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Preview: On The Media

On the Media

The smartest, wittiest, most incisive media analysis show in the universe. The weekly one-hour podcast of NPR’s On the Media is your guide to how the media sausage is made. Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield examine threats to free speech and gove

Last Build Date: Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Copyright: © WNYC

The System Is Rigged

Fri, 21 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

By now you know that Donald Trump likes to claim that the media, the Hillary Clinton campaign, and dead voters are among those rigging the election against him. But he's not the only politician during this campaign to claim the system is manipulated to favor some over others. This week, we explore how elections are and are not rigged. Also, the fourth installment of our poverty series focuses on the strengths and shortcomings of our nation's safety net. 

(image) The System Is Rigged

Media Files:

Mike Pesca Goes Back to the Spin Room

Thu, 20 Oct 2016 13:06:04 -0400

Mike Pesca is the host of Slate's "The Gist." He braved the post-debate spin room again to bring us this report.

(image) Mike Pesca Goes Back to the Spin Room

Media Files:

Race, Class, and the United States of Anxiety

Wed, 19 Oct 2016 21:00:00 -0400

In the midst of an election that has exposed deep and sometimes ugly rifts in American society, WNYC and The Nation have partnered for a new podcast series called "The United States of Anxiety." Each week they look to understand how we arrived at this point by diving deep into the polarized economic, social and political landscape as it exists in communities on Long Island, New York. 

This week, we're sharing their latest episode which is all about the politics of being white, male, and working class in 2016. WNYC reporter, Jim O'Grady, takes a road trip through Long Island with writer and former bond trader Chris Arnade about how male Trump supporters are feeling emasculated by the current economic and political climate. Then, The Nation's Kai Wright talks to Italian-American Long Islanders about their families' journeys to whiteness. 

You can (and should) find more episodes of The United States of Anxiety on iTunes or by going to their website. 

(image) Race, Class, and the United States of Anxiety

Media Files:

Race to the Bottom

Fri, 14 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Donald Trump deflected questions about sexual assault allegations at the second presidential debate by bringing up the ever-looming threat of ISIS. Yet, a new report on the group's dwindling propaganda output suggests ISIS may be losing its grip in the region. Also, how American media and the Kennedy administration became entangled in a network of tunnels beneath the Berlin Wall. And the third installment of our poverty series focuses on the age-old myth of upward mobility in America.

(image) Race to the Bottom

Media Files:

The United States of Anxiety

Wed, 12 Oct 2016 16:20:43 -0400

In the midst of an election that has exposed deep and sometimes ugly rifts in American society, WNYC and The Nation have partnered for a new podcast series called "The United States of Anxiety." Each week they look to understand how we arrived at this point by diving deep into the polarized economic, social and political landscape as it exists in communities on Long Island, New York. 

This week, we're sharing their latest episode,which looks at the role of the media in creating a narrative of anxiety in the U.S -- particularly conservative talk radio. First, WNYC's Arun Venugopal visits Patty, a Donald Trump supporter who lives in Long Island, to find out about her media diet and how Trump's messaging speaks to her. Then, WNYC's Matt Katz talks to The Nation's Kai Wright about how conservative media reflects the changes taking place in our country and why its followers are distrustful of mainstream news. 

You can (and should) find more episodes of The United States of Anxiety on iTunes or by going to their website. 

(image) The United States of Anxiety

Media Files:

Personal Responsibility

Fri, 07 Oct 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Donald Trump and his surrogates say he's a genius for using the tax code to avoid paying taxes. Does the public agree? We examine the complicated history around fairness and taxes in America. Plus, our series on poverty continues with a look at the notion of the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor, and how our welfare policies have been shaped by faulty presumptions. 



(image) Personal Responsibility

Media Files:

OTM Podcast Extra: War, Peace... and Clowns

Wed, 05 Oct 2016 22:50:00 -0400

In this bite-sized OTM, Bob looks at two important news stories that we won't be able to fit into the full-sized OTM this weekend. 

