On The Media
On The Media

Our weekly podcast explores how the media 'sausage' is made, casts an incisive eye on fluctuations in the marketplace of ideas, and examines threats to the freedom of information and expression in America and abroad. For one hour a week, the show tries to lift the veil from the process of "making media," especially news media, because it's through that lens that we see the world and the world sees us

Airs on:
SUN 2pm-3pm, MON 12am-1am
14 min

A Different Hanukkah Story

This week is Hanukkah, Judaism’s eight-day festival of lights. With its emphasis on present-giving, dreidel games and sweet treats, the holiday seems to be oriented towards kids. Even the story of Hanukkah has had its edges shaved down over time. Ostensibly, the holiday is a celebration of a victory against an oppressive Greek regime in Palestine over two thousand years ago, the miracle of oil that lit Jerusalem's holy temple for 8 days and nights, and the perseverance of the Jewish faith against all odds. According to Rabbi James Ponet, Emeritus Howard M. Holtzmann Jewish Chaplain at Yale University, the kid-friendly Hanukkah mythology has obscured the thorny historical details that offer deeper truths about what it means to be a Jew. In his 2005 Slate piece, "Hanukkah as Jewish Civil War," Ponet looked at the often-overlooked Jew-on-Jew violence that under-girds the Hanukkah story. He and Brooke discuss how this civil war lives on in Jewish views on Israel, and how the tension between assimilation and tradition came to define the Jewish people.   (this is a rebroadcast of a story we first ran in 2018)
50 min

How Cassette Tapes Changed the World

Cassette tapes mostly gather dust these days. But back in their heyday, they fundamentally changed how we communicate, in ways we’re still making sense of today. On this week’s On the Media, hear how the cassette tape fueled the Iranian revolution, helped pierce the Iron Curtain, and put human connection in the palm of our hands. 1. Simon Goodwin on his innovation to broadcast computer software over the radio back in 1983. Listen. 2. Computer programmer Fuxoft explains his role in 'Sneakernet,' which saw pirated material of all types smuggled into 1980s Czechoslovakia via cassette tape. Listen. 3. The role of cassette tapes in the Iranian Revolution. Listen. This episode was reported, produced, scored and sound designed for Radiolab by Simon Adler with original music throughout by Simon. Top tier reporting and production assistance was provided by Eli Cohen.
15 min

Chasing Dash

Last year at this time, 9 months into the pandemic, so many of us stayed separated from one another, missing out on all the gathering, yam-eating, relative-screaming, football-watching, insert-holiday-themed-cliche-here, of Thanksgiving. Not so this year. This year, vaxxed and tested and maybe even boosted, we gather once more. Like a bunch of gosh-darn superheroes.  And so, for this very special Thanksgiving-edition podcast extra, we’re re-airing the story of another lovable, dysfunctional family full of superheroes: The Incredibles.  Back in 2005, the Academy Award-winning animated Pixar film took the world by storm, with its campy 60s noir aesthetic, its nuanced portrayal of family gender roles, and its memorable cast of superheroes. And one of those superheroes, the gifted son named Dash, was played by a real-life kid, the former child actor Spencer Fox. The film would radically change Fox's life, for better and worse. Some 17 years later, Spencer speaks with OTM reporter Micah Loewinger about his complex relationship to the role and why he spent years refusing to watch its sequel. This is segment originally aired as part of the April 23, 2021 program, Not Ready For That Conversation.
55 min

Bait the Nation

Politicians and pundits on the right are eager to pin rising rates of inflation on President Biden — but that misses the bigger picture. Plus, how scaremongering over 'critical race theory' is impacting elections, school boards and classrooms. And, how the stories we tell about our present shape what's possible for the future, from paid parental leave to immigration policy and beyond.  1. John Cassidy [@JohnCassidy], staff writer at The New Yorker, on the real story behind the inflation numbers. Listen. 2. Adam Harris [@AdamHSays], staff writer at The Atlantic, on what the elections can and can't tell us about the impact of  'critical race theory' scaremongering, and why the debate over race has landed in schools. Listen. 3. Alan Jenkins [@Opportunity1], professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of the Opportunity Agenda, on how powerful stories, effectively communicated, have shaped what's possible for the future. Listen.
20 min

