Don’t Touch Your Face (Foreign Policy) is hosted by James Palmer and Amy Mackinnon, writers at Foreign Policy, a centrist magazine that has four other podcasts. It is a daily podcast that focuses on the global spread of COVID-19, how countries are containing the virus, and how society is being impacted.
Topics addressed by the show since its inception have included Iceland’s unique take on social distancing and effort to get as many people tested as possible, how different countries are using borders to prevent the spread of the virus, and how countries with authoritarian leadership are faring. The focus is certainly the global perspective, which I think is one of the best ways for us to collectively choose the best path forward for all of society—we should share what is and isn’t working across the world to save the most lives.
What differentiates Don’t Touch Your Face from some of the other COVID-19 podcasts I have listened to is that it weaves a thread through multiple segments seamlessly: the segues are very logical and the hosts tell the audience how each piece relates to the next. This has to be difficult in a show that is only 20 or so minutes long, if the team is trying to fit in three or more guests or stories. It’s therefore a very satisfying listen.
The show started out as a daily podcast, and in early April it moved to a twice-weekly release schedule. I don’t believe the hosts mentioned the reason for the adjustment, but when I heard it, I thought it was a perfect pivot. For several episodes leading up to this change, Mackinnon solo-hosted while Palmer was out sick. She reported often that he was hoping it wasn’t COVID-19, and would be back soon. I kept listening in part because I really enjoy the show, but also because I was afraid for Palmer, and wanted to hear that he was okay.
On the episode The Price We Pay, Palmer was back and confirmed he was in fact recovering from COVID-19. Mackinnon’s interview with him and his wife were terrific—there were some very honest, poignant moments that helped strike home the point that COVID-19 is absolutely going to affect someone you know if it hasn’t already, and the price paid by not just the infected but the families of those suffering is immense. They made the point that if someone can’t get out of bed for two or three weeks, it’s not just a regular virus that they’ll soon forget—this is a major impact on people’s lives. It was really well done, including the segues to the accompanying pieces.
This is one of my favorite podcasts about COVID-19—it’s definitely worth a listen.
Fact-Based: 5 out of 5.
Host: 5 out of 5. Great chemistry between the hosts, who are good on audio — something not all writers are good at. I also want to commend the hosts for fitting this in to their regular writing and editing schedules: both have been continually authoring content over the last several weeks on Foreign Policy as well as doing the podcast.
Production: 5 out of 5. Excellent editing and great choice to move to a twice-weekly release schedule.
Storytelling: 5 out of 5. The well-woven thread makes each of these episodes very listenable.
Perspective: 5 out of 5. At the end of each episode, I feel like I got some global perspective from a non-biased source. There’s no directive that I should believe a certain thing about what I heard, just information I can make decisions about on my own.
Action-Oriented: 3 out of 5.
Overall: 5 out of 5.