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On the Media

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The Peabody Award-winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield examine threats to free speech and government transparency, cast a skeptical eye on media coverage of the week’s big stories and unravel hidden political narratives in everything we read, watch and hear.
WNYC Studios is a listener-supported producer of other leading podcasts including Radiolab, Snap Judgment, Death, Sex & Money, Nancy and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin.
© WNYC Studios
448 Episodes
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President Trump has continued to push the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential treatment for Covid-19, even though scientists say more research is needed to prove that it is safe and effective. But how'd we get here in the first place? Julia Carrie Wong is a reporter for The Guardian who has traced how a misleading, flawed study from France has become a widely-cited piece of evidence by media personalities on Fox and elsewhere. In this podcast extra, she explains what's deeply wrong with the study's conclusions and what happened when it got to be featured prominently by Trump's preferred television network. Wong talks to Bob about what's so appealing about the hydroxychloroquine narrative and why the administration might be so attracted to it. 
Many elected officials have declared metaphorical war against the coronavirus. On this week’s show, On The Media examines the historical risks and benefits of relying on bombastic cliches. Plus, quarantined celebrities are revealing how they are and, more often, aren’t just like us.  1. Jeet Heer [@HeerJeet], correspondent at The Nation, explains why treating the pandemic like a war might benefit essential workers on the frontline. Listen. 2. Nicholas Mulder [@njtmulder], historian at Cornell University, on how wartime economic policies change societies. Listen. 3. Eula Biss, author of On Immunity, on the perils of painting public health crises with the broad brush of war. Listen. 4. Bob [@bobosphere] reflects on famesplaining celebs, using their platforms for good and for not-good. Listen.
Since many of us have retreated to our homes in the past month, we’ve been connected to each other mostly through our screens. Work meetings, dinners, catch-ups with old friends, classes, religious ceremonies, weddings, funerals. They’re all taking place in one location: our computers. And often, over an app called Zoom. A piece of software that until recently was mostly used for business-to-business conversations, Zoom has taken over lives... and, given the company's track record of misrepresenting its data and encryption policies, that might be a bit of a problem. For this podcast extra, Bob speaks with Motherboard journalist Joseph Cox, who recently broke the story that Zoom was sharing user data with Facebook.
Playing The Hero

Playing The Hero

2020-03-2751:086

Elected officials offer a flood of facts and spin in daily coronavirus briefings. On this week’s On the Media, hear how the press could do a better job separating vital information from messaging. Plus, a look at the unintended consequences of armchair epidemiology. And, how one watchdog journalist has won paid sick leave for thousands of workers during the pandemic.  1. Bob [@bobosphere] on the challenges of covering the pandemic amidst a swirl of political messaging. Listen.  2. Ivan Oransky [@ivanoransky], professor of medical journalism at New York University, on the rapidly-changing ways that medical scientists are communicating with each other. Listen.  3. Ryan Broderick [@broderick], senior reporter at Buzzfeed News, on "coronavirus influencers." Listen.  4. Judd Legum [@JuddLegum], author of the Popular Information newsletter, on pressing large corporations to offer paid sick leave. Listen.  5. Brooke [@OTMBrooke] on the cost-benefit analysis being performed with human lives. Listen.   
Last week, roughly 400 Israelis got an alert on their cell phone: “You must immediately go into isolation [for 14 days] to protect your relatives and the public.” Data-tracking suggested that they had recently spent time near someone who had tested positive for Covid-19. The next day, hundreds of Israelis set up a convoy of cars to demonstrate outside the Knesset, the Israeli parliament (since mass gatherings are prohibited, to slow the spread of the virus). Protestors said that the surveillance measures were just one of a series of undemocratic actions taken by Benjamin Netanyahu's government in a power grab that uses the coronavirus as a cover. So what happens when a country faces a series of crises on top of a pandemic? Bob spoke with Steve Hendrix, Jerusalem bureau chief for The Washington Post, about what the virus has meant for Israelis in the midst of a politically polarized maelstrom.
Bracing for Impact

