Charlotte Alter is a senior correspondent for TIME and host of the Person of The Week podcast. Over the past decade, she’s covered the covered the 2016, 2018, 2020 and 2022 campaigns, the rise in youth activism around gun violence and climate change, the spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation, the relationship between the FTX collapse and Effective Altruism, and the long-term effects of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision. Along the way, she’s profiled Tucker Carlson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Pete Buttigieg, and more. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Vox. Alter has appeared on WNYC, MSNBC, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Real Time with Bill Maher, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and co-hosted Alter Family Politics on SiriusXM Radio. Her book, The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For: How a New Generation of Leaders Will Transform America, was published by Viking in 2020. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, the novelist and journalist Mark Chiusano.
I’m obsessed with trying to figure out why people are the way they are. For me, the major perk of my job is getting to ask people nosy questions (sometimes I take this too far: whenever the exterminator comes over to my apartment, I always ask him “what’s the grossest thing you’ve ever seen?” and I always regret it.) I love getting to understand both the small moments that really explain a person’s character and the major events that help them form their worldview. So I wanted to share some people-focused podcasts that run the gamut from small and intimate to big and relevant.
I didn’t think I could love Julia Louis Dreyfus more, but it turns out I can. Here, she talks to older women, from Jane Fonda to Fran Lebowitz, about what they’ve learned in their lives and careers and how they’re thinking about what she calls the “third act.” After every episode she calls her mom to dish about the conversation.
Recommended episode: Julia Gets Wise with Carol Burnett
Sorry but I love gossip, and if you don’t, you’re lying. This show usually starts with a gossip analysis of some kind with a guest (gossiping about gossip, my fave,) and then ends with a full-on re-telling of an anonymous piece of piping-hot goss, with the guest weighing in (of course).
Recommended episode: The Only Single Girl at Disney with Blythe Roberson
I love this show because it’s about people explaining their really big, really important ideas, and by the time you’re done listening, you’re automatically smarter. It’s like a magic smartness drug. You can listen to one episode and then bring it up at a dinner party for weeks.
Recommended episode: The Book I Wish Every Policymaker Would Read (with Jennifer Pahlka)
This show was so great. I thought the lens on power and how people use it and how it changes them was so smart. Kara Swisher is the Michael Jordan of podcasts.
Recommended episode: What if Monica Lewinsky Had Twitter in 1998?
Dolly Parton is an American treasure, and this 9-episode journey into the Dollyverse really helped me understand the real woman underneath the persona. This show was a great example of how understanding just one person can really help us understand the country as a whole.
Recommended episode: Dollitics
I love that this show really gets granular on how things actually get built. Too often, people lie back on these easy narratives about entrepreneurship, when the real story is often a lot more complicated (plus, I love stories about luck, ingenuity, and sheer will, and usually these interviews have all three.)
Recommended episode: Supergoop!: Holly Thaggard
I used to interview David Axelrod all the time when I was covering politics, so it’s fun to hear him do the interviews now. I love that he usually asks the guests about their relationships with their parents. Plus, I think he has an excellent voice.
Recommended episode: John Legend
This show is zippy, funny, and super-smart. Politics has such a weird vibe right now, and this is one of the only political podcasts that doesn’t leave me in a bad mood.
Recommended episode: Lawrence O’Donnell, Dave Weigel & Taylor Lorenz
This podcast is co-hosted by my brother Tommy Alter, who has had a perfect podcasting voice since he was 3 years old. But while I’m there for sisterly purposes, I usually end up learning something really interesting about how the greatest basketball players think, and what makes them exceptional athletes.
Recommended episode: Stephen Curry
I know it’s corny to include your own show on this list, but I’m really proud of the show we’ve built this year. In this weekly interview show, I get to dive deep with each newsmaking guest to figure out what shapes the people who shape the world. It’s an opportunity to really understand the psychology of the people who make our policy, music, books, and movies, and why they are the way they are.
Recommended episode: Our debut episode, with Ethan Hawke