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.
Happy One Year Anniversary Since George Santos Became a Thing!
This month marks the anniversary of when most of us first heard about George Santos and his ever-expanding list of lies from a New York Times report published after the midterm election, but a local newspaper called the North Shore Leader was sounding the alarm months before. The New Yorker staff writer Clare Malone took a trip to Long Island to speak with the Leader’s publisher, Grant Lally, and its managing editor, Maureen Daly, to find out how the story began. “We heard story after story after story about him doing bizarre things,” Lally told her. “He was so well known, at least in the more active political circles, to be a liar, that by early summer he was already being called George Scamtos.” Lally explains how redistricting drama in New York State turned Santos from a “sacrificial” candidate—to whom no one was paying attention—to a front-runner. At the same time, Malone thinks, “the oddly permissive structure that the Republican Party has created for candidates on a gamut of issues” enabled his penchant for fabrication. “[There’s] lots of crazy stuff that’s popped up in politics over the past few years. I think maybe Santos thought, Eh, who’s gonna check?”
This story first ran on the New Yorker Radio Hour in January of this year.
Word Watch: “Genocide,” and Do We Have to Care About OpenAI?
After a seven-day ceasefire, fighting has resumed in Gaza. On this week’s On the Media, how the word “genocide” entered discussions of the Israel-Hamas conflict, and the legal implications of the term. Plus, why boardroom drama at the tech company OpenAI received so much media coverage.
1. Ernesto Verdeja [@ErnestoVerdeja], executive director of the Institute For The Study of Genocide at the University of Notre Dame, on the debate and legal implications surrounding the charge of "genocide." Listen.
2. Max Read [@readmaxread], journalist and writer of the "Read Max" newsletter, on why internal theatrics at OpenAI's made so many headlines. Listen.
3. Deepa Seetharaman [@dseetharaman], reporter covering artificial intelligence for the Wall Street Journal, on the journey of "effective altruism" from the halls of Oxford University to the boardrooms of Silicon Valley. Listen.
Media Coverage of the Trump Movement is Missing Vital Context
In his Veteran’s day speech a couple of weeks ago former President Donald Trump said this about his political enemies;
TRUMP: the threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within. We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.
Jeff Sharlet, author of The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War, argues that Trump's narratives of martyrdom, a persecuted in-group, a mysterious out-group, and a rhetoric of violence are all hallmarks of fascism. Brooke spoke with Sharlet in June about what the rhetoric, aesthetics, and myth-making of Trump and the movement he rode to power can tell us about a rising fascist movement in the United States, and why Sharlet argues we're in the midst of a slow civil war.
This is a segment from our June 16, 2023 show, Indicted (Again).
Is the New York Times a Tech Company Now?
This year has seen record layoffs in the media industry, with some digital news giants closing down altogether. On this week’s On the Media, hear how The New York Times became a profitable powerhouse at a time when other outlets are struggling to survive. Plus, instead of reaching for top profits, some new publications have opted for a humbler mission: survival.
1. Ben Smith [@semaforben], editor-in-chief and co-founder of Semafor, on what went wrong for BuzzFeed News, and why digital media is splintering. Listen.
2. Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] examines why The New York Times is expanding, and thriving, even amongst record layoffs at other media outlets. Listen.
3. Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] takes a look at a growing cohort of new outlets around the US trying to wrestle journalism away from big capital through a co-operative business model. Listen.
The Hasan Minhaj Saga and Evolving Expectations of Truth in Comedy
In September, The New Yorker published an article by Clare Malone titled “Hasan Minhaj’s Emotional Truths,” fact-checking moments from the comedian’s stand up specials. The article reportedly cost Minhaj the hosting gig for The Daily Show, and Minhaj posted a lengthy Youtube video responding to its claims. The New Yorker has stood behind its story, even after Minhaj called it misleading. The scandal, which has been covered by almost every major news outlet, brings into question what audiences expect from comedians — especially ones who do Jon-Stewart-style political commentary.
This week, Brooke speaks to Jesse David Fox, author of Comedy Book: How Comedy Conquered Culture and the Magic That Makes It Work, about why the saga provoked such a strong reaction. Plus, Fox explains the changing role of truth in comedy: from the authentic acts of Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, to the vulnerability of Tig Notaro. Fox also notes that the fall from grace of Louis C.K., who pre-#MeToo was often proclaimed the "most honest" comedian, informs the rise of the hyper-performative, absurdist comedy of John Early and Kate Berlant.
TikTok In the Crosshairs... Again. And Saying Goodbye to Jezebel
President Joe Biden and Xi Jinping just recently met face-to-face for the first time in a year. On this week’s On the Media, a look at why Chinese state media released glowing content about the U-S leading up to the summit. Plus, the rise and fall of the online feminist publication Jezebel.
1. Daniel Sneider [@DCSneider], lecturer in East Asian Studies and international policy at Stanford University, on what the media made of President Biden's meeting with President Xi Jinping. Listen.
2. Drew Harwell [@drewharwell], tech reporter for The Washington Post, on TikTok's place in the Israel-Hamas war. Listen.
3. Anna Holmes [@AnnaHolmes], founding editor of Jezebel, on the birth, life, and death of a website devoted to women. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas - AvalonSkylark - Anita O’DayWhat's That Sound - Michael AndrewsJesusland - Ben FoldsTilliboyo - Kronos Quartet
An enlightened discussion on the use and misuse of a weighty word. For many years it was unusual to read or hear the word “Palestinian” in the US press without finding the word “terrorist” nearby. Thanks for your work.
Best ever. Short cut to insights
Thank you. Great programs.
Can you take over the world?
What happened to Bob Garfield
This show was great, then they fired Bob Garfield and it all went to crap. It’s clear they fired the wrong host.
Moreover, Micah Loewinger is an outright anti-semite and WNYC needs to do something about that.
Why not bring back Bob Garfield, who is grumpy, but a responsible journalist.