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Alta Magazine Podcast

News & Politics Podcasts

Bring the pages of the magazine to life. Alta revels in everything about California and the West — with penetrating investigative articles, clever essays, vivid photos and smart reviews. Alta's podcast digs deeper into the pages of the magazine to bring our stories to life.

Bring the pages of the magazine to life. Alta revels in everything about California and the West — with penetrating investigative articles, clever essays, vivid photos and smart reviews. Alta's podcast digs deeper into the pages of the magazine to bring our stories to life.


San Francisco, CA


Bring the pages of the magazine to life. Alta revels in everything about California and the West — with penetrating investigative articles, clever essays, vivid photos and smart reviews. Alta's podcast digs deeper into the pages of the magazine to bring our stories to life.






826 Valencia Voices

This very special Alta podcast welcomes young authors and poets from 826 Valencia, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced students with their writing skills. Today, we’re meeting at 826’s Tenderloin location with four students whose work has appeared on the 826 Valencia podcast, “Message in a Bottle." Our guests include Sara, age 10, Dax, age 12, Emily, age 13, and Julissa, who’s 18.


Safe Space for the Mobile Homeless

Everyone likes a good news — and we're delighted to include some today. Our guest is Bonnie Tsui, a journalist, author and Alta contributor. In our Winter 2020 Issue, Bonnie reports on a program in the Monterey peninsula that offers safe parking lots to homeless people living in their cars. She’s here today to discuss that program—and to provide an update on one of the people profiled in her article. Bonnie author of the award-winning American Chinatown; her next book, Why We Swim, will be...


The Tomb of the Unknown "Wetback"

How does the death of an immigrant killed in the 1950's by Anaheim police and a 2019 family funeral converge into one incredible moment for Gustavo Arellano? He joins the Alta podcast to explain. Arellano, a journalist for the Los Angeles Times and regular contributor to Alta, shares what turned out to be a deeply personal journey in our Winter 2020 issue. Titled, “The Tomb of the Unknown Wetback,” this is the story of Juan Peña Diaz, an undocumented worker from Mexico who was almost...


Recorded Live: Jazz Singer Paula West Gets Personal

You've never heard Paula West like this before. In this episode, recorded on November 13, 2019 at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley California, West discusses her process—and her politics— in this intimate evening of conversation and music. West, who was backed by a jazz trio as she performed a number of songs, was also interviewed by journalist Marcus Crowder in front of a packed house of Alta members. This event was inspired by Crowder’s profile of West in Alta’s Fall 2019 issue.


Hummingbirds Are Fascinating. Really.

Today's guest is Jason G. Goldman, a science journalist, author, and expedition leader based in Los Angeles. He is one of the authors of the newly released "Wild L.A.: Explore the Amazing Nature In and Around Los Angeles. Jason has written a number of stories for Alta, including two cover stories. His latest for us focuses on UC Riverside researcher Chris Clark, whose research on hummingbirds is changing the way we understand the species.


Can Cancer Be Funny?

Can cancer be funny? Author Mary Ladd and illustrator Don Asmussen certainly think so. The pair, both of whom have fought (and are fighting) cancer diagnoses, join the Alta podcast to laugh in the face of deadly disease and discuss their book, “The Wig Diaries.” Ladd wrote about the California Hall of Fame for Alta earlier this year and is a member of the Writer’s Grotto. Asmussen is the creator of Bad Reporter, a twice-weekly political comic strip in the San Francisco Chronicle. Penned by...


Nick Neely Follows the Footsteps of Portolá

Burger King, loneliness, binoculars, and camp coffee; it was all part of Nick Neely's quest to better understand California. Neely is a California-based author whose book, Alta California, chronicles his 12-week hike from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay. Neely followed the (nearly) exact footsteps of Gaspar de Portola and his 1769 overland expedition of soldiers and priests intent on claiming California for Spain and establishing the West's Catholic mission system. Neely's journey—as...


Mr. Peace on Modern Resistance

"I got to be a hero." David Harris is former contributing editor to the New York Times and to Rolling Stone, and he is the author of nearly a dozen books—but Harris is most famous for leading the draft resistance during the Vietnam War. He was imprisoned for 20 months for refusing to report for military service, and is credited by many with helping to end the war. We joined Harris at his home in Marin County to discuss his work, his thoughts on the state of union, and how a terminal illness...


Renaissance of the Written Word

The Fall, 2019 issue of Alta features the magazine’s first standalone section on books and literature spearheaded by our books editor, David Ulin. In this podcast, we’ll explore how Alta’s Book Guide came to fruition with Ulin, as well as hear from included authors Carolina De Robertis, Matthew Zapruder. The Book Guide adds some serious pages to the magazine. Pick up this issue and you can tell, we’ve gained some paper weight. According to Ulin, now is absolutely the right time for Alta to...