The Climate Summit Blues

The U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland concluded last weekend—the 26th “Conference of Parties.” After more than two decades of these promises, it’s worth wondering how much of this is all just hot air. According to the non-profit Climate Action Tracker, not a single country is on target to meet the COP21 pledge, also known as the Paris Climate Accords, and many aren’t even on target for their COP3 pledge, the Kyoto Protocol.   And yet, these summits are often still covered with breathless play-by-play analysis: all the juicy details about diplomatic attaches, late-night negotiation, and backroom deals. Which is not without value, but it’s worth asking: what are the stories being missed when all eyes are on the summit? To answer that, we called Nathaniel Rich, writer-at-large for the New York Times Magazine, who takes a markedly different approach.
50 min

Cha-ching!

Twenty months since the start of the pandemic, economic recovery has been uneven at best. This week, On the Media takes a look at one sector that’s been booming: cryptocurrency and, in particular, NFTs. Hear how a technology invented to give artists more control over their work has become a tool for speculators hoping to win big. 1. Anil Dash [@anildash], CEO of Glitch, helps explain the origin of NFTs. Listen. 2. OTM Correspondent Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] attends an NFT auction featuring Carlos Matos, one of crypto's most unlikely proponents. Listen. 3. Anil Dash [@anildash] on his ambivalence of what has come from his creation. Listen. Music:72 Degrees and Sunny by Thomas NewmanEye Surgery by Thomas NewmanHorizon 12.2 by Thomas NewmanOkami by Nicola CruzBitconnect Carlos Matos (What Is Love) by PsycholPenguins by Michael HurleySolice by Scott JoplinCarlos Matos (Take On Me) by MemeskiBubblewrap by Thomas NewmanVie En Rose by Toots Thielemans
22 min

OTM presents The Experiment: Who Would Jesus Mock?

The satire site The Babylon Bee, a conservative Christian answer to The Onion, stirred controversy when some readers mistook its headlines for misinformation. In this episode of WNYC/The Atlantic's The Experiment, religion reporter Emma Green sits down with the editor-in-chief, Kyle Mann, to talk about where he draws the line between making a joke and doing harm, and to understand what humor can reveal about American politics. Further reading: “Who Would Jesus Mock?”
50 min

The History of Tomorrow

For decades, Silicon Valley leaders have been borrowing ideas from science fiction — from the metaverse to the latest tech gadgets. On this week’s show, hear why they might need to start reading their source material more closely. Also, why the midterm election results tell us so little about what’s coming next in American politics. And a forgotten behemoth of American literature gets a closer look.  1. Paul Waldman [@paulwaldman1], opinion columnist at the Washington Post and senior writer for  The American Prospect, on why off-year elections need historical context. Listen. 2. Jill Lepore, Harvard historian and New Yorker staff writer; Gene Seymour [@GeneSeymour], culture critic with work in Newsday, the Nation, the Baffler, and more; and Annalee Newitz [@Annaleen], science fiction author and science journalist, on the makings (and potential mishaps) of the metaverse. Listen. 3. Paul Auster, acclaimed novelist and author of Burning Boy: The Life and Work of Stephen Crane, on the 19th century writer's forgotten legacy. Listen. Music in this week's show:Whistle While You Work - Artie Shaw and his New MusicYou’re Getting to be a Habit with Me - Guy LombardoDo Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me - Ben WebsterBoy Moves the Sun - Michael AndrewsA Ride with Polly Jean - Jenny ScheinmanGerry O'Beirne’s album “The Bog Bodies and other Stories: Music for Guitar"