First: this weekend, voters in Colombia rejected a peace agreement with the rebel group FARC. It would have brought to end over 50 years of fighting, and polling suggested that Colombians would have approved the deal. The vote has been explained as the triumph of bitterness over common sense, but it could also be seen as a failure of media messaging. Bob talks to Alex Fattal, Assistant Professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies at Penn State University, about the role that media has played in Colombia's armed conflict. Fattal is also author of the forthcoming book Guerrilla Marketing: Capitalism and Counterinsurgency in Colombia, from University of Chicago Press.

Then: a rash of clown sightings has spread since the first report of creepy clowns in Greenville, South Carolina in late August. They've been seen from Oregon to New York, from Florida to Missouri. Or have they? Turns out these "phantom clown" sightings have been happening in waves for decades, and they tell us a lot about our own fears. Bob speaks with Benjamin Radford, author of Bad Clowns and a research fellow with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, about our historic and cultural relationship with phantom clown sightings. 

(image) OTM Podcast Extra: War, Peace... and Clowns

Media Files:

Do Better

Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Five years into the war in Syria, we examine whether calling the latest horrors "war crimes" will have any effect. Also, why the biggest story following the first presidential debate is about Miss Universe; the un-examined candidacy of Libertarian Gary Johnson; and curbing inmates' rights online. Finally, our series on myths about poverty in America begins in Athens, Ohio, a timeworn stop on the "poverty tour" for politicians and reporters alike.

(image) Do Better

Media Files:

The Poverty Tour

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 03:00:00 -0400

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Today, more than 45 million Americans live in poverty. The problem has been addressed countless times since the nation’s founding, but it persists, and for the poorest among us, it gets worse. America has not been able to find its way to a sustainable solution, because most of its citizens see the problem of poverty from a distance, through a distorted lens. So we present "Busted: America's Poverty Myths," a series exploring how our understanding of poverty is shaped not by facts, but by private presumptions, media narratives, and the tales of the American Dream. 

Brooke traveled to Ohio, a state that reflects the varied nature of poverty, to talk directly with people who are poor and understand how they got that way, and why, under current policies, they are likely to stay that way. You'll hear from them over the next several weeks. But first, we examine how the story of poverty gets told -- and whether media attention makes any difference -- with the help of Jack Frech, a longtime Athens County welfare director who has been leading reporters on "poverty tours" of Appalachia for decades. 


 "Ec-Stacy" by Jess Stacy

"Gavotte in A Minor" by Matthew Camidge, arr. by Andy Boden

"Youkali Tango-Habanera" by Kurt Weill; performed by the Armadillo String Quartet


“Busted: America’s Poverty Myths” is produced by Meara Sharma and Eve Claxton, with special thanks to Nina Chaudry. This series is produced in collaboration with WNET in New York as part of “Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America.” Major funding for “Chasing the Dream” is provided by the JPB Foundation, with additional funding from the Ford Foundation.  


(image) The Poverty Tour

Media Files:

Mike Pesca Went to the Spin Room

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 10:41:38 -0400

Mike Pesca is the host of Slate's "The Gist." He braved the post-debate spin room to bring us this report.

(image) Mike Pesca Went to the Spin Room

Media Files:

Freedom of Information

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Three weeks into what’s being called the US’s biggest prison strike ever, very little information has trickled through the razor wire. We examine the challenges of reporting on prisons. Plus, a look at the coverage of protests in Charlotte after a police shooting; the cell phone alerts that drew New Yorkers into a manhunt for a terror suspect; the digital afterlife of an Al Qaeda propagandist; and a quest to examine the life of Peter Thiel.


(image) Freedom of Information

Media Files:

The Short-Fingered Vulgarian!

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 17:44:23 -0400

Spy magazine coined the term "short-fingered vulgarian" in the 80's to describe Donald Trump and it still really, really annoys him. On this podcast extra, we share a segment from an upcoming show produced by our friends at Studio 360 in which current 360 host, and former Spy founder Kurt Andersen reminisces with former Spy editor Susan Morrison about their enduring habit of name-calling. 

