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On the Media


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.


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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.




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We Don't Talk About Leonard: Episode 1

In this first episode of our new miniseries, We Don't Talk About Leonard, ProPublica reporters Andrea Bernstein, Andy Kroll, and Ilya Marritz investigate the background of the man who has played a critical role in the conservative takeover of America's courts — Leonard Leo. From his humble roots in middle class New Jersey, to a mansion in Maine where last year he hosted a fabulous party on the eve of the Supreme Court decision to tank “Roe.” 1. The night before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Leonard Leo threw a lavish party at his house in Maine. Listen. 2. Leonard Leo's journey from a high-schooler with the nickname "Moneybags Kid" to a high-ranking member of the Federalist Society. Listen. 3. Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society turn their attention to the state supreme courts. Listen. This podcast was created in partnership with ProPublica, a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive their biggest stories as soon as they’re published.


The Story Behind Gannett's AI Debacle

In late August, Gannett, the country’s largest newspaper company, rolled out a new artificial intelligence service that promised to automate high school sports coverage across the country. And within a matter of days it had gone horribly wrong. People on Twitter quickly discovered that bizarre phrases like “close encounters of the athletic kind,” or how one team “took victory away” from another, had shown up on Gannett news sites in Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. As Scott Simon explained on NPR, in some of these AI articles there were robotic place holders where there should’ve been a mascot’s name. Jay Allred is the CEO of Source Media Properties, which includes Richland Source, a local news organization in Ohio, and LedeAI, the company that built the technology that Gannett was using to automate its high school coverage. For the midweek podcast, OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger speaks with Jay about what went wrong, why he wanted to build this technology in the first place, and whether this disaster had shaken his belief in its potential.


Suing to Save the Planet, and How Climate Activism Got a Bad Rap

Thousands of protesters descended on New York as the United Nations convened its Climate Summit. On this week’s On the Media, hear how Big Oil is being taken to court for lying to the public about fossil fuels. Plus, a look at a global network of think tanks that’s been vilifying climate activism for decades. 1. Rebecca Leber [@rebleber], senior climate reporter at Vox, on why some climate activists are turning to lawsuits to make change. Listen. 2. Amy Westervelt [@amywestervelt], host and producer of the podcast Drilled, on how a network of think tanks is shaping perceptions of peaceful climate activism as dangerous and extreme. Listen. 3. Leah Sottile [@Leah_Sottile], extremism reporter and the host of the podcast Burn Wild, on how eco-terrorism became security priority for the U.S. government. Listen. Music: Il Casanova de Federico Fellini - Nino Rota Prelude 8: The Invisibles - John Zorn It’s Raining - Irma Thomas Middlesex Times - Donnie Darko - Michael Andrews Way Down in the Hole - Tom Waits Puck - John Zorn Final Retribution -John Zorn


How the Food Industry is Influencing Your TikTok Feed

In July, the World Health Organization issues a report indicating that aspartame, an artificial sweetener used in many low calorie sodas and snacks, was "possibly carcinogenic to humans." The new statement on a widely utilized artificial sweetener led to controversy in the medical community, with the Federal Drug Administration saying they saw no concern over aspartame consumption. Some dietitians even took to social media to voice their contradicting opinions. Anahad O’Connor, a health columnist at The Washington Post, the response to the announcement on social media smelled a bit fishy. In a report released earlier this month with colleagues Caitlin Gilbert and Sasha Chavkin, O’Connor found that dozens of registered dietitians, some with more than 2 million followers each, were paid to counter the WHO’s announcement. He and his colleagues followed the money back to industry groups like American Beverage, which represents companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. This week, OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger sits down O'Connor to learn more about the growing trend of influencer dietitians and the long history of food and beverage lobbies attempting to influence our eating habits.


