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.
Undercover and Over-Exposed
This week, we consider whether information should ever be off-limits to journalists. It’s a thorny ethical question raised by FBI informants, hacked sources and shockingly intimate personal data. Plus, why a conservative Catholic publication’s outing of a gay priest has garnered criticism from all sides.
1. Ken Bensinger [@kenbensinger], investigative reporter for Buzzfeed News, on what new evidence surrounding the plot to kidnap Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer says about the how the government defines, and attacks, domestic terrorism. Listen.
2. OTM reporter Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] and guest host Brandy Zadrozny [@BrandyZadrozny] examine whether or not it's possible to ethically use information from data breaches. Featuring: Kevin Collier [@kevincollier], cybersecurity and privacy reporter for NBC News, Kim Zetter [@KimZetter], a journalist covering cybersecurity and the author of Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon, and Lorax Horne [@bbhorne], writer with Distributed Denial of Secrets. Listen.
3. Sara Morrison [@SaraMorrison], data and privacy reporter at Recode at Vox, discusses the dangers information for sale after a Catholic priest was outed by a newsletter that obtained his location data from an app. Listen.
4. Mike O’Loughlin [@MikeOLoughlin], national correspondent at Catholic media organization America, reflects on how new methods are stoking old fights in the Catholic Church. Listen.
A look at how journalism selectively judges objectivity and bias… Which produces better reporting: proximity to the community you cover? Or distance? Who gets to decide?
1. Joel Simon [@Joelcpj], outgoing executive director of the The Committee to Protect Journalists, on why it's a dangerous time to be a journalist. Listen.
2. Bruce Shapiro [@dartcenter], executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia Journalism School, on why trauma shouldn't disqualify reporters from reporting on topics into which they have insight. Listen.
3. Ernest Owens [@mrernestowens], Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists president, about the double-standards facing journalists who have identities or lived experiences that are different from editors who still determine what constitutes "objectivity." Listen.
4. Steve Friess [@stevefriess], editor at Hour Detroit and contributor for Newsweek, looks back at how he covered gay marriage when his own marriage hung in the balance. Listen.
5. Lewis Raven Wallace [@lewispants], author of The View from Somewhere, on why what we call "neutrality" so often reflects the ideological assumptions of the status quo. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Frail As a Breeze — Erik FriedlanderNight Thoughts — John ZornFallen Leaves — Marcos CiscarMiddlesex Times — Michael AndrewsBubble Wrap — Thomas Newman Transparence — Charlie Haden & Gonzalo RubalcabaCarmen Fantasy — Anderson + RowTribute to America — The O’Neill Brothers
How a Nightclub Fire Brought Down a Government
In 2015, a tragedy gripped Romanian consciousness when a fire at a popular club in the country's capital killed 27 people, injured nearly 200 more, and sparked national protests about corruption. In the weeks following the fire, 37 of those injured died in hospitals — a statistic that authorities and doctors claimed was simply a result of their injuries.
But the victims' families and a small team of reporters at the Romanian daily paper the Sports Gazette had their doubts — doubts that were confirmed when the Gazette learned that a national supplier of medical disinfectants was diluting their products, nearly ten times over, to reap profits and pad the pockets of its CEO. The burn victims of the fire hadn't died from injuries; they died from preventable bacterial infections, a consequence of malpractice that stemmed from doctors, hospital managers and the highest officials in government.
In 2019, filmmaker Alexander Nanau wrote, produced and directed the film Collective, chronicling this saga. Last year, the film was released in the US, and in early 2021 it received two Academy Award nominations. In this podcast extra, recorded in March, Nanau speaks with Brooke about why he decided to follow the story, how the pieces fell into place, and how this single story changed Romania's relationship with the press — possibly for good.
Watch Collective here.
As You Like It
As numbers of the vaccinated rise, theaters around the country are once again opening. In celebration, this week’s show is all about Shakespeare, including how the quintessentially English Bard became an American icon, and what a production in Kabul, Afghanistan meant to the community that produced it.
1. James Shapiro, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, explains how Shakespeare was absorbed into American culture and identity. Listen.