(image) The Short-Fingered Vulgarian!

Media Files:

Damned If You Do...

Fri, 16 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400

This election may be remembered as the moment when a nebulous and formerly obscure white supremacist movement known as the "alt-right" was launched into the mainstream. A look at their ascendancy, their role, and their memes. Plus, fact-checking Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" comment; struggling to define Facebook; and the challenges of covering the North Dakota pipeline protests.

(image) Damned If You Do...

Media Files:

After 9/11, Nothing Was Funny

Wed, 14 Sep 2016 03:00:00 -0400

In the days and weeks after the towers fell, nothing felt funny anymore. Comedians on late night TV and in the comedy clubs of New York questioned their own judgement. Brooke spoke to Will Ferrell back in 2001 and Marc Maron on the tenth anniversary of the attacks about the place of humor in tragedy. We revisit both conversations on this podcast extra.

(image) After 9/11, Nothing Was Funny

Media Files:

After The Facts

Fri, 09 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Critics have long viewed Hillary Clinton as untrustworthy and dishonest. This week, we revisit a crucial moment nearly 25 years ago that helped set that narrative in motion. Also, pundits say this election season has ushered in the era of "post-fact" politics, but history tells us it's always been that way. Plus, a guide for making sense of Islamophobic media coverage, and a German TV show trying to teach refugees how to fit in. 

(image) After The Facts

Media Files:

Brooke Gladstone Is a Trekker

Wed, 07 Sep 2016 15:58:48 -0400

In September 1966, Gene Roddenberry dispatched the crew of the Starship Enterprise on its maiden voyage through space and time and into the American living room. It was an inauspicious start, but fifty years later the Star Trek universe is still expanding, with a new movie out this summer, Star Trek Beyond. In a vintage OTM piece, Brooke explores the various television incarnations of the franchise and the infinitely powerful engine behind it all: the fan.

(image) Brooke Gladstone Is a Trekker

Media Files:

Kids These Days

Fri, 02 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400

A University of Chicago welcome letter criticizing political correctness on college campuses reignited vigorous debate. An examination of the value of tools like trigger warnings and safe spaces. Plus, with just two months until election day, a new Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook for making sense of the polls. And, a history of music in presidential campaigns.

(image) Kids These Days

Media Files:

Bob's Grill #5: Former CNN President Jon Klein

Wed, 31 Aug 2016 03:00:00 -0400

It's the latest and last installment of Bob's Grill, and we've got a special guest chef (it's Brooke). 

The year was 2005, and CNN was focused on a big story with wall-to-wall coverage. The story was, of course, The Runaway Bride. Jennifer Milbanks had cold feet and disappeared a few days before her wedding. She made tabloid headlines and left tracks all over the cable news channels, including CNN - which covered her day and night for a week. Coincidentally, the network’s new president Jonathan Klein, had just months before been promising more rigorous journalism and less sensationalism. So OTM called him up. In this interview, Klein and Brooke butt heads over what constitutes news, and whether stories need justification.

Post-script: Jon Klein left CNN in 2010. 

(image) Bob's Grill #5: Former CNN President Jon Klein

Media Files:

Define "Normal"

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Right-wing rumors about Hillary Clinton's health have made their way into the mainstream media, but it's hardly the first time a candidate's health has been in the headlines this year: the press has been scrutinizing Donald Trump's mental state for months. This week, examining the arguments for and against speculating about a candidate's health. Plus, how the dominant media narratives after the Rio Olympics obscure real problems, and how climate change is reshaping the country as we know it. 

(image) Define "Normal"

Media Files:

Bob's Grill #4: ExxonMobil's Richard Keil

Wed, 24 Aug 2016 03:00:00 -0400

We return to Bob's Grill this week with a 2015 interview with ExxonMobil's Richard Keil, the company's senior adviser for global public affairs. 