The “Too Old” President and Political Doppelgängers

The House has opened a formal impeachment inquiry into President Biden. On this week’s On the Media, find out exactly what Republicans are looking for–and why they should’ve already found it. Plus, geriatric men are the likely presidential nominees. Is there such a thing as “too old” for the job? 1. Stephen Collinson [@StCollinson], CNN senior political reporter, on the impact of a baseless impeachment inquiry on the institution of Presidential impeachments. Listen. 2. James Fallows [@JamesFallows], writer of the “Breaking the News'' newsletter on Substack, and the former chief speechwriter for the Carter administration, on if the press is tackling the age question correctly. Listen. 3. Dr. Steven N. Austad [@StevenAustad], The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Protective Life Endowed Chair in Healthy Aging Research, on what the science of aging can tell us about a potential Biden second term. Listen. 4. Naomi Klein [@NaomiAKlein], journalist and author of Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World, on being confused for writer and conspiracist Naomi Wolf for much of her career, and her exploration of doppelgangers and the mirror world the other Naomi inhabits. Listen. Music: 72 Degrees and Sunny - Thomas Newman Eye Surgery - Thomas Newman Lost Night - Bill Frisell Young at Heart - Brad Mehldau Trio Disfarmer Little Girl - Bill Frissell Pavane, Op. 50 - Gabriel Faure - Academy of St. Martin in the Fields The First Time Ever I saw Your Face - Bert Jansch


How 9/11 Broke Our Brains

Twenty-two years ago, two planes crashed into the Twin Towers. Another plane hit the Pentagon, and another crashed in Pennsylvania — killing nearly 3,000 people in total. The attacks became the pretense for a sprawling, ongoing war on terror that has directly and indirectly claimed some 4.5 million lives in post-9/11 war zones, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, according to a 2023 estimate from Brown University. In his 2021 podcast, 9/12, Dan Taberski brought us the story of a documentary filmmaker named Dylan Avery, whose 2005 film Loose Change helped embolden the 9/11 Truther Movement. In this piece, OTM reporter Micah Loewinger speaks with Taberski about Loose Change, and the complicated notoriety it brought to Avery. He also interviews Korey Rowe, a producer on Loose Change, about how Google Video helped it become the internet's first viral film. Then, Micah speaks with Charles B Strozier, author of Until the Fires Stopped Burning: 9/11 and New York City in the Words and Experiences of Survivors and Witnesses, about the moment when exactly 9/11 conspiracy theories broke into the mainstream. This segment originally aired in our September 10th, 2021 program, Aftershocks.


Another Proud Boy Goes to Jail and A Media War in 1980's NYC

This week a former Proud Boys leader received the longest prison sentence for the insurrection so far. On this week’s On the Media, why conspiracy theories that the FBI planned January 6 live on. Plus, in the aftermath of a 1984 subway shooting, hear how the New York press crowned the gunman a hero. 1. Tess Owen [@misstessowen], senior reporter at Vice News, on the latest fallout from the January 6th insurrection. Listen. 2. Leon Neyfakh [@leoncrawl], host of the podcast Fiasco: Vigilante, available exclusively on Audible, on how the press covered a notorious and divisive 1984 New York City subway shooting. Listen.


Is "Rich Men North of Richmond" a MAGA Anthem or Nah?

In early August, Christopher Anthony Lunsford, who goes by Oliver Anthony, quietly released a song called "Rich Men North of Richmond." A week later, the folk song had rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts — a historic feat for someone with no chart history to speak of. But the ascent wasn't without controversy. The song, to some, sounded like a right-wing anthem. And it was heralded as such online by right wing pundits, and included as a part of the first question of the opening Republican presidential primary debate. But Oliver Anthony's politics, and the song's appeal, have turned out to be a little more complicated. This week, OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger sits down with Chris Molanphy, Slate’s pop-chart columnist, and author of the forthcoming book "Old Town Road," to talk about how such an unlikely song rose to the top. Micah speaks to Molanphy about how the Billboard charts have gotten weirder, and more anarchic, and what "Rich Men North of Richmond" has in common with "Ballad of the Green Berets," a song released almost 60 years prior.


