On the Media

On the Media

United States

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 government transparency, criticize media coverage of the week’s big stories, examine new technology, and unravel hidden political narratives in the media. In an age of information overload, OTM helps you dig your way out. The Peabody Award winning show is produced by WNYC Radio.

Episodes

Highly Irregular  

An expensive TV ad campaign has been selling Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to the American people. We speak with the group behind the effort. Plus, Trump's accusations of wiretapping may be false, but they remind us that someone is always listening. And, decoding North Korea panic; and why the diplomatic press corps helps actual diplomacy.

Better Know a Justice  

At his confirmation hearing this week, supreme court nominee Neil Gorsuch - according to the New York Times - cast himself as "a humble Westerner, reared on fly-fishing.”  

And yet, for all the care put into his biography, Judge Gorsuch also seemed to say… nevermind. He rules on the law, not on people.

It’s a needle that’s been tricky for judicial nominees to thread: they want to seem human, but not too human. In this podcast extra, taken from a show we aired last yearBrooke and Thane Rosenbaum, Director of the Forum on Law, Culture and Society at NYU, examine some art and culture about the Supreme Court, and consider just how human we want our justices to be.

Doesn't Add Up  

The President’s proposed budget seems to prioritize national security over pretty much everything else. We examine how the lowest-income Americans could be affected, and what's missing from the media debate. Also, how the White House might be manipulating data to forecast unrealistic economic growth, and why the Congressional Budget Office is so central to the American legislative process. Plus, how Wikileaks played the media with the recent CIA data dump. 

This is Not a Safe Space  

Earlier this month libertarian political scientist Charles Murray and author of the book “the Bell Curve,” derided by many as a racist take on the relationship between genetics and intelligence, was invited to speak at Middlebury College in Vermont. Murray only made it a couple of words into his talk when more than half of those crowding the hall stood up, turned their backs on him and proceeded to read a long prepared remark, en masse. When Murray and the liberal professor who was to interview him after his talk were walking to the car, the crowds jostled him, and injured her. Thus, with violence, liberal students curtailed the free speech rights of a visitor.

We dove into the issue of political correctness on campus last September after noticing a letter sent to incoming freshmen at the University of Chicago that said, quote, “We do not support so-called ‘trigger warnings,’ The university's position, the letter insisted, was based on the administration's "commitment to academic freedom" and their dedication to "fostering the free exchange of ideas" and "diversity of opinion and background." we spoke to former Uchicago student, Cameron Okeke, professor of philosophy at Cornell University Kate Manne, and Geoffrey Stone, professor of Law at the University of Chicago,

Seeing Is Believing  

In the 1960s, pollution was a visible, visceral problem, and public pressure led a Republican president to create the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, the GOP wants to slash the agency's budget and roll back "burdensome" environmental regulations. The story of how the environment went from bipartisan issue to political battleground.

Also, journalists and politicians have long avoided drawing a straight line between natural disasters and climate change. How that's changing, thanks to new "extreme weather attribution" science. And, the myth of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a useful—yet misleading—container for our collective anxieties about the planet. 

Plus, President Trump’s new ban on travelers from Muslim-majority countries was released with little fanfare—intentionally. What the optics tell us, and what the law tells us. 

When the Press Sues Over "Fake News"  

“Fake news.” What began as a description of utterly false articles, fabricated for political advantage or profit, was immediately co-opted by Donald Trump to attack any story or opinion piece in the mainstream media that has the temerity to correct him. Back in November, famed First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams said that in the age of Trump the press should consider a form of defense it has long avoided: suing its opponents for libel.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, a small paper in Colorado, may act on that advice. Accused by a Colorado state senator of publishing fake news, Jay Seaton, the paper's publisher, has threatened to retaliate with a libel suit, the very legal weapon that news organizations have historically fended off. Bob speaks with Seaton about this new strategy and how it could backfire on the rest of the media.

Follow the Money  

As the Trump-Russia saga continues to unfold, how the Obama administration spent its final days scrambling to preserve evidence of Russian interference in the election. Also, the old Soviet-era art of "kremlinology" is back -- but does it really help us understand what Putin is thinking? Plus, a potential key to unveiling Trump’s tax returns, how our understanding of corruption has strayed from the vision of the founders, and more.

 

 

 

 

This Gene Was Edited By Brooke  

CRISPR is a new technology that enables scientists to quickly alter the genetic makeup of the entire population of a species. It's so powerful that just one genetically-modified mosquito could eradicate malaria. It's so easy to do that a grad student could (accidentally) enact these global ecological changes from their kitchen. It's also under-regulated. Under science's current culture of secrecy, ensuring that scientists are taking necessary precautions with gene-drive research is next to impossible, says CRISPR innovator Kevin Esvelt. Writing in Nature last summer, Esvelt urged the scientific community to open all experiments to public scrutiny, beginning with the revolutionary and potentially world-changing gene-editing research he helped advance.

