“Hosted by Kelly McEvers, Embedded takes a story from the news and goes deep. What does it feel like for a father in El Salvador to lie to his daughter about the bodies he saw in the street that day? What does it feel like for a nurse from rural Indiana to shoot up a powerful prescription opioid? Embedded takes you to where they’re happening.”
The term ‘embedded’ as it applies to journalism is most often used to refer to war reporting. It’s what happens when a journalist decides to eat, drink, sleep, and generally share the lives of a group of soldiers in the field of war for an extended period of time. Think of finding and convincing a group of Syrian rebel fighters to let you live with and report on them while they go about their daily resistance, often in the midst of enemy fire, as what being embedded as a journalist usually means. Being embedded means you get the story straight from the horse’s mouth, rather than the mouth of some general living safely in a heavily armored base. Being embedded means you see with your own eyes the atrocities of war, rather than relying on secondhand accounts rife with hearsay. Being embedded is dangerous.
While the reporters of NPR’s Embedded podcast may not be going to war, they attempt to apply the concept of embedded journalism to every story they produce, which means ground-based, first hand accounts as told through the medium of longform audio stories. What I mean is, these aren’t ten minute human interest pieces here. They’re heavy. They’re nuanced. And they’re damn good.
Embedded is a relatively new show, which means their archive isn’t huge, but what they’ve done in each episode so far is amazing. From stories about biker gangs to an epidemic of suicide in Greenland to the very topical police shooting videos in the US, Embedded goes deep where others look only for soundbytes. Like Reveal, another podcast reviewed here, Embedded isn’t necessarily up-to-the-minute journalism. Rather, they focus on slow, methodical journalism. They focus on journalism that doesn’t simply look for the easy answer and then immediately close the book on the topic, in search of the next clickbait headline. It’s not about instant gratification. It’s about doing it right.
Unlike Reveal, I find Embedded to be less agenda-driven, more refined and subtle. They don’t start with the answer and work backwards to figure out how the pieces ought to add up. Rather, through the principles of inductive reasoning (a foundation of the scientific method and good journalism alike) they first find the pieces of a story and then they figure out what those pieces imply about the bigger picture. It’s systematic, and it’s what all good journalism should be. Starting with your conclusions and then figuring out how to get there is logically backwards, biased, and rarely leads to the full story.
Obviously, I’m a big fan of Embedded. I think it’s probably the best longform, investigative audio journalism out there. My only real gripe is how long it seems to take them to put out episodes, although that’s just me being impatient considering the fact that I just praised them for how methodical they are. Anyway, Embedded is a must-subscribe for anyone interested in the story beyond the soundbyte which, I hope, all of you are.
Very high quality, consistent with NPR’s standards.
High. They have a knack not only for picking interesting, nuanced topics, but also for executing good journalism on those topics each and every time.
Kelly McEvers is great. She’s an amazing journalist who does amazing work.
Every episode will grab you by the seat of your pants.
Overall Score: 9.1/10
- Their three-part Police Videos series
- The Bikers
- The Capital
- The League
- The Arctic
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