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.
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The Ghosts of the Rust Belt
The old US Steel building in Pittsburgh, PA is a black monolith, symbol and fortress of industrial power, soaring above the confluence of three mighty rivers. But its vista has changed. Gone is the golden, sulfurous haze. Gone are the belching smokestacks, blazing furnaces and slag-lined river valleys snaking along Appalachian foothills. The industry that sustained a region, girded the world’s infrastructure and underwrote a now-vanished way of life has long since crossed oceans. Steel City is now Healthcare City, representing almost 1 in 4 jobs in the region. Some 92,000 of them work for just one employer, the sprawling, omnivorous University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, whose logo now adorns the black-skyscraper sentinel of the Three Rivers.
But this is not just a case of a clean economy displacing a filthy one. To Gabriel Winant, author of The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America, the story of economic transformation in the Rust Belt is the story of disparity — of wealth, income and political power — that didn't vanish when the smokestacks came down.
In this special hour, Winant tells Bob the real story behind the economic transformation that took place in the rust belt, and what it tells us about our economy, and our future, more broadly.
Music from this week's show:
Flugufrelsarinn — Kronos QuartetSteel Mill Blues — Joe GlazerLiquid Spear Waltz — Michael AndrewsSacred Oracle — John Zorn (feat. Bill Frisell, Carol Emanuel & Kenny Wollesen)Human Nature — Vijay IyerPittsburgh—Joe Glazer
The Price of a Free Market
Last Friday, the Department of Labor released its monthly jobs report, and the numbers were...disappointing. Expectations had rested around adding approximately a million jobs, and April yielded a meager 266,000. In a rare moment of genuine surprise in Washington, some economists said they didn’t know the exact cause of the drop. But for weeks prior to the report, the press had offered stories across the country with a simple explanation: there are jobs, but no one wants them. The great labor shortage. And as the anecdotes of fast food chains begging for workers and local restaurants limiting hours poured in, so did theories of an alleged culprit keeping potential employees away: covid-era unemployment benefits were depressing America’s work ethic. Bob spoke with Heidi Shierholz, director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, and former chief economist for the Department of Labor during the Obama administration, to find out what the numbers can really tell us, and what they can't.
There’s a long history of campaigns to “save the children,” whether they need saving or not. This week, On the Media looks at the latest: an effort to block access to medical care for trans kids. Plus, how years of Hollywood representation — from The Crying Game to Transparent — have shaped the public’s ideas about trans people.
1. Katelyn Burns [@transscribe], freelance journalist and co-host of the "Cancel Me, Daddy!" podcast, on the the politics and propaganda behind the recent wave of anti-trans legislation, and Jack Turban [@jack_turban], fellow in child and adolescent psychiatry at Stanford University School of Medicine, on what the science tells us about gender affirming care in adolescence. Listen.
2. Jules Gill-Petersen [@gp_jls], professor of english and gender, sexuality, and women's studies at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Histories of the Transgender Child, on the long history of trans children. Listen.
3. Imara Jones [@imarajones], creator of TransLash media and host of the TransLash podcast, on how trans visibility paves the way toward trans liberation. Listen.
4. Sam Feder [@SamFederFilm], director of the Netflix documentary “Disclosure," on how Hollywood representations of trans lives have shaped the public understanding of who trans people are. Listen.
Prelude 7: Sign and Sigil - John Zorn
Totem Ancestor - John Cage
Blackbird - Brad Mehldau
Harpsichord - Four Tet
Peace Piece - Bill Evans - Kronos Quartet
Black Is the Color / Theme from "Spartacus" - Fred Hersch
After the Fact - John Scofield
Still Processing the MOVE Bombing, 36 Years Later
Last Friday, remains of at least one victim of the infamous 1985 MOVE bombing were turned over to a Philadelphia funeral home, capping more than a week of confusion and re-opened wounds. MOVE members claim the remains were those of 14-year-old Tree Africa and 12-year-old Delisha Africa, among the five children and six adults killed 36 years ago this month after an anti-government, pro-environment, Black liberation group called MOVE defied arrest warrants and barricaded themselves in a West Philadelphia rowhouse. On May 13, 1985, C-4 explosives dropped on that home by Philadelphia police led to a fire that destroyed 61 homes in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Though consciousness of the bombing seems to have grown in recent years, when native Philadelphian and NPR correspondent Gene Demby reported on the 30th anniversary of the bombing back in 2015, he got a reaction he wasn't expecting: much of his audience hadn't heard of it before.
War of the Words
This week we take a close look at how the words we choose can unknowingly condemn people caught up in the criminal justice system. Plus, the costs and complications of working as a journalist while incarcerated. And, the overlooked, self-trained women journalists of the Vietnam War.
1. Brooke tracks the evolution of language in the early days of Biden's presidency. Listen.
2. Akiba Solomon [@akibasolomon], senior editor at The Marshall Project, explains how terms like "inmate" and "offender" can distract, dehumanize, and mislead, and why "people-first" language is more appropriate for journalists. Listen.
3. John J. Lennon [@johnjlennon1], contributing writer at The Marshall Project and contributing editor Esquire, tells us what it's like to read and report the news while inside prison. Listen.
4. Elizabeth Becker, author of You Don't Belong Here, on how women journalists covered the Vietnam War in groundbreaking ways, and yet were forgotten by history. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Tilliboyo (“Sunset”) — Kronos QuartetBewitched, Bothered and Bewildered — Brad Mehldau The Butterfly — The Bothy BandClonycavan Man — Gerry O’BeirneJohn’s Book Of Alleged Dances — Kronos QuartetCarmen Fantasy — Anderson & Row
It's Gonna Be May Day
International Workers' Day is celebrated with rallies and protests all over the world on May 1, but it's not a big deal in the United States. Back in 2018 , Brooke spoke with Donna Haverty-Stacke of Hunter College, CUNY about the American origin of May Day — and about how it has come to be forgotten. The first national turnout for worker's rights in the U.S. was on May 1, 1886; contrary to what you may have heard elsewhere, it wasn't the same thing as the Haymarket Affair. Haverty-Stacke is also author of America’s Forgotten Holiday: May Day and Nationalism, 1867–1960, and she explains that the fight over May 1, or May Day, is also about the fight for American identity and what it means to be radical and patriotic at the same time.
The OTM crew (in 2018) sings "Into The Streets May First," a never-before-professionally-recorded 1935 Aaron Copland anthem:
One of the best podcasts out there. Quality++
Some worthwhile commentary amongst dross
Some good stuff such as the series on poverty, occasional insights into U.S. media practices, and interesting interviewers; the stronger work, generally by Brooke Gladstone, is undermined by a tendency towards liberal hackery and ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ (one particular episode, immediately after the 2016 election results, is partly just TDS made noise) on the part of co-host Bob Garfield; his insufferable glee at the arrest of Julian Assange, even were it not so ironic in its ignorance of the implications for press freedom therein, was utterly unforgivable.
Superlative weekly digest!
What a show! I’m a UK listener and a listen to many pods, this is right at the top. In-depth, irreverent, devoutly honest, it pricks the establishment scathingly. Untold stories from yesterday and on-the-button links to the fast flowing today, all told with confidence and aplomb over an ever changing jazz score - how New York do you want it?
Oh and they are never afraid to show and discuss their working out, where they went wrong or what’s changed their minds - a rare nugget of truth in this wasteland of fake news.