My two favorite television shows of all time are M*A*S*H and The West Wing.

So, it’s not surprising that two of my favorite podcasts are “The West Wing Weekly,” which reviews the seven seasons of the hit program, and “Clear and Vivid,” a terrific show hosted by M*A*S*H star Alan Alda that focuses on communication and how we can learn to listen and understand each other better.

If you listen to podcasts, as I do mostly when I’m driving long distances and or walking the track at the Sunbury YMCA, I recommend both.

Good as they are, though, those two podcasts have moved down to third and fourth on my list since The Daily Item became involved in producing two of our own — “Keeping the Beat,” a podcast focusing on Susquehanna Valley musicians, and “First and Big Ten,” a brand new program that had its debut this week. It is hosted by our Penn State reporter Elton Hayes and Kevin Brockway, who covers Indiana and Purdue for CNHI newspapers in Indiana.

We see podcasts as just another way we can give our audience information they want and will enjoy.

“Keeping the Beat” is hosted by our multi-talented features editor John Zaktansky. There’s a new episode every Thursday, in which John sits down with one of the Valley’s top musicians to talk with them and play their music. 

John, who’s the editor of our weekly Applause weekend entertainment guide, said and he felt “Keeping the Beat” would be a way to showcase the Valley’s many terrific performers and tell their personal stories while sampling their music.

“We just published our 12th weekly podcast — this one featuring former Badlees musician Bret Alexander,” John said. “If nothing else, the podcasts we’ve shared so far highlight just how special the music scene is in the region. Nationally known bands such as The Badlees and Breaking Benjamin originated in our region. Nationally renowned drummer Steve Mitchell called the region home.

“The level of musicianship that exists in such a small population — it is very dense per capita in terms of talent. Guys from bigger cities have retired here. They’ve brought jazz and the blues here from other places. You’ll find a Grammy-winning drummer on a Sunday playing drums for people while they eat breakfast.”

So far, John has featured Ann Kerstetter, Buzz Meachum, Becky Blue, Bob Randall, Danelle Cressinger, Van Wagner, Frank Wicher, Beverley Conrad, Allan Combs II, Greg Burgess, Sean Farley and Bret Alexander. 

“First and Big Ten” is a brand new effort for us. Elton and Kevin bring a ton of Big Ten knowledge that you won’t want to miss if you pull for Penn State or any Big Ten team. Their show is also available on our website and wherever you subscribe to podcasts.

“First and Big Ten will offer league-wide analysis and news from college football’s oldest Division I conference,” Elton said. “Each week, we’ll answer questions from listeners, feature a guest and offer our predictions for the conference’s slate of games.”

Elton, who joined us in July to add coverage of Pen State football and other Nittany Lion sports to our mix, said listeners can look forward to he and Kevin Brockway “unpacking and discussing all of the league’s happenings each week over the course of the season.”

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll give both of these unique podcasts a listen.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com

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