The Peabody Award-winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Host Brooke Gladstone examines 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.
In John Waters' Home (But Not In His Colon)
John Waters is the writer and director of such cult classics like Pink Flamingos, Serial Mom, and his biggest mainstream success, Hairspray. He’s been making movies since the 1960s and this year he released his debut novel, Liarmouth: A Feel Bad Romance.
The novel is an incredibly dirty romp filled with the kind of taboo storytelling that John Waters revels in. In his work, he shines a light on the worst of us but rarely to ridicule, more as a reminder of how gloriously sinful we can be, as we discussed when I spoke with him in his Manhattan home. His interest in the carnal, though, has its limits. “When I got a colonoscopy, they said, do you wanna watch? No!” he told us. “Why do I wanna go on a fantastic voyage up my a–hole?”
We also talked about money management, aging, and his secret to maintaining his many long friendships. “I do stay in touch and if anything bad happens to you, I call. If you get a bad review, I call. If you go to jail, I definitely am your first visit,” he laughed. “I never don't come visit you if you're in jail.”
Adnan Syed, the subject of the hit podcast Serial, left prison this week after serving two decades for a murder conviction. On this week’s On the Media, Brooke speaks to the friend whose call to the podcast producers started the chain of events that ended this week with Syed's release. Plus, how Ron DeSantis’ decision to fly migrants to Martha’s Vineyard was a made-for-Fox News event.
1. Philip Bump [@pbump], national correspondent The Washington Post, on the manipulative plan for 48 Venuzulean migrants sent to Martha’s Vineyard. Listen.
2. Rabia Chaudry [@rabiasquared], attorney and friend of Adnan Syed, on Syed's recent release and what was left out of his story on Serial. Listen.
No. The Medieval Times Were Not All Game of Thrones
Today, when we encounter the medieval world it’s mostly a dark time. Un-enlightened by reason, but also literally gloomy – all bare stone and grey skies. We know it as a brutal time, dominated by white men with steeds and swords, or drenched in blood by marauding Vikings. But in their new book, The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe, historians Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry trace the harm of the myths of the “Dark Ages,” and illuminate the medieval stories that have mostly escaped our modern gaze.
This is a segment from our January 14th, 2022 program A Question of War.
The Fine Print
The federal court is hearing a case that could change the publishing industry as we know it. On this week’s show, hear what readers will lose if conglomerates further monopolize the market. Plus, print sales far exceed expectations — it turns out readers do not want to curl up with a good ebook.
1. Alexandra Alter [@xanalter], reporter at the New York Times, on how the booming publishing industry is wrestling with supply chain nightmares and more to meet reader demand. Listen.
2. Katy Waldman [@xwaldie], writer at The New Yorker, explains what's at stake in the DOJ v. Penguin Random House case. Listen.
3. Margot Boyer-Dry [@M_BigDeal], freelance culture writer, on why book covers are looking more and more similar, blobs and all. Listen.
4. John B. Thompson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, on how Amazon changed the book market for good, and why the appeal of the print book persists. Listen.
Music in this week's show:Paperback Writer - Quartetto d’Archi Dell'Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Guiseppe VerdiTymperturbably Blue - Duke EllingtonI Could Write A Book - Miles DavisTateh’s Picture Book - Randy NewmanMy Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors - Moxy Fruvous
How a Russian Sleeper Agent Charmed Her Way Onto NATO's Social Scene
This week, Brooke talks to Christo Grozev, lead Russia investigator with Bellingcat, about how he uncovered the real identity of a Russian "sleeper" agent who went by the name Maria Adela. Grozev tells Brooke about how rarely these kinds of spies are discovered, what made "Maria Adela" an unlikely spy and what kind of information she could have gathered on NATO.
Lock Him Up?
As the government continues its investigation into classified documents found at former President Donald Trump’s home, a tough question has emerged. On this week’s On the Media, hear how democracies around the world have grappled with whether to prosecute a former leader. Plus, why new leadership at CNN is reigniting the debate over the place of objectivity in journalism.
1. James D. Long [@prof_jameslong], associate professor of political science at the University of Washington, on the consequences of modern democracies across the globe prosecuting — or choosing not to prosecute — their former leaders. Listen.
2. Rachel Donadio [@RachelDonadio], a journalist and contributing writer for The Atlantic, discusses what we can learn from Italy’s experience with trying Silvio Berlusconi for crimes relating to his business and personal life. Listen.
3. Yael Freidson [@YaelFreidson], the Legal and Jerusalem affairs correspondent for Haaretz, on Israel's struggle around prosecuting a sitting prime minister. Listen.
4. Rick Perlstein [@rickperlstein], a journalist and author of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, explains the continuing impact of Gerald Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon for his crimes. Listen.
5. Jon Allsop [@Jon_Allsop], a freelance journalist and author of a daily newsletter for Columbia Journalism Review titled, The Media Today, on CNN's new leadership and the long-reigning debate over impartiality in political journalism. Listen.
Best Podcast Full Stop
I have listened religiously for nearly a decade, and time and time again have had my news criticised, deconstructed and reinspired with Bob, Brooke and the rest of the marvellous team. Honestly, no other journalism has guided me so deeply, I am profoundly grateful for this podcast’s presence in my life!
A show for real fans
This show is a breath of fresh air. I should know, I'm a true fan.
Brooke and Bob are lighthouses
Beacons of hope and reason. These two powerhouses are unrelenting in their pursuit of accountability. It is always a pleasure to listen to, but now more than ever it is a huge comfort.