A piano lies dusty in the ghost town of Bodie—one of the subjects of this year's most-heard podcasts from KQED. Carly Severn/KQED
A piano lies dusty in the ghost town of Bodie—one of the subjects of this year's most-heard podcasts from KQED. (Carly Severn/KQED)

Your Most Popular Podcast Episodes of 2018

Your Most Popular Podcast Episodes of 2018

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From daily news and mystery-solving to interviews and pop culture, our KQED podcasts—made right here in San Francisco—received millions of downloads this year.

Want to sample the stories and sounds that captured our audiences' ears most? Here are our most-listened-to episodes of 2018—just in time to download for your holiday playlists.

Bay Curious
How the San Francisco School Lottery Works, And How It Doesn't

Overwhelming, stressful, baffling: these are just some of the words San Francisco families use to describe the way the city assigns their kids to a public school. How did we get here? Katrina Schwartz delves into SF's notoriously fiendish student assignment system, known as "the lottery," and how the heck it all works for the people caught up in it.  (FYI, Katrina's reporting featured here was actually cited as one of the reasons members of the school board want to end the current system.)

Overcoming Childhood Trauma: How Parents and Schools Work to Stop the Cycle

Sabrina Hanes, the subject of Mindshift's podcast episode, with her daughter Aroara.. (Anne Wernikoff/KQED)

The trauma one experiences as a child can live on in the adult body, even causing early death. So how can a parent try to beat the odds? Laura Klivans' moving story of one mother's determination to overcome the trauma of her past for her daughter's future is made all the more poignant by the fact it's set in Paradise, Butte County—a community devastated by the recent Camp Fire.

Q’ed Up
The Tacky Dishes That Mean the World to One California Couple


Ariel Plotnick brings us a story about collectors, obsession and the unique diner dishware—known as TEPCO ceramics—that have preoccupied one Bay Area couple for years. How could a style that's derided as ugly, or tacky, by so many prove so alluring to them? Ryan Levi's weekly Q'ed Up podcast showcases the best of KQED News' stories, and this one really struck a chord with our audiences.

Political Breakdown
Interview: San Francisco DA George Gascón 

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, with KQED Political Breakdown hosts Marisa Lagos and Scott Shafer. (Guy Marzorati/KQED)

Political Breakdown hosts Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos are known for getting the sorts of insights you wouldn't normally expect from interview-wary politicians. Their pre-Election Day chat with SF District Attorney George Gascón was no exception—running the gamut from his childhood in Cuba to deciding whether to prosecute police officers after shootings.

The Bay
"No Fire Engines Here"

A firefighter walks near a pool as a neighboring home burns in the Napa wine region in California on October 9, 2017. (Josh Edelson/AFP-Getty Images)

Delayed evacuations, communication gaps, the North Bay on fire.  This episode of KQED's "storytelling for daily news" podcast, hosted by Devin Katayama, traces the first eight hours of October 8, as what became known nationally as the 2017 "Wine Country fires" took hold. This episode features reporter Sukey Lewis, who was involved in our newsroom's six-month investigation of why it took North Bay authorities so long to warn people that night—with deadly consequences.

The California Report Magazine
The Legend of the Lyft Rapper and the Curse of the Gold Rush Town

The ghost town of Bodie, California (Carly Severn/KQED)

Why is one Bay Area Lyft driver trying to change the sometimes-silent, often-awkward rideshare experience with his rap skills? Why are people who visit the Sierra ghost town of Bodie so convinced that this decaying place has cursed them? Every Friday, The California Report Magazine presents voices and stories from across our state on KQED Radio, and this January episode from its podcast showcase contains some particular surprises.

The Cooler
Put Some Respeck on Serena Williams’ Name

Remember tennis star Serena Williams' controversial outburst at the U.S. Open this summer? KQED's weekly pop culture podcast tackled the double standard endured by women in the public eye in showing their anger, and the consequences they face when they do—as well as dissecting the backlash to Colin Kaepernick's Nike ad, and the thorny history of boycotts. Buckle up.

The Leap

Donating sperm to make money during your college years isn't that unusual. Finding out twenty years later that you've got a bunch of kids who all want to meet you? That's... a little less common. The Leap, which tells stories about the risky choices people make in life, is consistently one of our most loved podcasts, and this hit episode from host Judy Campbell shows why.

Interview: Anand Giridharadas

Journalist and political analyst Anand Giridharadas (Mackenzie Stroh)

Why should the world's biggest problems be solved by an unelected network of rich and powerful thought leaders, rather than public institutions and elected officials? How are entrepreneurs, philanthropists and tech billionaires are affecting the world—and perhaps making things worse? Journalist and political analyst Anand Giridharadas's conversation on KQED Forum with Michael Krasny was the show's most-heard interview via their podcast.