Last year, the website InsideClimate News published an investigative series examining ExxonMobil’s rich history of scientific study on fossil fuels and global warming. The series, called "Exxon: The Road Not Taken", found that the company was at the forefront of climate change research in the 1970s and 80s -- before pivoting to funding climate change denial groups in 1989.

At the time, Bob spoke with Richard Keil of Exxon about why the company disputed the reporting, and about the company's history of funding climate change denial front groups. 

Stay tuned next week for more from the Grill. 

(image) Bob's Grill #4: ExxonMobil's Richard Keil

Media Files:

Print Is Back, Back Again

Fri, 19 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400

A special hour on the publishing industry and the resurgence of print--from Amazon’s flirtation with brick-and-mortar bookstores to the success of wholesale suppliers shilling books by the foot as decorative objects. Plus, the mysterious world of novelizations, the subversive history of adult coloring books, and more. 


(image) Print Is Back, Back Again

Media Files:

Bob's Grill #3: James O'Keefe

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 03:00:00 -0400

We return to Bob’s Grill this week with a 2011 interview with “sting operation” videographer James O’Keefe, best known for his efforts to discredit institutions such as Planned Parenthood, NPR, the Open Society Foundations, and the community organizing group ACORN. O'Keefe says he's using the tools of investigative journalism, but his videos are full of distorted quotes, manipulated footage, and in some cases outright lies. Bob spoke with O’Keefe shortly after the release of his undercover video of NPR executive Ron Schiller, and took him to task for his, shall we say, creative editorializing.

Stay tuned next week for more from the Grill.

(image) Bob's Grill #3: James O'Keefe

Media Files:

Magic 8 Ball

Fri, 12 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Political commentators have repeatedly, reliably, been wrong this election season. There was the improbable Bernie Sanders. The inevitable Jeb Bush. The passing-fad Donald Trump. Now that we've landed so far from where we began, we examine why pundits make such bad predictions, and why they probably won't stop.

(image) Magic 8 Ball

Media Files:

Bob's Grill #2: Hunter Moore

Wed, 10 Aug 2016 03:00:00 -0400

Welcome to Bob’s grill! Each week this August, you’re invited to join Bob in his backyard to fire up the barbecue and turn up the heat. But, on occasion, a burger and a cold one just won’t suffice. So this week we’re roasting a whole pig.

Hunter Moore is the creator of the now-defunct website, an amateur "revenge porn" site with an insidious social networking component. The site featured nude photos submitted anonymously, usually by angry exes looking for vengeance. But rather than just publishing the photos online for the world to see, Moore’s site also included links to the naked person's social networking profiles, further amplifying the shame. In this interview from 2011, Bob grills Moore on why he does what he does. 

(image) Bob's Grill #2: Hunter Moore

Media Files:

There Must Be Another Way

Fri, 05 Aug 2016 00:00:00 -0400

The Democratic Party and the media are fretting about whether the Green Party will splinter Democratic votes in November. This week, we look at the myths and realities surrounding third parties and consider how "strategic voting" could figure into the coming election. Also, a deep look at the oft-cited narrative that Ralph Nader spoiled the 2000 election for Al Gore.

Plus, Donald Trump's latest skirmish with Khizr and Ghazala Khan has prompted the media to clamor yet again over whether Trump has finally gone too far. Are they missing the point? 


(image) There Must Be Another Way

Media Files:

Bob's Grill #1: Judith Miller

Wed, 03 Aug 2016 03:00:00 -0400

Ahhh, summer and grilling. They’re made for each other, right? That’s why all this August you're invited to Bob’s grill: a collection of interviews from over the years when one person takes the role of the chef -- that’s Bob, in the apron -- and the other person….well, you know.

We launch the series with an interview Bob did in 2005 with former New York Times journalist Judith Miller, who became mired in controversy after her faulty reporting on alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and for refusing to testify in the leak investigation of former CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Stay tuned next week for more grilling with Bob. 

