Empathy Reboot, the flagship podcast of Media Harmonics, seeks to increase understanding about a range of human experiences, belief systems, lifestyles, and political movements. Investigative reporting, combined with long-form interviews, aims to immerse the listener in a topic or character so that the nuance, idiosyncrasy, and specificity of human experience rise to the surface.
Episode 002: Home
In the decade since the financial crisis of 2008, the rate of homeless in the US has surged, then regressed. Now the opioid crisis is shaping the face of homelessness, which the public still perceives as predominantly male, middle-aged, alone and struggling with addiction. But families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, comprising 40% nationally. This group is being driven onto the street primarily by low wages and the absence of affordable housing. Whether an individual is on their own or struggling to support a family, the holidays are an especially difficult time of year. As the first cold temperatures set in and the rest of the world prepares for the holidays, thousands of people experience for the first time what its like to be without a home. For many, it will be a temporary hardship; for others, it will be another chapter in a long chronic history. In this episode we meet some of these people and uncover their small moments of hope in this season of gratitude. For anyone who is on the street, each step forward, is a step closer to home.
On August 19th, 2017, the Boston Free Speech Coalition and anti-racist counter-protestors clashed at the Boston Commons. The attendees of the Free Speech Rally were vastly outnumbered, and video footage that circulated on conservative news after the event seemed to show counter-protesters using aggressive intimidation tactics to turn their adversaries away from the event. Yet the counter-protestors claim that their hostility was justified. They say that Free Speech was really a stand-in for White Supremacy, a way to cover a roster of speakers who promote xenophobia, fascism and eugenics. In the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, do those who take a stand for a political movement become a proxy for its most extreme factions? Or is there room for civic-minded individuals to distinguish themselves from radicals with whom they share a single cause or orientation? On this episode, we talk with John Connolly, a Constitutionalist and advocate for Free Speech, Tom Aibara, an activist for COMBAT (the Coalition to Organize & Mobilize Boston Against Trump), and Angie Camacho, a community organizer, about the challenges of public protest in an age of political polarization.
Learn Good Listening
Two episodes in and I am officially hooked on Empathy Reboot. Mr. Walker’s interviewing deftly walks the line between cogent examination and organic dialogue, allowing his interviewees to tell their own stories while remaining committed to an open-minded analysis of each episode’s topic. The only agenda this show seems to have is a genuine desire to better understand the topics and people it features.
In the episode “Home”, for instance, Mr. Walker recites the statistics that broadly describe homelessness, but the heartbreaking stories told here by his interviewees reveal a much more complex illustration of homelessness in America that is as nuanced as each interviewee’s personality. Some of their stories are filled with bad luck and mental illness— how can they not be deserving of our deepest sympathies? Or is solving their homelessness as easy as getting a job and staying sober, as one of his interviewees contends? Mr. Walker gives us the space to draw our own conclusions. I’m looking forward to hearing where he points his mic next!