From the political to the personal: Constructing politicians’ biographies in the Nick Robinson podcast ‘Political Thinking’

Maxwell Modell


Political podcasts have captured a global audience and emerged as an important innovation space in journalism. One of the most popular formats is the ‘extended interview podcast’. This study employs conversation analysis to examine how this format has been used to facilitate more personal and informal encounters between journalists and pol- iticians who are usually associated with the accountability news interview. BBC Radio 4’s podcast ‘Political Thinking with Nick Robinson’ is used as a case study. The analysis shows that Political Thinking provides a discursive context for politicians to construct and perform their personal identities, in contrast to their traditionally more formalised political performance as institutional representatives. The looser structure of the podcast, relative to the tightly scheduled news interview, affords Robinson the discursive space for more reflexive handling of politicians’ personal narratives. Talk is mutually co-operative and conversational. Similarly to the celebrity talk show Political Thinking has an experiential focus, oriented towards the narrative exploration of personal experience as a device to contextualise politicians’ careers and value systems. This is complemented with more playful sequences in which Robinson collaborates with politicians to curate their non- political identities and reveal details of their personality that may help the audience to see them in a new light. Through this process, politicians become personal storytellers, whose thoughts, emotions and non-political identities are brought to the fore above issues of policy and current affairs. In turn, Robinson allows politicians to bridge the gap between their institutional identities as politicians and their personal reflections as individuals.

Modell, M. (2024). From the political to the personal: Constructing politicians’ biographies in the Nick Robinson podcast ‘Political Thinking’. Journalism, 0(0).