(image) Bob's Grill #1: Judith Miller

Media Files:

A Failure of Imagination

Fri, 29 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400

In the wake of the DNC email scandal, reports are surfacing that Russian hackers are behind the hack. But as the media runs with a narrative about Donald Trump's connections to Vladimir Putin, we ask: is it misleading?

Plus: a Breaking News Consumer's Handbook on reporting about migration, both across US borders and around the world -- and what myths persist about the large-scale movement of people. 

And reporter Ilya Marritz goes to Germany to learn about how that country's media is reacting to one million refugees and migrants who have arrived in the last year.  

(image) A Failure of Imagination

Media Files:

The Sporkful: Campaign Edition

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 03:00:00 -0400

Eating like a regular person when you’re on the campaign trail is hard. The cameras are in your face and they really, really want to see you drip grease on your shirt or eat a slice of pizza with a knife and fork or take a big ol’ bite out of a (let's face it) totally phallic corn-dog.

In the coming months, as we watch the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump bandwagons go from town to town --from diners to BBQ’s to hog roasts -- Dan Pashman, host of The Sporkful podcast, wants you to know that every choice the candidates make about food (to slurp or not to slurp), is a thoroughly vetted process. 

(image) The Sporkful: Campaign Edition

Media Files:

Hostile Takeover

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400

The divide between the Black Lives Matter movement and the police is often portrayed as unbridgeable. This week: finding common ground and working on addressing the real problems of policing in America.

Plus, reviewing the Republican National Convention as well as conventions past.

And, after Turkey’s failed coup, a Breaking News Consumer's Handbook for how to successfully cover, and carry out, a military coup. And a Turkish journalist talks about what happened when the coup plotters took over his newspaper's offices. 

(image) Hostile Takeover

Media Files:

You Have To Laugh Not To Cry

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 03:00:00 -0400

Brazil's crises have been very good for Sensacionalista, a site that's based on The Onion and now one of the most popular "news" sites in the country. Two years ago, the group had 30,000 likes on Facebook. Today, it has 2.8 million

At times, real Brazilian headlines can seem absurd. For example, military police killed a jaguar, the national animal, at an Olympic-torch lighting ceremony; the interim president's new cabinet only has white men; and just weeks before the Olympics, the tourism minister has resigned.

Bob met co-founders Nelito Fernandes and Martha Mendonca at their home in Rio de Janeiro (they're married) to hear about how the Brazilian public has been reading the news through the lens of satire -- and what news is too awful even for jokes. 


(image) You Have To Laugh Not To Cry

Media Files:

The Country of the Future

Fri, 15 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400

OTM is in Brazil this week. We delve into the web of challenges ensnaring the country: a recession, crime waves, corruption scandals, the Zika virus... all in the run-up to the Olympic Games. Plus, the complex crises facing the media industry at a time when rigorous reporting is more essential than ever. 

And, when 30,000 journalists descend on the country from around the world in just a couple of weeks, many will likely produce facile reports about Rio's notorious favelas. We hear from activists and community journalists trying to wrest back the narrative and spark a debate about policing and race not unlike what's unfolding in America. 
(image) The Country of the Future

Media Files:

Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Bearing Witness Edition

Mon, 11 Jul 2016 19:12:00 -0400

The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, were both captured on video. So were the deaths of Walter Scott, Eric Garner, and so many others. That’s not new. But technology has become more and more sophisticated, and so have the bystanders using it, primed by grim history to turn the camera on, and, increasingly, involve an audience. We explore the role of Facebook Live in the events of the last week and offer you our Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Bearing Witness Edition, for guidance on how to film the police, wisely and within your rights.

Brooke speaks with journalist Carlos Miller of Photography is Not A Crime, former police officer and current law professor Seth Stoughton, and Jennifer Carnig, former communications director for the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Find the ACLU's apps for recording police action here




(image) Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Bearing Witness Edition

Media Files:

Lies, Lies, Lies

Fri, 08 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400

This election season has been rife with misinformation, half-truths, and pure deceit... but lying in politics dates back centuries. This week we devote a whole hour to LIES: the ones our leaders tell us, and the ones we tell ourselves and each other. 

