Review: Melbourne podcast ‘Please Explain’

Review: Melbourne podcast ‘Please Explain’

Words by Jordan McCarthy

This is the first in an ongoing series where we review podcasts about or set in Melbourne. We're kicking off with The Age's pod, Please Explain.

If you always read or hear the morning news but are hoping for deeper analysis, then Please Explain could be the podcast for you.

The Age’s podcast, which is produced with The Sydney Morning Herald, has a simple modus operandi: taking one the day’s feature news story and offering a deeper, more in depth analysis.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in Melbourne here.

Please Explain drops every weekday hosted by the rotation of journalists Jess Irvine and Bianca Hall.

As you’d expect from a production from The Age, the quality is very high and features hosts that don’t play the expert on any topics that they aren’t completely informed on. Instead, they give you a rundown, but they leave the explaining to a journalist who reports on that field, while working as the listeners mouthpiece, asking the questions that we want answered.

The episodes cover a range of topics but mainly focus on unpacking the issues behind the hard news stories, with politics, health and finance the most covered subjects. In the past week, Please Explain has looked into the federal budget as well as next year’s election. So, if you’re hoping for sports, entertainment or something more light-hearted, Please Explain likely isn’t the podcast for you, though they will touch on topics in these areas occasionally.

Last week’s highlight episode was hosted by Jess Irvine, where she was joined by senior business columnist Stephen Bartholomeusz to ask the question ‘Will you get a pay rise in 2022?’. This comes after reports broke that wages are growing at their fastest rate in over 20 years in the US, allowing the podcasters to explore the Australian financial market’s reliance on American fluctuations. Or as Jess put the old adage; “If the US sneezes we catch a cold”.

Considering each episode’s 15-minute length, they manage a surprisingly thorough investigation into how and why the Australian market is connected with the US, labour shortages in industries caused by the pandemic, and how interest rates may move in the near future. Only briefly in closing did they touch on whether Australian workers should expect a pay rise next year. The short answer there seems don’t get too excited by the prospect.

Stephen, as all of the podcast’s feature commentators, did an ample job of untangling the financial jargon and makes the issue comprehendible for the everyday layman. Though, there are always a few head-scratching moments in a podcast of this length, and everyone will be different with every episode.

This leads to some of the problems with Please Explain. It’s not a podcast you’re likely going to want to listen to everyday, even if you do. The diversity of subjects mean there’s always going to subjects that are of little interest, or delivering information you already understand, so it’s something you may want to check every day but not always choose to listen to. This, in turn, could lead you to checking out the competition. There are many competing podcasts in this space of varying lengths, some of the closest are ABC’s The Signal or The Monthly’s 7am.

It’s also not a podcast where you can explore the back catalogue. It’s far too newsy, the information’s too subject to change, and most stories carry a timestamp that relatively quickly makes them irrelevant. There are the odd exceptions though if you want to go digging, with episodes like ‘What’s it like to live with dementia’ or ‘Is there such a thing as having too much choice’, well worth a listen at later dates.

Coming in around the 15-minute mark, Please Explain does a pretty good job of answering any questions you may have considering the condensed running time. You do have to keep in mind that the guests are journalists who write in that department and aren’t necessarily experts in that day’s topic, so they may not have all the answers, or no more than you can find yourself on Google.

Still, if you want to walk into the office in the morning or sit at the dinner table that night and impress everyone with your knowledge on what’s happening in news that day, then Please Explain is the quick and easy podcast of your dreams.

You can find Please Explain through The Age and Sydney Morning Herald websites or through all major streaming platforms.