2. Qais Akbar Omar, author of A Fort of Nine Towers, on how a production of Shakespeare resonated in Kabul, Afghanistan. Listen.
The Dancing Master: Maiden Lane (John Playford) - The Broadside Band & Jeremy BarlowJohn’s Book of Alleged Dances (John Adams) - Kronos QuartetFife Feature: Lowland’s Away (Roy Watrous) - Gregory S. Balvanz & The US Army Fife and Drum CorpsBallad No. 2 in F, Op. 38 (Chopin) - Ivan MoravecLittle Rose is Gone/Billy in the Lowground - Jim TaylorCollectionFrail As a Breeze - Erik FriedlanderThe De Lesseps' Dance - Shakespeare in Love SoundtrackKiss Me Kate Overture - Kiss Me Kate SoundtrackBrush Up Your Shakespeare - Kiss Me Kate SoundtrackLove & the Rehearsal - Shakespeare in Love SoundtrackHarpsichord - Four TetTimber Town - Derek and Brandon Fiechter
Painting for the Future and Talking to the Dead
Hilma af Klint was a Swedish painter born in 1862 who painted big, bold canvases suffused with rich, strange colors denoting masculine and feminine, the gush of life and the serenity of cosmic order. She found inspiration in unorthodox places, including the spirit realm. And she had a vision: that her work would one day be displayed in a spiral temple.
For decades after her death, her work was hidden away — at first by her request, and then because it couldn't find an audience. Now that it's on display in a building like the one she imagined, her work is a sensation that has invited a radical re-imagining of the history of abstract art. In 2019, Brooke walked through the exhibit with senior curator Tracey Bashkoff, who brought af Klint's work to the Guggenheim after discovering it in a catalogue.
Next, Brooke explores Spiritualism — a movement that shaped af Klint's life and work. Broadly defined as a religious movement based on the idea that the living can communicate with spirits dwelling in the afterlife — that we can talk to the dead — Spiritualism grew quickly. After all, the telegraph was allowing people to communicate across time and space; why not spiritual realms?
At the time, the ideal spirit medium was thought to be an adolescent girl, unencumbered by education and thoughts of her own. But a curious thing happened as women started speaking as spirit mediums: they became accustomed to speaking in public, and others became accustomed to hearing them. And on top of that, the spirits had some radically progressive ideas about individual self-sovereignty, abolition and women's rights. Brooke speaks with Ann Braude, director of the Women's Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School and author of Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America, about this curious moment in American history, and how it helped bring women — and reformist ideas — into the public sphere.
Blame It On the Booze
Nearly a quarter of American adults reported drinking more at home to cope with their pandemic blues. This week, we take a deep dive into the ancient history of booze, how Americans normalized drinking alone, and how the media shaped the shifting reputation of red wine. Plus, can scientists cook up a synthetic alcohol with all its perks, and none of its dangers?
1. Kate Julian [@katejulian], senior editor at the Atlantic, on America's long and fraught history with solitary drinking. Listen.
2. Iain Gately, author of Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, on the ancient origins of our core beliefs about booze. Listen.
3. Robert Taylor, managing editor at Wine Spectator Video, on red wine's constantly changing reputation as a healthy substance. Listen.
4. David Nutt [@ProfDavidNutt], psychologist at Imperial College London, on his alcohol substitute, once called "alcosynth," now rebranded as "alcarelle." Listen.
When I Get Low I Get High - Ella Fitzgerald Tomorrow Never Knows - Quartetto D/Archi Dell'Orchestra Sinfonica Di Milano Il Casanova Di Federico Fellini - Solisti E Orchestre Del Cinema Italiano Option with Variations - Kronos Quartet/composer Rhiannon Giddens
Helps the listener be an informed media consumer, thanks to OTM
Great podcast, love the hosts. They have a very broad and inclusive definition of "media", which I value--not just old school domains, like print and television, but also blogging, citizen journalism, gaming, web, etc. The hosts also have great skill at asking hard questions of the more despicable guests and not let the easily weasel out of them.
Great Podcast On The Media!
This is one of the most informative, entertaining, and insightful podcasts available. It is topical, reflective, and thought provoking. I never miss an episode, and recommend it to all my friends and family. Give it a try. You'll be hooked.