(image) Lies, Lies, Lies

Media Files:

Now You See Me

Fri, 01 Jul 2016 00:00:00 -0400

The Brexit fallout continues. Before he was mayor of London, Boris Johnson covered the EU... badly. We hear how his reporting created a caricature of Europe, and why that story about Brits Googling the EU is too good to be true.

Plus: two stories of transparency -- good news on FOIA, and bad news on dark money. 

And speaking of transparency: do we know enough about the gene editing program CRISPR? Plus, Brooke explores what we learn about cloning from movies and t.v. shows, including Orphan Black (!)

(image) Now You See Me

Media Files:

From Rubella to Roe v. Wade

Wed, 29 Jun 2016 03:00:00 -0400

This week, the Supreme Court upheld constitutional protections for abortion rights. 

To mark the occasion we have a story about the history of abortion in the US that first aired last winter, when the spread of Zika and the resulting deformities in newborns was causing panic across South and Central America. Abortion is illegal in those traditionally Catholic countries, but so many women were giving birth to babies with microcephaly and the brain damage associated with it, that the UN high commissioner for human rights urged a widespread repeal of abortion bans.

You may be surprised to know this wasn’t the first time an epidemic influenced the abortion debate. Leslie Reagan of the University of Illinois says it happened in the US, 50 years ago -- and the epidemic was Rubella, or German measles


(image) From Rubella to Roe v. Wade

Media Files:

The Great Divide

Fri, 24 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Democrats in the House of Representatives staged a dramatic sit-in this week to protest inaction on gun legislation, but are they just preaching to the choir? This week, we look at bridging the gap over guns in America and how the media can better understand both sides. Plus, new algorithms claim to provide more accurate models for policing and sentencing, but they actually might be making things worse. 



(image) The Great Divide

Media Files:

'White Trash' and Class in America

Wed, 22 Jun 2016 03:00:00 -0400

As the media have watched the ascent of Donald Trump with disbelief-going-on-horror, pundits have returned frequently to the question of who exactly his supporters are. Terms like "angry" and "white working class" are mentioned frequently, but the National Review several months ago put it the most pointedly and viciously. In an article lambasting Trump supporters, Kevin Williamson characterized them as lazy drug addicts, compared them to animals, and even suggested that they deserved to die. Though he did not say it directly, the implication was clear: these people were white trash.

We took that opportunity to take a deeper look at the idea of "white trash," with the help of writer and professor Nancy Isenberg, author of the forthcoming book, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. Isenberg described to Brooke how the notion of "white trash" has been around for a long time, belying the idea that America is a "classless" society. White Trash comes out this week, and we're re-running our conversation in honor of it.

(image) 'White Trash' and Class in America

Media Files:

Never Again, Again

Fri, 17 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400

The aftermath of the Orlando shootings has been marked by grief...and also politics, with LGBT rights, gun control, and terrorism all vying for center stage. We talk with a gay Muslim writer who found himself in "double jeopardy" this week, delve into the semantic tousle over the words "radical Islam," and consider whether forgetting is an appropriate response to violent extremism.

Plus, as the debate over gun control ratchets up again, a look at how the meaning of the Second Amendment has evolved over time. And, what lies at the heart of Britain's "Brexit" campaign (hint: it's not economics).


(image) Never Again, Again

Media Files:

The Challenge of Fighting Terrorism Online

Wed, 15 Jun 2016 03:00:00 -0400

The attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando has renewed calls for anti-terrorist action from politicians across the board. For presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, this has meant a revival of her call for a government/Silicon Valley alliance that would analyze social networks in order to thwart terrorist plots and impede potential radicalization.