Also in the podcast, the idea of human cloning captivates and terrifies. Depictions of human clones in science fiction reflect some of our deepest fears about what it means to be human. But not everyone shares those anxieties. For example, the creators of the hit BBC series Orphan Black have developed a show which decidedly diverges from the canon of popular culture clone portrayals. Brooke talks with bioethicist Gregory Pence, author of What We Talk About When We Talk About Clone Club, about how Orphan Black reflects and challenges dominant ideas in the debate on human cloning.

 

Smoke & Handcuffs  

With a president who would rather watch TV than receive intelligence briefings, CNN’s Brian Stelter helps unpack the symbiotic relationship between Fox News and the White House. Plus, whether Trump’s new guidelines for mass deportation of undocumented immigrants are more PR than sound policy, how the term “sanctuary cities” may oversell how much safety is actually provided, and the Supreme Court sheds light on violence at the US border. Also, a former FEC Commissioner explains why the Commission has ceased to function as intended.

Leak State  

Republicans decry the leakers; Democrats applaud them...oh, how the tables have turned. How to make sense of the Flynn affair and revelations about the Trump team's communications with Russia. Plus, the steady stream of information from within the government has the media debating the power of the so-called “Deep State” -- invisible officials pulling the strings. Also, deploying the word "treason" with care, what Slobodan Milošević teaches us about Donald Trump, and what Hugo Chávez does not. 

Out Like Flynn  

In response to scandals large and small, first the Trump campaign and now the Trump White House has relied on the fact that each successive lie or outrage will be washed over by the next and the next. And its worked. Until now. Bob ponders whether this week's resignation of General Flynn from his position as National Security Adviser has thrown the White House media machine (momentarily) off its axis. 

See You In Court  

With the president and the judiciary at odds over the travel ban, the term "constitutional crisis" is ubiquitous. Why it should be deployed carefully. Plus, protests are sweeping the nation – but so are efforts to crack down on free speech. How lawmakers are trying to curtail the rights of demonstrators, and how cities can push back. Also, the surprising history of the “anti-fascist” movement, a guide for making sense of protest coverage, and more. 

 

What We Know About the Border  

The Trump administration's so-called "Muslim ban" has created chaos and confusion at airports around the country, but horror stories at the border go back much further than this year. In 2014, we devoted an hour to trying to shred the veil of secrecy obscuring Customs and Border Protection, the huge police force tasked with guarding our borders. We discovered a lack of basic rights and accountability, along with countless stories of dehumanizing detentions and intrusions that thrive within a massive legal grey area.

 

The Ties That Bind  

From incendiary phone calls with world leaders to a sloppy military operation in Yemen, a look at what we've learned so far from "the leakiest White House in a very long time." Also, in a week when one journalist was fired for declaring that "objectivity is dead," we examine whether traditional standards of journalistic neutrality need to be re-imagined for a new era. And how the utopian promise of the Internet was overtaken by algorithms and monopolies that threaten to erode our democracy.

#PresidentBannon  

WH chief strategist Steve Bannon is credited with influencing the president's every move, from speeches to executive orders. This week it was announced that he will take the place of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the National Security Council principals committee so we thought it was a good time to revisit an interview Brooke did with Joshua Green who profiled Bannon for Bloomberg News.

New Reality  

The first week of the Trump administration was a frenzy of executive actions, falsehoods, and attacks on the media. Bob goes to the White House to talk with the press corps about how they're handling a moving target. Plus, how Trump's first executive action on abortion is a symbolic continuation of the decades-long war over reproductive rights. And, the swift rise and fall of the term "fake news." 

Week One  

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and his boss have had a rough first few days in their new jobs. Historian Martha Joynt Kumar explains that the relationship between the press secretary and the press has always been a tricky one.

Future Tense  

President Trump may be the most vocal with his disdain, but he's hardly the first president to have a rocky relationship with the press. Plus, why the White House press corps is so frustrating for everyone involved, and whether Trump's open animosity could actually be a blessing in disguise for the media. And, how the Obama administration’s last-minute expansion of surveillance powers might function in new hands.

"Busted" #3: Rags to Riches  

In the third installment of our series, "Busted: America's Poverty Myths," we take on one of our country's most fundamental notions: that America is a land of equal opportunity and upward mobility for all. And we ask why, in spite of a wealth of evidence to the contrary, does this idea persist?

With the help of historian Jill Lepore, Brooke traces the history of the "rags to riches" narrative, beginning with Benjamin Franklin, whose 18th century paper manufacturing business literally turned rags into riches. We hear from Natasha Boyer, a young Ohio woman who was saved from eviction by a generous surprise from strangers... only for the miracle to prove fleeting. And we consider the efficacy of "random acts of kindness" and the fateful role of luck -- where you're born, and to whom -- in determining success.

Songs:
"Rags To Riches" by Tony Bennett
"Adagio K. 617a For Glass Armonica" by Christa and Gerald Schönfeldinger
"Shine (Reprise)" by Roger Anderson & Lee Goldsmith
"Rondoletto" by Margaret Lion
"Avocet" by Bert Jansch
"This Old House" by Marcos Ciscar
"Melancolia" by Marcos Ciscar

"Busted" #1: The Poverty Tour  

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. 

“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.

Songs:

 "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

 

 

 

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