How Big Tech Went to Sh*t

Why does every social media platform seem to get worse over time? This week’s On the Media explores an expansive theory on how we lost a better version of the internet, and the systems that insulate Big Digital from competition. Plus, some solutions for fixing the world wide web. 1. Cory Doctorow [@doctorow], journalist, activist, and the author of Red Team Blue, on his theory surrounding the slow, steady descent of the internet. Listen. 2. Brooke asks Cory if the troubles that plague some corners of the internet are specific to Big Digital, rather than the economy at large-- and how our legal systems enabled it all. Listen. 3. Cory and Brooke discuss possible solutions to save the world wide web, and how in a sea of the enshittified there's still hope. Listen. Music: I’m Not Following You - Michael Andrews I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles The Desert and Two Grey Hills - Gerry O’Beirne La vie en rose - Toots Thielemans All I Want (Joni Mitchel) - Fred Hersch


Lina Khan Is in the Hot Seat

In March 2021, when President Joe Biden announced the nomination of Lina Khan to be a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, the decision was met with a rare kind of excitement for the otherwise sleepy agency. The excitement seemed bipartisan as 21 Republican senators voted to confirm the commissioner. Not long after, then 32-year-old Khan was promoted to chairperson of the agency, making her the youngest chair in the FTC's history. Since then the tone around Khan has changed dramatically, as Republican commissioners at the agency have pushed back against what they see as a radical agenda. Back in March, OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger spoke to Emily Birnbaum, technology and lobbying reporter for Bloomberg, about a growing anti-antitrust movement emerging in the press and in Washington, and why Khan has become its main target.


Mysteries of Sound

In late 2016, American diplomats in Havana, Cuba started hearing a mysterious buzzing sound and experiencing debilitating symptoms. On this week’s On the Media, why the government now disputes theories that it was a secret Russian weapon. Plus, what the electric hum of your refrigerator and the uncanny hearing ability of pigeons reveal about the world we live in. 1. Adam Entous, staff writer at The New York Times, Jon Lee Anderson, staff writer at The New Yorker, and Robert Bartholomew, sociologist and author of Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria, on the investigation into the mysterious affliction that spread across the globe. Listen. 2. Jennifer Munson, OTM Technical Director, and Nasir Memon, New York University professor of computer science and engineering, on the obscure technology called electrical network frequency analysis, or ENF, and the world of audio forensics. Listen. 3. Robert Krulwich [@rkrulwich], co-creator and former co-host of Radiolab, and John Hagstrum, a geophysicist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey, on the mysterious avian disappearance that rocked world headlines. Listen. Music: Meet Tina - Havana Syndrome History Lesson - Havana Syndrome Okami - Nicola Cruz Electricity - OMD Wallpaper - Woo


The Wilhelm Scream

When two blockbuster movies, Barbie and Oppenheimer, premiered in U.S. theaters on the same day in July 2023, they ushered in a renewed enthusiasm for the double feature, and introduced the word "Barbenheimer" to moviegoers' vocabularies. For this midweek podcast, we’re returning to an old OTM piece by David Serchuk about a sound—more specifically, a scream—that's lived an amazingly long and storied life on the silver screen.


Read All About It

This summer’s extreme heat has contributed to disasters around the world--but some of them are hard to see. On this week’s On the Media, why extreme heat is one of the most challenging climate disasters for reporters to cover. Plus, the story of how historical fiction became the unexpected darling of the literary world. 1. Jake Bittle [@jake_bittle], staff writer at Grist, on this year's scarily hot summer and the impacts of extreme heat. Listen. 2. OTM producer Eloise Blondiau [@eloiseblondiau] takes a deep dive into how historical fiction became a rich resource for reckoning with our past, feat: Alexander Manshel, assistant professor of English at McGill University [@xandermanshel], and novelists Alexander Chee [@alexanderchee] and Min Jin Lee [@minjinlee11]. Listen. 3. Tiya Miles [@TiyaMilesTAM], professor of history at Harvard University and author of All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, on rediscovering lost histories. Listen. Music: Misterioso - (Monk) - Kronos Quartet Non Pusc Sofir Principio di Virtu Going Home - Hank Jones, Charlie Haden The Beatitudes - Kronos Quartet Tilliboyo - Kronos Quartet Traveling Music - Kronos Quartet