It's an attractive solution but one, as we've explored before, that is far more complicated than it might sound. This week we revisit two conversations we had last January, when a US government delegation met with Silicon Valley executives to discuss just such an approach. Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law, talks about how a neutral-sounding algorithm for scanning radicalization raises numerous legal red flags. And terrorist behavior expert John Horgan explains how this approach fundamentally misunderstands how radicalization happens and why we must be careful distinguishing between those who consume extremist content and those who intend to act on it.

(image) The Challenge of Fighting Terrorism Online

Media Files:


Fri, 10 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400

The Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee the night before voters went to polls. We hear from the AP and consider the ethics behind their decision.

Plus: How should journalists be treating Donald Trump? The presumptive GOP nominee has had a year-long codependent relationship with the media, but we may be at a turning point. Paul Waldman of The American Prospect argues that old-school investigative reporting is the best way to engage with Trump's sketchy claims and inflammatory rhetoric. Then, CNN's Jake Tapper reflects on how to press the candidate effectively in interviews and whether the conventional tools of broadcast journalism are enough.

Political theorist Michael Signer defined "demagogue" for us six months ago. We check back in on how the term applies to Trump now. And: fiction writer and essayist Aleksandar Hemon argues that novelists should be further probing contemporary politics in their work.

(image) Sad!

Media Files:

Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl

Wed, 08 Jun 2016 03:00:00 -0400

This week we want to share with you a piece that we really liked from our friends at Radio Diaries. It’s a personal, revealing, surprising story told by a teen from a region that usually gets discussed only in terms of oil and conflict.

For two years, Majd Abdulghani recorded an audio diary of her life in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -- where women cannot drive, and where they only make up 16 percent of the workforce. But the society is changing, and Majd's story of studying to be a scientist, learning karate, and ultimately navigating the world of arranged marriages is a glimpse into a world rarely seen by outsiders. 

Radio Diaries' Joe Richman and Sarah Kramer introduce this audio diary, and conduct an additional interview at the end. You can learn more about Saudi women and see photos of Majd on, where you'll also find other great stories. 

(image) Two Years in the Life of a Saudi Girl

Media Files:

When To Believe

Fri, 03 Jun 2016 00:00:00 -0400

This week, a baby girl was born in New Jersey with microcephaly, a reminder that the Zika virus is not a distant threat. What is known and still unknown about Zika has fueled pseudoscience and paranoia. We look at a study about Zika-related conspiracy theories online, and how to debunk them. 

Plus: The Obama administration may soon release 28 remaining pages of the Congressional 9/11 report -- and they're likely about Saudi Arabia's role in the attacks. We dig into what's in there and why it matters. 

And, the story of New York Times reporter Jeffrey Schmalz, who transformed public perception of AIDS and the gay men and women dying from the disease. 

(image) When To Believe

Media Files:

The #FreeAustinTice Campaign

Wed, 01 Jun 2016 03:00:00 -0400

Last week’s show, “Kidnapped,” featured an interview with Debra and Marc Tice, parents of Austin Tice, the freelance American journalist who disappeared in Syria nearly four years ago. We received many comments from people who were deeply moved by that conversation, so we thought we’d offer you a longer version.  

At age thirty, Austin Tice went to Syria with the purest of intentions: to report, firsthand, what befell the people there. He had little experience but a lot of verve, and nerve, venturing deeper into the country than nearly any other western journalist. Soon he was filing stories for McClatchy and the Washington Post, appearing on CBS, and giving interviews to public radio. Then, in August 2012, he vanished. Six weeks later, his family saw evidence of life: a video showing him being led blindfolded up a hillside by armed, masked men. Since that video, the Tices have had no communication with Austin or his captors. But they have what they call credible, recent reports that Austin is still alive. Bob talks with Debra and Marc Tice about their tireless efforts to draw attention to Austin's plight.

(image) The #FreeAustinTice Campaign

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Fri, 27 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400

The threat of kidnapping in Syria has made it one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists. A special hour on how we get our news from a country that's nearly impossible to visit, and why the world's tangled policy on hostages means that some live to tell the tale, and others don't. 

