slow Burn’ feel vital: a sense of political drama, hope, and the comfort of knowing that justice was served. It’s both escapist and invigorating. You listen with attention, as if you’re searching for answers.”

Which brings up another solid point. Not only do listeners get to hear about journalism history, they also get to hear how a podcast should be put together. In this way, “Slow Burn” works on multiple levels, making it even more valuable as a teaching tool.

I’ve got my syllabi for the semester planned, but I am going to be finding ways to sneak this in. If it doesn’t work out this semester, I will be sure to include it next semester when I’m covering aspects of journalism history.

If you haven’t listed to it, I encourage you to do so. And go ahead and start on season two as well. The first episode was good.

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About toddvogts 807 Articles
Todd R. Vogts, MJE, is an assistant professor of media at Sterling College in Kansas. Previously, he taught yearbook, newspaper, newsmagazine, and online journalism in various Kansas high schools, and he ran a weekly newspaper in rural Kansas. He continues to freelance as a professional journalist from time to time. Also, Vogts is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Journalism Education Association, among others. When he’s not teaching or writing, he runs his mobile disk jockey service and takes part in other entrepreneurial ventures. He can be reached at or via his website at