The weekly program This American Life, from Chicago Public Radio and Public Radio International, consistently delivers important public-interest investigative stories, poignant personal drama, and imaginative and occasionally outrageous humor. Its success has spawned a slew of copycat "story"-formatted radio shows. But accept no substitutes. None even come close to the impact of the original.
One reason for this is that TAL has real journalistic conviction: when its reporters and producers tackle an investigative story, they are not afraid to take a stand on the meaning of what their uncovered evidence reveals. (Contrast this with the cardboard "he said-she said" barrier behind which most major-media reporters hide on explosive stories.)
Another reason is that even when TAL does "softer" human-interest stories it does them so damned humanly and creatively. Where else would you hear, for instance, the high school kids in a tiny town tell the story of what happens when a huge tornado strikes their burg smack in the middle of prom night?
But here is my best current argument for why you need to listen to This American Life: its July 24 "When Patents Attack!" episode, which tells the fascinating and horrifying story of how a school of sharks known as "patent trolls" has turned the U.S. patent system into a force that scares off innovators instead of protecting and encouraging them. Trust me: there is nothing nerdy about this story. And its implications will blow you away.
Listen to that episode, free, here.