The Lasting Impact of the Library of Alexandria

In the first half of the last school year, PEN America has recorded almost 900 different books pulled from library shelves across the country. As long as libraries have existed, people have tried to police what goes in them. The burning of the Library of Alexandria is a metaphor that gets invoked any time we lose access to a treasure trove of books. But for centuries it has also inspired scientists and inventors, philosophers and programmers to dream about creating an ideal library, one that provides access to all the knowledge in the world. OTM producer Molly Schwartz goes to a birthday party for Wikidata at the Brooklyn Public Library, where she talks to Wikimedia New York City president Richard Knipel, Wikimedia software engineer James Forrester, and long-time Wikipedia editor Jim Henderson about how the free online encyclopedia has made strides toward providing knowledge to the sum of human knowledge. She also speaks with library historian Alex Wright, author of the book Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages, and software engineering consultant Gyula Lakatos, creator of the Library of Alexandria application suite, about the history of universal library projects and what keeps the dream alive.


Go Woke, Go Broke

When the US women’s soccer team was knocked out of the world cup, they became the latest target of a right-wing media campaign. On this week’s On the Media, the state of discourse around gender. Plus, the quality of coverage around trans rights, and how it’s changed. 1. Alex Abad-Santos [@alex_abads], senior correspondent at Vox, on the right-wing outrage against the US women's national soccer team after their elimination from the World Cup. Listen. 2. Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger], OTM correspondent, on the state of coverage of trans rights, and how it has changed since New York Times contributors wrote an open letter to the paper accusing it of biased reporting several months ago. Listen.


The Trump Case Against E. Jean Carroll and The Progress of #MeToo

This week, another legal blow for former president Donald Trump after a judge ruled to dismiss Trump's counter defamation lawsuit against E Jean Carroll for statements she made about a ruling on civil case earlier this year. Back in May, a Manhattan federal jury found that former president Donald Trump sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll in a luxury department store dressing room in the mid 1990s, and awarded her $5 million for defamation and battery. The jurors, however, rejected Carroll's claim that she was raped. This came at the end of a seven-day trial, during which Carroll testified against Trump's claims that she was lying, and that he had never met her. The day of the verdict, Carroll strolled out of the courtroom onto the New York City sidewalk, sunglass-clad and triumphant. Rebecca Traister is a writer-at-large for New York magazine, and author of “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger.” This week, she speaks with Brooke about the place that this nearly thirty-year-old case holds in the landscape of Me Too, the premature death bells of the movement, and just how long it takes for movements to fully permeate laws, practices, and attitudes. This is segment originally aired in our May 12, 2023 show, Her Day in Court.


Making History

This year, the Department of Defense began renaming military bases that honor the Confederacy. On this week’s On the Media, a former general explains why the reckoning with the myth of the “lost cause” is overdue. Plus, hear how Russian propaganda about the war in Ukraine has been hundreds of years in the making. 1. Ty Seidule [@Ty_Seidule], the Vice Chair of the National Commission on Base Renaming, on the military's efforts to reckon with the "Lost Cause." Listen. 2. Alexis Akwagyiram [@alexisak], Managing Editor of Semafor Africa and former Reuters bureau chief in Nigeria, on the potential widespread impact of the coup in Niger. Listen. 3. Mikhail Zygar [@zygaro], investigative journalist and founder of the independent Russian TV channel Rain, on debunking some of Russia's most powerful myths about itself. Listen. Music: The Last Bird - Zoe Keating Tomorrow Never Knows - Quartetto D’Archi Dell’orchestra Sinfonia di Milano Giuseppi Verdi Winter Sun - Gerry O’Beirne Ali Farka Toucche - Jenny Scheinman Airborne Toxic Event - Danny Elfman Lieutenenent Kije - Sergei Prokofiev Lieutenenent Kije - Sergei Prokofiev


Presidential Debates: Yay or Nay?

