Podcast Playlist: Slate Sets New 'Slow Burn' Season About Iraq War

Noreen Malone - Publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Slate

Noreen Malone will host the podcast's fifth season, which will premiere after the upcoming season on David Duke.

Slate has lined up the fifth season of its Slow Burn podcast before the fourth season has even dropped. 

Noreen Malone, former editorial director for New York, is returning to Slate to host a Slow Burn season about the Iraq War. The new season is expected to debut later this year after the release of the Josh Levin-hosted fourth season focused on David Duke's rise to power.

Slow Burn has focused on pivotal moments in America history, including the Watergate scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Malone will continue the thread by looking at the lead-up to and fallout from the Iraq War.

The project reunites Malone with Slate. She worked at the publication early in her career and also hosted the podcast The DoubleX Gabfest (later The Waves) until 2019. She has been an editor at New York for the last six years.

"If Slow Burn season one was a caper, the Iraq War lead-up season is a disaster," Malone said Friday in a statement. "We all know how it ends (or, rather, doesn’t) and yet there is a can't-look-away dread in cataloguing the steps that got us there, and the individual characters whose agendas and blind spots drove the country to the war. It's a story that everyone thinks they know, at least in the broad strokes, but the details have already been forgotten, or look different now with the lens of recent history."

She continued, "Iraq was formative for me as a reader of the news — and in my earliest days as a journalist, I worked at institutions like TNR [The New Republic] and Slate that were still in some sense living in the shadow of their internal reactions to the war and its lead-up — but more than that, it created the country we still live in. This was the time when much of our present-day politics was formed: We still think about pre-invasion support as a litmus test. Hillary Clinton, at least in part, didn't get to be president because of her support for the war. Barack Obama formed his circle partially with other realists who didn't support the war. And arguably, the way the administration pushed for war eroded the public’s last gasp of trust in institutions, and allowed future administrations to do away with the niceties of telling anything resembling the truth."

Leon Neyfakh hosted Slow Burn's first two seasons. Since then, each season has had a different host. Joel Anderson hosted the third season, which dove into the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. Episodes of Slow Burn have been downloaded more than 45 million times, per Slate. It has spawned a docuseries on Epix, and the first season about Watergate will serve as the source material for a scripted series from UCP starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn. 

Slate says downloads of shows from its podcast unit were up 40 percent year-over-year during the first quarter of 2020, and that its audio business 28 percent since the end of 2018. Podcasting now makes up half of its business, and it currently has more than 25 shows in production. 

"I'm thrilled to have Noreen, a fantastic storyteller and beloved former Slate podcaster, back to host the fifth season of Slow Burn," said Gabriel Roth, editorial director of podcasts. "The show is built on great storytellers with the ability to make the biggest stories of our time feel unfamiliar and surprising, as Leon Neyfakh did with Watergate and Clinton, and Joel Anderson with Biggie and Tupac, and I expect the next two seasons — Josh Levin on David Duke’s political career and Noreen on the Iraq War — to be just as gripping, illuminating, and relevant."

In other podcasting news:

— iHeartMedia and Aaron Mahnke have extended their relationship. The prolific podcast creator has inked a multiyear extension of his exclusive content partnership with the podcast network. The deal includes two more years of Cabinet of Curiosities, two new seasons of Unobscured, additional seasons of Noble Blood and an upcoming scripted series. The pact also brings a slate of five new shows featuring talent including Rabia Chaudry. In a statement, Mahnke called out iHeart's "openness to new ideas and industry-leading production staff." 

— Parents isolating at home with their kids have a new entertainment resource. WNYC and Radiolab have created a collection of family-friendly content dubbed Radiolab for Kids. The episodes included in the collection delve into such topics as whether animals can laugh and the invention of the game Tic Tac Toe. "Creating a kid-friendly list is something we've been meaning to do for a long time," Radiolab host and creator Jad Abumrad said in a statement. "In this new reality of parents homeschooling their kids — often while working themselves — it felt like there was no more time to delay." 

The New York Times' Styles section has introduced a new podcast, Together Apart, hosted by professional conflict facilitator Priya Parker. The show is meant to serve as a guide on how to gather digitally during the novel coronavirus shutdown. New episodes will be released every Wednesday. Together Apart is being produced by Magnificent Noise in partnership with NYT