(image) Kidnapped

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Covering the First Atomic Bombs

Wed, 25 May 2016 03:00:00 -0400

This week, President Obama will become the first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima. To mark the occasion, we're revisiting two segments we produced in 2005 relating to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan. First, author and journalist Greg Mitchell discusses the case of George Weller, the first reporter on the scene after the bombings, whose first-hand accounts of the aftermath, and the mysterious illness that followed, were never published, only to be discovered in 2005. Then, David Goodman, co-author of "Exception to the Rulers," tells the story of New York Times reporter William L. Laurence, who witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and won a Pulitzer for his heavily pro-bombing reporting -- only for it to be revealed that he was working for the US War Department all along. 

(image) Covering the First Atomic Bombs

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Fri, 20 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Seventy-one years after the bombing, President Obama is set to be first sitting US president to visit Hiroshima, raising questions that many are keen to avoid. Plus, revisiting a notorious murder that the press got wrong; the long reach of a WWII slogan; and attempts in Ukraine to whitewash the nation's history. A special hour on memory, both historical and personal, and how what we remember shapes our world.

(image) Ghosts

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How The "Fake News" Gets Made

Wed, 18 May 2016 10:18:46 -0400

There’s comedy, and there’s news, and then there’s that amalgamation of the two -- call it satire or lampoonery or, in the parlance of Jon Stewart, “Fake news.” But how does it get made? And does it help or hurt if your background is in real news?

Last month Brooke moderated a discussion put on by the Journalism + Design program at The New School in New York City featuring writers and producers from The Daily Show with Trevor NoahThe Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, and Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Representing The Daily Show are journalists and bloggers Daniel Radosh and Dan Amira; for The Nightly Show, writer Cord Jefferson (who actually just left the show to be a writer on Aziz Ansari’s Master of None); and for Full Frontal, producers Sanya Dosani and Naureen Khan, both of whom came directly from Al Jazeera America. 

(image) How The "Fake News" Gets Made

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Trending Topics

Fri, 13 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400

What's worse: potentially biased humans controlling the news you see or a "neutral" algorithm? Accusations that Facebook's Trending Topics feature isn't purely data-driven have highlighted the platform's power. 

Plus: Margaret Sullivan, the former public editor of The New York Times, is on her way to the Washington Post. How much did she change at the paper of the record? 

Also: Bob's take on how the political press is normalizing the presumptive GOP nominee; and a new documentary looks at Anthony Weiner's failed run for mayor.

(image) Trending Topics

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FiveThirtyEight vs. the Data Detractors

Wed, 11 May 2016 03:00:00 -0400

Last Tuesday Donald Trump won the Indiana primary and became the presumptive nominee of the Republican party. In the days that followed, hands were wrung over the question “how did we get this so wrong?” New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg was particularly critical of data journalism, which one election cycle ago seemed so heroic but in Trumpworld turned out to have feet of clay. Singling out Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight (our partner this election cycle), Rutenberg wrote that in relying on polling data that gave Trump a 2% chance of winning the nomination 6 months ago, FiveThirtyEight “sapped the journalistic will to scour his record as aggressively as those of his supposedly more serious rivals. In other words, predictions can have consequences.”

Nate Silver on his podcast this week had a response to Rutenberg (and all the other data detractors). Here is an excerpt from that episode in which you’ll also hear Silver’s FiveThirtyEight colleagues Harry Enten, Clare Malone, and Jody Avirgan.

(image) FiveThirtyEight vs. the Data Detractors

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The Center Cannot Hold

Fri, 06 May 2016 00:00:00 -0400

Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, the nay-saying pundits have one last-ditch idea: a centrist third party candidate to save the day! Just like they said in the last election, and the one before that... This week On the Media explores the media's recurring fixation on a technocratic third party candidate and why exactly it's bogus. Plus, how the US helped create Puerto Rico's crushing debt crisis and revisiting the Iranian Revolution via video game.

(image) The Center Cannot Hold

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