According to a New York Times-Siena poll released this week 54 percent of republican voters said if the election were held today they would vote for Donald Trump. DeSantis trails by 37 percentage points and the others in the field are in single digits. Despite, (or because of?) his solid lead, Trump is wavering on whether he will show his face at the first Republican presidential debate set for August 23rd. As he told Maria Bartiromo on Fox; “You’re leading people by 50 or 60 points, you say, why would you be doing a debate? It’s actually not fair. Why would you let someone who’s at zero or one or two or three be popping you with questions?” Trump’s debate snubbing is just the latest example of the GOP resistance to a longstanding political norms. refusal by Republicans to meet political norms. Last year Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, wrote a letter to the commission on presidential debates, the independent, bipartisan organization that has convened general election debates since the 80s. In her letter, she said that the RNC would boycott the presidential debates during the upcoming election cycle. That is, unless the commission was willing to meet its demands. Between the RNC’s demands and now the potential absence of the Republican front-runner the question is; what, if anything, would be lost if the presidential debates didn't happen? Brooke spoke to Alex Shephard - senior editor at The New Republic, last year after he wrote an article titled, Let the Presidential Debates Die.


To Catch a War Criminal

Click here to support this work. President Biden just ordered U.S. investigators to share evidence of Russian war crimes with The International Criminal Court. On this week’s On the Media, what will it take to secure justice for Ukraine? Plus, a moving look back at the early days of the conflict. 1. Mstyslav Chernov [@mstyslav9], a video journalist for the Associated Press and director, on the making of the documentary, "20 Days in Mariupol," and what footage from Ukrainian frontlines didn't make it to American newsreels. Listen. 2. Deborah Amos [@deborahamos], a veteran Middle East correspondent and this week's guest co-host, on how war crime investigators focusing on Ukraine first learned how to document war crimes in Syria, and what this means for holding Russia accountable. Listen. 3. Nathaniel Raymond [@nattyray11], war crimes investigator and Executive Director of Yale's Humanitarian Research Lab, about his report confirming the Russian government held at least six thousand Ukrainian children in re-education camps. Listen. 4. Philippe Sands [@philippesands], professor of law at University College London, on why Western nations are hesitant to charge Putin for the “crime of aggression.” Listen. Music: The Glass House (End Title) -David Bergeaud Yesterdays - Fred Hersch and Bill Frizell When Doves Cry (Prince) -Starr Parodi Whispers of a Heavenly Death - John Zorn Bertotim - John Zorn Night Thoughts - John Zorn Robert’s Sermon - John Renbourn


Investigating Russia's War Crimes Against Ukrainian Children

The researchers at Yale's Humanitarian Research Lab gather in a carpeted underground bunker, beneath the campus library, to steadily gather evidence of Russia's alleged war crimes. In a report published earlier this year, in collaboration with the State Department, they presented evidence of the Russian government operating more than 40 child custody centers for Ukrainian children who have been forcibly removed from their homes to Russia. On the other hand, Russia's embassy in Washington has claimed that the children were forced to flee to safety due to the war. About a month later, on March 17, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian president Vladimir Putin, accusing him of the war crime of illegally deporting children from Ukraine. For this week's midweek podcast, we're airing a piece by our guest co-host Deborah Amos, first broadcast by NPR's Morning Edition in February, in which she reported on the devastating evidence unearthed by the Yale researchers, and what this means for leveraging accountability against Putin.