Remembering Climbing Legend Tom Frost

What do the CIA, an outdoor clothing company, and a Yosemite campsite all have in common? Tom Frost. Famous in climbing circles for his remarkable humility, Frost is one of the lesser-known legends of the rock climbing world—as well as a photographer, conservationist, and inspiration to generations of outdoor enthusiasts. He was also a complicated and passionate man whose story hasn't really been told—until now. Today’s podcast guests are Tom Seawell and Craig Flax, two of the filmmakers...


Man-Made Meat is a Very Real Thing

Rachel Levin went where very few have gone before — she ate a chicken nugget made out of man-made meat. "Motherless meat" is different from plant-based alternative meats, like the "Impossible Burger" and others. Technically, it is created from cells that come from real animals. And while a man-made meat nugget might cost $100 to make today, the technology could help alleviate a growing global need for meat, and offer an alternative to an industry that some believe is cruel to animals. Levin...


Joel Sartore's Photo Ark Project

Joel Sartore is on a one-man mission to build a photographic library of every animal in human care. He's like Noah—with a really fancy camera. An award-winning photographer, speaker, author and conservationist, Sartore is founder of The Photo Ark, a 25-year project to document every species in zoos and sanctuaries around the globe. You can spot some of those animal images in the Fall 2019 issue of Alta.Sartore joined us to explain to concept and process of the Photo Ark, detail the...


Past, Present and Future of Women in Classical Music

What special challenges do women musicians face that their male counterparts don't? Have those challenges changed, and in what ways? How do traditional music organizations work towards inclusion in the 21st century? In this podcast episode, recorded on May 20, 2019 at Books Inc’s Opera Plaza location, we partnered with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to host a panel discussion on women’s emerging roles in classical music, the issues and challenges female musicians face, and a look at...


CalFire's Aerial First Responders

CalFire's aerial firefighting fleet is the largest of its kind in the world. Today’s guest, award-winning and best-selling author Bonnie Tsui, reported for Alta on the men and women who battle California wildfires from the sky. These first responders, many who fight fires in their own communities, face unique and complex challenges—challenges that are only growing as California deals with our new reality of the mega fire. Bonnie’s work has appeared in the New York Times, California Sunday,...


Musso & Frank Grill Turns 100

Musso & Frank Grill is a Los Angeles institution. Writer David Kipen visited this storied dining spot (in character as The Anniversarist) and he's now on a mission to be a Musso regular. Kipen joins the Alta podcast to explain the staying power of this century-old legend, remember two longtime Musso employees who recently passed away, and detail the old-school recipes that remain on the Musso menu. Lobster Thermidor, anyone?


Altatude Cartoonist Phil Witte

Phil Witte, a humorist, journalist, cartoonist and lawyer living in Oakland, joins us for an Alta podcast to talk about his process and the quirky world of cartoonists. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Reader’s Digest, and museums and galleries around the globe. He was a cartoonist in residence at the Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa and has written for Bizzaro cartoonist Dan Piraro. Phil’s cartoons have ALSO appeared in Altatudes, the collection...


The Money-Making Manson Inc.

What led to—and has arisen from—the infamous 1969 Manson Family murders is weirder, darker, and more hypocritical than you ever imagined. Writer Denise Hamilton, who's been on the Helter Skelter Manson Murder bus tour, joins the Alta podcast to detail the many ways money continues to be made from the Tate/LaBianca murders, and how the families of the victims feel about our Manson obsession.


Northern California's Wild Horses

Wild mustang populations are out of control, competing with cattle and native wildlife for vital resources like land and water. If the federal government doesn’t rein them in, ranchers may take matters into their own hands. Journalist Jason Goldman joins the podcast to discuss his latest Alta cover story, focused on the controversy surrounding the thousands of feral horses in Northern California's Modoc National Forest—and beyond.


Planet's Woke Satellites

Today’s guest is Po Bronson, a longtime science journalist who has been recognized with nine national honors, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Award. He works as strategy director at IndieBio and serves as a futurist with Attention Span Media. In the Summer 2019 issue of Alta, Po wrote about Planet, a San Francisco-based company that uses shoeboxed sized satellites to take images of nearly everything on Earth – from space. He joins us to explain...


Bonus Episode: Rethinking Steve Jobs

In this bonus episode of the Alta podcast, recorded on March 21, 2019 at Books Inc’s Opera Plaza location, we discuss the many complicated legacies of the late Steve Jobs with three Silicon Valley mainstays who worked with and knew him well. Our panelists include Andy Hertzfeld, who was a member of the original Apple Macintosh development team in the 1980s, Tom Zito, who penned the recent Alta article on Steve Jobs that inspired this event, and who first met Jobs in 1977 while working for...