Bracing for Impact

2020-03-2051:029

As a global pandemic threatens to upend life as we know it, the future is becoming increasingly difficult to grapple with. On this week's On the Media, we turn to people who have been spent years readying themselves for societal collapse: doomsday preppers. Plus, how a different disaster — Hurricane Katrina — revealed inconsistencies in how we care for one another in times of crisis.  1. As the pandemic continues to disrupt our communities and daily routines, the very passage of time feels distorted. Brooke [@otmbrooke] examines how covid-19 is warping a sense of chronology. Listen here. 2. OTM Producer Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] immerses himself in the survivalist media sphere, and talks to Richard Mitchell Jr., professor emeritus of sociology at Oregon State University, about how preppers are reacting to news that the moment they've been planning for may finally be here. Listen here. 3. Rebecca Onion [@rebeccaonion], staff writer at Slate, on survivalist novelist and blogger John Wesley Rawles and the rise of prepper fiction. Listen here. 4. Vann Newkirk II, staff writer at The Atlantic and host of the new podcast "Floodlines," on the lessons of Hurricane Katrina. Listen here.   Music from this week's show: Time is Late by Marcos Ciscar PRELUDE 8: The Invisibles by John Zorn Coffee Cold by Galt MacDermot Slow Pulse Conga by William Pasley Down to Earth by Peter Gabriel "Auf einer Burg" by Don Byron Melancolia by Marcos Ciscar  
From Miami to Massachusetts, from San Francisco to Pittsburgh to New York, housing courts are closing up and marshals are standing down as various eviction moratoriums provide at least one answer to the mounting economic uncertainties caused by the coronavirus. In this podcast extra, Brooke and Matthew Desmond (Evicted author and producing partner of our series, The Scarlet E: Unmasking America's Eviction Crisis) discuss whether the policy changes we've seen can avert a total housing catastrophe — and whether the present crisis might cause us to ask deeper questions about housing affordability in America.
Civilization, Interrupted

Civilization, Interrupted

2020-03-1301:04:267

The World Health Organization has officially declared the spread of COVID-19 a global pandemic. On this week's On the Media, how coverage of the virus in the United States, overseas and onscreen is informing how we cope with the threat of infection. 1.  McKay Coppins [@mckaycoppins], staff writer at The Atlantic, on right-wing media's coronavirus misinformation campaign. Listen. 2. Rachel Donadio [@RachelDonadio], European politics and culture reporter for The Atlantic, on how the Italian media have been keeping a nation under lockdown informed. Listen. 3. Christopher Miller [@ChristopherJM], Buzzfeed News correspondent, on how coronavirus rumors decimated a small Ukrainian village. Listen. 4. Gideon Lasco [@gideonlasco], medical anthropologist at the University of the Philippines Diliman, on the symbolism of surgical masks. Listen. 5. Wesley Morris [@Wesley_Morris] of the New York Times, on rewatching the movie Contagion. Listen.
A Unique Petri Dish

A Unique Petri Dish

2020-03-1208:472

The COVID-19 pandemic has expanded our vocabulary with terms like “social distancing” and “self-isolation.” In an article in Slate, physician and Harvard Medical School instructor Jeremy Samuel Faust gave us one more: “case fatality rate,” or CFR. Initial reports have the CFR for this disease at 2 to 3 percent — but Faust writes that the actual numbers could in fact be much lower. Faust analyzes the "unique petri dish" that is the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and explains that, of the 3,711 people on board, at least 705 tested positive for the virus and 6 people have died...indicating a CFR of 0.85 percent. 
In advance of yesterday’s primaries, we saw some electoral anxieties of a slightly new variety: would voters turn out in the face of COVID-19? In the end, over 3.5 million people voted — not an appreciable decline, but then, the virus is still relatively limited here in the US. And even under the best of circumstances, over 40 percent of American citizens don’t vote. In fact, in November 2016, around 100 million eligible voters passed on the opportunity. That’s more people who voted for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. And it might be even more than that, since nonvoter statistics seem often to be underreported. Eitan Hersh, associate professor of political science at Tufts, was an academic adviser on a new Knight Foundation study, The 100 Million Project: The Untold Story of American Non-voters. It was the largest survey of chronic nonvoters in history — and it overturned some age-old conventional wisdom.
Our Bodies, Ourselves

