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

The Game Has Changed  

As tensions between the press and the president-elect continue to mount, a look at why some news outlets chose to publish a salacious but unverified set of allegations about Donald Trump. Plus, how the rules of journalism may change in the Era of Trump and what journalists need to do to adjust; and writer Rebecca Solnit on finding hope in dark and uncertain places.

January Surprise  

For weeks now, journalists have been aware of a dossier circulating among top officials and the media; it alleges among other things, that Russia has compromising (Kompromat) information on President Elect Donald Trump. But it wasn't until a chain of events set off by a presidential briefing about the contents of the dossier that the media felt free to talk about what they knew. Brooke speaks with Slate's Will Oremus about Buzzfeed's (and Slate's) decision to publish the anonymous (and unverified) Russia memos in full. 

No End In Sight  

British journalist John Cantlie has been a prisoner of ISIS for more than four years. Throughout his captivity, he's been forced to act as a sort of warped foreign correspondent, extolling the virtues of the group in propaganda videos. With every appearance, he looks weaker and gaunter. In this special hour, we consider how Cantlie's plight is a window into the challenges of reporting on Syria, and why the world's tangled policy on hostages means that some live to tell the tale, and others don't. 

To Thine Own Self Be True  

It's been four hundred years since the death of William Shakespeare, and the Bard is as popular as ever... and just as mysterious. For centuries, a war has raged over the question: who is Shakespeare? We explore how the answer has evolved through the ages, and what that tells us about our changing perceptions of class, art, genius, and religion. Plus, a look at Shakespeare's enduring global relevance, with an inspiring and perilous performance of Love's Labor's Lost in Afghanistan. 

Donald Trump is not Hitler  

The Man in the High Castle, the Emmy Award winning TV series, imagines a world in which the Nazi’s won WWII. Set in the 1960s, the show blends actual pop cultural imagery and artifacts with fictional interpretations of an alternative ending to the war.

When its first season debuted, the show’s ad campaign in New York City subways hit a little too close to home. And the show’s second season, which dropped last week, is resonating in a similar way, although this time not so intentionally, just as white nationalists gain exposure in the lead-up to the Trump presidency. “But if it would be hyperbole to treat the series like a documentary, it would be denial to say it plays no differently now than it did before,” says James Poniewozik the chief television critic for The New York Times. He joined Studio 360 host Kurt Andersen in the studio to talk about his most recent article on the series which points to the parallels between fiction and reality.

Hurry Up!  

None of us know what Donald Trump will do once he becomes President Trump. What we do know is what he has said he wants to do and what powers he will have, should he choose to act. That's why activists are urging President Obama to do all that he can in the weeks he has left to leave the presidency nicer than he found it and to place some limits on the abilities of a potentially reckless new ruler.

Brooke and Bob talk to advocates and experts who have compiled a "must-do" list for Obama's final month in office, ranging from surveillance oversight to digital preservation to clemency to climate action. Then, we hear from the White House itself about what the administration actually plans to do with the limited time.

Finally, a discussion with writer James Gleick about the nature of time and how our understanding of it has evolved over time.

Michigan's Muckraker  

This week four more officials were charged in the Flint, Michigan water crisis, bringing the total to charged to 13. But the story initially unfolded largely without national attention. State officials denied and dismissed claims that city water was poisoned with lead, even as evidence mounted from independent water researchers, a pediatrician, and a muckraker from a non-profit advocacy group. Curt Guyette is an investigative reporter for the ACLU of Michigan, he told Brooke how his reporting helped get the story out, and why it took so long for Flint to make headlines.

Spy vs. Spy  

The saga over Russian interference in the election has been marked by secrecy, rumor, and contradictory evidence. We try to bring some clarity to a cloudy narrative. 

Also, the CIA says Russian hackers deliberately helped Donald Trump win the election but the FBI wasn't initially convinced. We consider the long and tumultuous rivalry between the two agencies, and how spies and G-men have been depicted in popular culture. 

Plus, how the US propaganda agency “Voice of America” might function under President Trump. 

The Art of the Follow-Up  

Recently CNN's Jake Tapper asked VPEOTUS Mike Pence the same question over and over again, hoping for an answer. Bob spoke to Tapper back in June about the art of the follow-up.

