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.


The System Is Rigged  

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. 

Mike Pesca Goes Back to the Spin Room  

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

Race, Class, and the United States of Anxiety  

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. 

Race to the Bottom  

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.

The United States of Anxiety  

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. 

Personal Responsibility  

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. 



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

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 Guerilla 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. 

Do Better  

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.

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.  


Mike Pesca Went to the Spin Room  

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

Freedom of Information  

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.


The Short-Fingered Vulgarian!  

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 Anderson reminisces with former Spy editor Susan Morrison about their enduring habit of name-calling. 

Damned If You Do...  

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.

After 9/11, Nothing Was Funny  

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.

After The Facts  

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. 

Brooke Gladstone Is a Trekker  

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.

Kids These Days  

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.

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

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. 

Define "Normal"  

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. 

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

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. 

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