Our Bodies, Ourselves

2020-03-0651:013

The press called out President Trump after he dismissed an alarming coronavirus statistic on – quote – a “hunch.” On this week’s On The Media, what both Trump and his critics miss in their pursuit of certainty. Plus, why the political scientist who predicted the 2018 midterms thinks Democrats will beat Trump in 2020. And, how the White House is seeking to re-write international norms about “women’s health,” “women’s rights,” and “gender equality” by avoiding those very words. 1. Jon Cohen [@sciencecohen], staff writer for Science, on the various difficulties of reporting on COVID-19. Listen. 2. Frank Snowden, professor emeritus of medical history at Yale University, on the lessons from historical epidemics. Listen. 3. Rachel Bitecofer [@RachelBitecofer], political scientist at Christopher Newport University, on what she sees as Super Tuesday's clear lessons. Listen. 4. Jessica Glenza [@JessicaGlenza], health reporter for The Guardian, on the embattled language of women's health. Listen.  Music from this week's show:Accentuate the Positive by Syd Dale Double Dozen and Alec GouldCarmen Fantasy by Anderson and RoeCellar Door by Michael AndrewsChicago Sunset by Charlie MusselwhiteFirst Drive by Clive Carroll and John RenbournFallen Leaves by Marcus CiscarStarlings by Vijay Iyer Trio
As the global death toll from novel coronavirus continues to increase, the American media are looking to national public health institutions to make sense of the scope and severity of the damage. Much reporting has come from semi-regular phone pressers with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. But over the past week, the CDC telebriefings have shifted — in tone, substance and frequency. Gothamist senior editor Elizabeth Kim has listened in on the CDC coronavirus press briefings since the outbreak began in January. For this podcast extra, Kim joins Brooke to discuss what she and other reporters need from the CDC right now to keep the public informed in the face of a possible pandemic.
Black Swans

Black Swans

2020-02-2851:335

As coronavirus spreads, the Center for Disease Control is warning Americans to take urgent precautions. Meanwhile, the White House says tune out and calm down. On this week’s On the Media, what to expect as COVID-19 threatens to make its way through a ruptured body politic. Plus, amid so much focus on electability, a look at the millions of voters who swing from voting “blue” to simply not voting at all. 1. Journalist [@Laurie_Garrett] on the nature of contagions and how a nation of so-called “epidemic voyeurs” is reacting to a possible pandemic on American soil. Listen. 2. Farhad Manjoo [@fmanjoo], New York Times opinion columnist, on making prediction in an unpredictable world. Listen. 3. Ibram X. Kendi [@DrIbram], executive director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University and author of How to be an Antiracist, on the "other swing voter." Listen. Further reading: "The Wuhan Virus: How To Stay Safe," by Laurie Garrett, published by Foreign Policy on January 25, 2020. Garrett also recommends reading coronavirus coverage and commentary from STAT's Helen Branswell, Science Mag's Jon Cohen and Kai Kupferschmidt, and John Hopkins's Tom Inglesby.  Music: John Zorn - Berotim Cling Mansell & Kronos Quartet - Full Tense Nino Rota/Enrico Peranunzi & Charlie Haden - Fellini’s Waltz Martyn Axe - German Lullaby Nino Rota - Il Casanova de Frederico Fellini David Bowie/Meridian String Quartet - Heroes  
On Saturday, what most pollsters, politicos, and Bernie Sanders campaign organizers had been saying for days, if not weeks, proved true: namely, that the Democratic Socialist candidate for president had been well-poised for victory in Nevada, the most diverse state in the race thus far. Since the AP was able to call the race early in the day, the punditry had all the time they needed to speak to the moment. But, Columbia Journalism Review's Jon Allsop observed, despite the fact that Sanders's win had been predicted by analysts across the board, the day-of analysis had an unmistakable vibe of alarm. In this podcast extra, Bob and Allsop discuss the latest friction between the Sanders campaign and MSNBC, and what the network is doing — and can do moving forward — to avoid any repeat of Saturday's blunders. CORRECTION: Iowa, not Nevada, is the most populous state to have already cast votes in the 2020 election. 
Money, Power, Glory