Imagine That  

The Justice Department just vastly expanded the government’s power to hack into your devices... but you probably haven't heard about it. We examine how this change flew under the radar, and why it could be dangerous. Also, a growing threat to free speech: billionaires using libel suits to damage and destroy media outlets. And, how a fringe conspiracy theory involving pizza is a parable for our time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mistrial of Michael Slager  

After a mistrial this week in the case of Michael Slager, the police officer caught on camera shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away, we revisit two interviews we did this summer. Patrice Cullors is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter and Eugene O'Donnell is a former police officer, we spoke to them after two deadly shooting incidents involving young black men targeting police officers. 

Normalize This!  

We devote this hour to a question put to us pretty much daily since election day: How to cover President Trump? 

First, we ask the AP, Univision, NPR, USA Today, and other news outlets about how they are defining a relationship with a president-elect who flaunts traditional rules, spreads misinformation, and criticizes the press.

Then we turn to language. Listeners help us highlight moments in media coverage that obscure the truth, and journalist Masha Gessen warns of the "impulse to normalize."

Plus, linguist John McWhorter describes the phenomenon of partisan words, and cognitive scientist George Lakoff argues that the principles of journalism need to be redefined... because of how our brains work.

 

 

 

How (NOT) to Cover Cuba!  

In 1957, Fidel Castro was believed to be dead -- until New York Times writer Herbert L. Matthews conducted an interview with Castro in the Cuban jungle. Matthews' portrayal of a romantic figure and a promising leader was trusted, until Castro revealed himself and his planned revolution as communist. Brooke speaks with Anthony DePalma, author of The Man Who Invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba, and Herbert L. Matthews of The New York Times, about the infamous coverage of Cuba's infamous leader. Also, the OTM guide on how (not) to cover Cuba.

Ghosts  

This election season, the media frequently looked to history in an attempt to explain the rise of Donald Trump. We consider how historical parallels don't always serve us well. 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.

Thanks for Everything, Bing  

A few years ago, Brooke spoke with the writer Paul Ford about the remarkable connection between Bing Crosby, magnetic tape, Nazi technology, and the computer hard drive. We're putting it down the podcast feed again this week, just before the Thanksgiving holiday, to get you in the mood. You can read Ford's post about Crosby on the New Yorker Elements blog

Unreal  

In the months leading up to the election, some fake news stories generated more engagement on Facebook than real news stories. We consider the landscape of misinformation and how to separate truth from fiction.

Plus: Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, hasn't just influenced political discourse through the incendiary Breitbart News -- he's also sabotaged his chosen politicians through investigative journalism.

And we interview a man who the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the “cultivated, cosmopolitan face of white supremacy” to find out what he wants wants from the Trump administration.

 

 

 

When Real Police Shootings Look Nothing Like The Movies  

According to The Washington Post, more than 800 people have been shot and killed by police officers in the United States this year. As videos of many of these shootings-- especially ones depicting confrontations between police officers and black men-- go viral, Alyssa Rosenberg, opinion writer at The Washington Post, examines how different they look from the portrayals of police shootings that we're used to seeing in films and on TV. Her series, Dragnets, Dirty Harrys and Dying Hard examines the ways in which police officers are portrayed in pop culture. She talks to Bob about her third installment of the series: "In Pop Culture, There Are No Bad Police Shootings."

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Wrong Number  

The press didn’t see it coming. Or did they? This week, we examine the role of data – and delusion – in this election. Nate Silver reflects on the promise and pitfalls of polling, and Zachary Karabell discusses how financial indicators gloss over the gritty realities of American life. Plus: how a plan to dismantle the electoral college could make elections more democratic, and election coverage more interesting.

 

 

Now What?  

It's the morning after in the offices of On the Media. Usually editorial meetings take place in Brooke's office with Bob dialed in on the conference phone. This week we did it in the studio so you can hear the hosts talk about how they are feeling and how they envision the direction of the show in the Trump presidency. 

On Shaky Ground  

The months-long protest against the North Dakota Access Pipeline finally received mainstream attention this week after a misdirection campaign on Facebook, but to what end? Plus, making sense of what you've been told about Russia's role in the election; Bob talks to Glenn Beck about his recent transformation; and the all-too-predictable fallout from hiring partisans as cable news pundits.

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