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On the Media

On the Media is an incisive guide to the ever-changing media landscape. This weekly program from WNYC delves into how the media shapes our understanding of the world. Featuring interviews and analysis, it takes a critical look at media coverage and the broader role of media in society. It's your go-to source for an honest, illuminating exploration of all things media.

  • An Alabama Supreme Court ruling on frozen embryos threatens fertility treatments across the state. On this week’s On the Media, hear how a particular branch of Christian nationalism influenced one justice’s decision. Plus, how film adaptations of books have come to dominate our screens. 1. Matthew D. Taylor [@TaylorMatthewD], senior scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian, & Jewish Studies, on how a particular strain of Christian Nationalism, once on the fringe of America’s religious landscape, is slowly emerging as a political force. Listen. 2. Alexander Manshel [@XanderManshel], assistant professor of English at McGill University and author of Writing Backwards: Historical Fiction and the Reshaping of the American Canon, on how literary prizes have changed over the last few decades, and how much they actually matter. Listen. 3. Cord Jefferson [@cordjefferson], writer and director of the new film American Fiction, on his movie's critique of Hollywood and the process of adapting a novel for the screen. Listen.
  • Russia's jailed opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, has died in prison. Navalny had been living behind bars since shortly after landing in Moscow in January of 2021. He had been returning home following months of recovery in Europe, after he fell violently sick on a flight between Siberia and Moscow. In the months following Navalny’s poisoning, Christo Grozev, former lead Russia investigator at Bellingcat, was stuck in Vienna with filmmaker Daniel Roher. The two had just been booted from Ukraine, where they had been trying to film an investigation. Grozev suddenly had a lot of time on his hands, a laptop, and a fresh stack of data from the Russian black market so naturally he began to investigate who was behind the poisoning. Daniel Roher directed the documentary “Navalny,” which portrays the story of the close collaboration between Navalny, his team, and Grozev, in the hunt for the dissident’s would-be killers. Last year, Brooke spoke to Roher and Grozev about the making of the documentary, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. This is a segment from our February 10, 2023 show, Hide and Seek.
  • Coverage of President Joe Biden’s age has reached a fever pitch. On this week’s On the Media, hear whether the quality of the reports has matched their volume. Plus, meet Bobi Wine, a pop star and opposition politician who is fighting for democracy in Uganda. 1. Judd Legum [@JuddLegum], founder of the newsletter Popular Information, Charan Ranganath [@CharanRanganath], a neuroscientist at UC Davis and author of the forthcoming book, Why We Remember: Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold on to What Matters, and Jack Shafer [@jackshafer], senior media critic at Politico, on the flood of coverage around Biden's age following the release of the Hur report last week and the consequences of the media's minute focus on it. Listen. 2. Lili Loofbourow [@Millicentsomer], television critic at the Washington Post, on Jon Stewart's return to The Daily Show after nine years, and whether the unique form of political comedy he pioneered still holds up in today's drastically different political landscape. Listen. 3. Bobi Wine [@HEBobiwine] and Moses Bwayo [@bwayomoses], co-director of the new Oscar-nominated documentary Bobi Wine: The People's President, on the journey of Wine, a popstar-turned-politician, who has used his music as a platform to fight for democracy in Uganda. Listen.
  • Last week we learned that ousted Fox blowhard Tucker Carlson had gone to Russia. He was spotted eating fake McDonalds and watching a ballet at the Bolshoi theater. But Tucker was there for more important things than fast food and culture; he was there for a sit down with President Putin. Carlson was mainly silent as Putin delivered an almost 40 minute long speech on the history of how Ukraine belongs to Russia. But the myths in Putin's and Russia's state-sponsored version of history are not new. Last summer Brooke spoke to Mikhail Zygar who had traced it back at least as far as the middle ages. This is a segment from our August 4, 2023 show, Making History.
  • In December, the New York Times sued OpenAI for allegedly using the paper’s articles to train chatbots. On this week’s On the Media, a look at how media outlets are trying to survive in this era of generative AI. Plus, why New York’s oldest Black newspaper is joining forces with an AI startup to address biases in the technology. 1. Kate Knibbs [@Knibbs], senior writer at Wired, on AI clickbait flooding the internet. Listen. 2. John Herrman [@jwherrman], tech columnist for New York Magazine, on the love-hate relationship between AI companies and journalism. Listen. 3. Elinor Tatum [@elinortatum], editor in chief of The New York Amsterdam News, on a push to make AI technology and data diverse. Listen. 4. Abbie Richards [@abbieasr], misinformation researcher and a senior video producer at Media Matters, on the AI-generated conspiracy theories multiplying TikTok. Listen.