Money, Power, Glory

2020-02-2150:445

The showdown for the Democratic nomination continues, and the gloves have come off. This week, On the Media examines the conflicting narratives around how each candidate raises money. Plus, how changes at the National Archives could distort the historical record of the Trump administration. 1. Michael Grynbaum [@grynbaum], media correspondent for The New York Times, and Kathy Kiely [@kathykiely], former news director at Bloomberg Politics and journalism professor at University of Missouri School of Journalism, on how Bloomberg News is — and isn't — covering the candidacy of its owner. Listen. 2. Taylor Lorenz [@TaylorLorenz], reporter for The New York Times, on Bloomberg's meme-ification. Listen. 3. Sarah Bryner [@AKSarahB], Director of Research & Strategy at Open Secrets, on the state of campaign financing, ten years after Citizens United. Listen. 4. Matthew Connelly [@mattspast], history professor at Columbia University, explains how policy changes at the National Archives could distort the historical record about the Trump Administration. Listen. Music from this week's show:  David Holmes — $160 Million Chinese ManAdrian Younge — Turn Down the SoundBilly Bragg and Wilco — Union PrayerAntibalas — Dirty MoneyBill Frisell — Lost, NightCalifone — Burned by the Christians
No discussion of money and politics is complete without a tip of the hat to Citizens United, the landmark Supreme Court ruling of 10 years ago that recognized corporations as people and their money as speech.  That ruling was followed a few years ago by the Hobby Lobby decision, giving business owners the right to flout federal law based on their religious beliefs. To many Americans, particularly on the left, both rulings were bizarre and ominous expansions of corporate rights. But, if you think this is the novel handiwork of a uniquely conservative Supreme Court, you haven't been paying attention to the past three or four hundred years of court cases and American history. Adam Winkler, professor of law at UCLA, is the author of We the Corporations: How American Business Won Their Civil Rights. He told us in 2018 that the principle of corporate rights has been litigated forever and predates our very founding.   
Norm!

Norm!

2020-02-1450:566

Attorney General Bill Barr appeared to spar with Donald Trump in the latest chapter of the Roger Stone case. On this week’s On the Media, why the apparent interference in the Justice Department’s work should cause concern. Plus, Customs and Border Patrol builds a new bulwark against disclosure and transparency. And, a family migration story three decades in the making.  1. Dahlia Lithwick, writer for Slate, on what the latest Dept. of Justice news tells us about the fragility of American justice. Listen. 2. Susan Hennessey [@Susan_Hennessey], executive editor at Lawfare, on the latest threats to "prosecutorial independence." Listen. 3. Ken Klippenstein [@kenklippenstein], DC correspondent at The Nation, on Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)'s re-designation as a "security agency." Listen. 4. Jason DeParle [@JasonDeParle], author of A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves, on the 32-year process of reporting one family's migration story. Listen. Music from this week's show: In The Bath — Randy NewmanThe Artifact & Living — Michael AndrewsString Quartet No. 5 — Philip Glass, performed by Kronos QuartetThe Glass House - Marjanes's Inspiration — David BergeaudFrail as a Breeze, Pt. 2 — Erik FriedlanderThe Thompson Fields — Maria Schneider   
Elbert Lester has lived his full 94 years in Quitman County, Mississippi, on land he and his family own. That’s exceptional for black people in this area, and some family members even say the land came to them through “40 acres and a mule.” But that's pretty unlikely, so our WNYC colleague Kai Wright, host of The United States of Anxiety, went on a search for the truth and uncovered a story about an old and fundamental question in American politics, one at the center of the current election: Who are the rightful owners of this country’s staggering wealth? - John Willis is author of Forgotten Time - Eric Foner is author of The Second Founding - The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is located in Montgomery, Alabama. For more information about documented lynchings in Mississippi, and elsewhere, visit the Equal Justice Initiative's interactive report, Lynching in America. You can navigate to each county to learn about documented lynchings there.
The sloppy roll-out of Iowa results prompted disinformation and confusion over the mechanics of the caucus system. This week, On the Media looks at the origins of the nomination process to explain how we got here. Plus, local reporters in New Hampshire examine the power struggle at the heart of the upcoming contest.  1. Galen Druke [@galendruke] on the history of America's unique primary system. Listen. 2. Stranglehold reporters Jack Rodolico [@JackRodolico], Lauren Chooljian [@laurenchooljian], and Casey McDermott [@caseymcdermott] on Dixville Notch's mythical status. Listen.   3. Lauren Chooljian [@laurenchooljian] examines how New Hampshire's local press benefits from being a first-in-the-nation primary. Listen. Music from this week's show:  Sacred Oracle by John ZornYoung at Heart by Brad MehldauThe Camping Store by Clive Carroll and John RenbournMilestones by Bill Evan Trio
A lot was reported about Tuesday night's State of the Union address. President Trump's characteristic self-congratulation, the fact-checking of his error-filled speech, and Nancy Pelosi's sensational paper rip stunt. Tuesday night also solidified Rush Limbaugh's ascent to Republican royalty. By awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Trump inducted Limbaugh into a gilded class of American history, featuring Norman Rockwell, Maya Angelou, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr. According to Matt Gertz, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, the award could be seen as the culmination of the GOP's transformation, precipitated by Limbaugh and solidified by Trump. 
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Comments (41)

