Letter From America
What a thing this is. From 1946 to 2004, the incomparable British journalist Alistair Cooke sent regular radio missives from the United States, his adopted home, to the BBC. These brief essays about matters of the day - art, culture, news, politics - were broadcast around the world until Cooke's death in 2004, at the age of 95. In 2012, the archive was made available in podcast form; it comprises 900 episodes, more than 600 of them having been supplied by two listeners, who taped and preserved them over the years.
To draw the obvious analogy, it's an awful lot like time travel, and there's a magical pleasure in the transportation. There are the shocks of both his prescience and failed predictions and even, sometimes, a sort of dread; no matter how astute his observations, how clever and considered the Cooke of 1978, we listeners know what waits around the corner. Occasionally, we hit a jarring note - he is unimpressed, for example, at the 'new trend' for gender-neutral job titles - but Cooke, at least in our listening to date (we've just reached the Reagan presidency), is usually on the right side of history and filled with passion for causes of social justice. He loved America deeply, but never lost the clear eyes of an outsider, and arguably came to know the place - really know it - better than any born local could hope to do.
This is a precious portal into the past, and will keep you busy for months to come. Each episode runs 10 to 15 minutes.
Gateway episodes: Bobby Kennedy's assassination, 1968 (9 Jun 1968) / Corruption (10 May 1974) / Global climate change (23 May 1975)