  • Naomi Klein has been confused for writer Naomi Wolf for much of her career. Wolf rose to prominence with the book The Beauty Myth in the 90s, establishing herself as a bestselling feminist, liberal writer. Klein, on the other hand, wrote acclaimed critiques of capitalism such as No Logo and The Shock Doctrine. To say Klein is often mistaken for Wolf is an understatement. In the interview she did just before ours, a TV host mistakenly called her by Wolf's name. The confusion is incessant on social media, and escalated when Wolf became notorious as a peddler of covid-19 conspiracies. A few weeks ago, Wolf discovered that a fellow anti-vaxxer was spreading a conspiracy theory, this time about her. Ultimately, Klein decided to plunge down the rabbit hole to follow Wolf, and emerged with a new book Doppelganger: A Trip into the Mirror World, a wide-ranging exploration of doubling in our lives, culture, and politics. Brooke speaks to Klein about how social media has given all of us doppelgangers; why she's proud of her "bad" personal brand; and the value of "unselfing." This segment first aired in our September 15, 2023 show, The “Too Old” President and Political Doppelgängers.
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott has threatened to defy the federal government’s control over the border as the surge of migrants continues. On this week’s On the Media, a look at what might be a brewing constitutional crisis. Plus, hear MSNBC’s Chris Hayes make a case for why journalists should be paying even closer attention to Donald Trump. 1. Adam Serwer [@AdamSerwer], staff writer at The Atlantic, on the humanitarian and constitutional crisis at the Texas border. Listen. 2. Jonathan Blitzer [@JonathanBlitzer], staff writer at The New Yorker, on what the media misses when it covers immigration. Plus, how and why U.S. immigration changed in the 21st century.Listen. 3. Chris Hayes [@chrislhayes], host of “All In with Chris Hayes” on MSNBC, on reasons why the media should re-up their focus on Donald Trump. Listen.
  • In Micah Loewinger's introduction to this interview, he shared this personal anecdote: "Before I landed a job at this show, I worked for a few years, on and off, at a couple record stores around New York City. And some of my favorite albums to this day, were recommended to me by my coworkers. Men and women who I consider to be archivists –– not just of old formats like vinyl records, CDs, and cassettes –– but of underappreciated artists and niche genres. A knowledge of music history that can only come from a lifetime of obsessive listening, research, and curation. Nowadays, I pay for Spotify. I try to learn about music off the app and then save it for later listening on Spotify, but sometimes I find myself just letting its recommendation algorithm queue up the next track, and the next. And it definitely works. Spotify has helped me discover great music, but it’s never been as revelatory as a personal recommendation from a friend or an expert at a record store or an independent radio station. This feeling … that I’ve traded convenience for something deeper is what made me want to read Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture by Kyle Chayka, a staff writer at the New Yorker."
  • After New Hampshire and Iowa, the GOP field is narrowing to Donald Trump's benefit once again. On this week’s On the Media, hear how Florida governor Ron DeSantis went from right-wing media darling to the party outcast. Plus, what gets lost in the blow-by-blow coverage of Trump’s legal woes. 1. Nick Nehamas [@NickNehamas], politics reporter for the New York Times, Mary Ellen Klas [@MaryEllenKlas], opinion writer at Bloomberg and former capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald, and Tom Scocca [@tomscocca], creator of the Indignity newsletter, on the rise and fall of Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign, and the lessons it offers about how to cover elections. Listen. 2. Dahlia Lithwick [@Dahlialithwick], lawyer and writer at Slate, on how our legal system isn't designed to save our democracy, and what's wrong with mainstream media's coverage of Trump's trials. Listen. 3. Zach Woods, actor known for his role of Gabe Lewis on The Office, and Brandon Gardner [@BrandonJGardner], improviser and writer, on their new Peacock show, In the Know, which parodies public radio, and reflects our current culture wars. Listen.
  • This week we're featuring the work of our colleagues at WNYC: Valerie Reyes-Jimenez called it “The Monster.” That’s how some people described HIV and AIDS in the 1980s. Valerie thinks as many as 75 people from her block on New York City’s Lower East Side died. They were succumbing to an illness that was not recognized as the same virus that was killing young, white, gay men just across town in the West Village. At the same time, in Washington, D.C., Gil Gerald, a Black LGBTQ+ activist, saw his own friends and colleagues begin to disappear, dying out of sight and largely ignored by the wider world. In our first episode of Blindspot: The Plague in the Shadows, we learn how HIV and AIDS was misunderstood from the start — and how this would shape the reactions of governments, the medical establishment and numerous communities for years to come. You can listen to more of Blindspot: The Plague in the Shadows by subscribing here. New episodes come out on Thursdays. Blindspot is a co-production of The HISTORY® Channel and WNYC Studios, in collaboration with The Nation Magazine. A companion photography exhibit by Kia LaBeija featuring portraits from the series is on view through March 11 at The Greene Space at WNYC. The photography for Blindspot was supported by a grant from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes coverage of social inequality and economic justice.