Joe Diaz-Romero

holy crap, as an avid Joe Rogan listener, the guy that Brooke interviewed for the Joe Rogan bit is complete crap. he completely missed the point of his podcast

Feb 3rd
Reply (2)

Bill Petkanas

oh, that song! Thank you.

Dec 28th
Reply

Anthony

160K US lives lost since 2001?!? No words.

Dec 16th
Reply (1)

sirenasd

It's like OTM reads my mind!! I'm so over feeling like I am trying to unplug my mother from the matrix. But she does not want to be unplugged. She refuses to acknowledge she is living in an alternate reality because her trusted media sources validate it. Pizza gate, hoax, fake news, etc etc. But I am reassured, she is in the minority. Even though they have a megaphone in the president, we must work to wake up the 50% who are persuadable. The *reality* is the majority are sleeping, let us not waste time on the fanatical zombie minority.

Nov 30th
Reply

sirenasd

The best discussion on free speech I have ever heard. I ❤️ Brooke and OTM is my favorite!!

Nov 7th
Reply (1)

Ted Zuschlag

In 1970 I wrote a computer program. When it finally compiled 'correctly ' I felt the pleasure of job well done. With hindsight, I was feeling a dopamine hit. This simple pleasure preceded analysis by behavioral experts. I'm saying, the beginning of my dopamine hits began innocently enough.

Sep 6th
Reply

sirenasd

As a gen-xer I am rarely on YouTube, but very concerned about the spread of fascism racism and misogyny online, so this story was fascinating. Thank you for educating me again OTM! And thank goodness for the gen-zers who are leading this country to solutions to the toxic alt-right surge in this country and the world.

Jul 27th
Reply

sirenasd

I love this episode. Instead of covering the Mueller testimony (like every outlet) they use it as an opportunity to talk about a critical shift in public opinion behind the role of prosecutors in society. Especially with a prominent candidate for president framing herself in this context. Analysis I have been waiting to hear!! Yay! I can always count on Brooke to read my mind!!

Jul 27th
Reply

Go Billers

the Republican party is backing themselves into a weird corner

Jul 17th
Reply (1)

David Brotsky

up l

Jul 9th
Reply

David Brotsky

ok m l

Jul 9th
Reply

Jean Smolen

u

Jun 30th
Reply

Go Billers

a tough one to hear

Jun 7th
Reply

Elizabeth Mendel

pop lololol

May 11th
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Brian Sims

"Each gallon of lead paint had about 16 pounds of lead in it. Half the container was lead." Wow.........

May 10th
Reply

Brian Sims

"Each gallon of lead paint had about 16 pounds of lead in it. Half the container was lead." Wow.........

May 10th
Reply

Tom Murin

This show is typical of public radio propaganda. The lack of actual balance is striking . Of course, I had no doubt that the host thinks he's open minded.

Mar 18th
Reply (3)

Benjamin Craft-Rendon

it's hilarious that Bob thinks he's moved so far Left

Mar 14th
Reply

Charles Saulino

*whose

Feb 22nd
Reply (2)

Harry Wyer

One of my favourite episodes Thank you very much for the content.

Jan 23rd
Reply
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