On the Media
About On the Media
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 - Avalon Skylark - Anita O’Day What's That Sound - Michael Andrews Jesusland - Ben Folds Tilliboyo - Kronos Quartet
As we've discussed on the show at length, most recently with Cory Doctorow in our series The Enshittification of Everything, Amazon has slowly been inserting itself into seemingly every facet of our lives. All the while using its status as a monopoly in the market to squash competition, take advantage of its users and skew prices for everyone. At the end of our series Doctorow described how he has hope in among other people, Lina Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission. Says Khan; “Amazon has actually quietly been hiking prices for consumers in ways that are not always clearly visible but at the end of the day can result in consumers paying billions of dollars more than they would if there was actually competition in the market.” In this midweek episode, we are airing a conversation our colleague and host of the New Yorker Radio Hour, David Remnick had with Lina Khan about her plan to sue Amazon for violating antitrust laws.
Donald Trump was out of sight at the GOP presidential primary debate – but definitely not out of mind. On this week’s On the Media, a look at how the press is covering the former president and his threats against democracy. Plus, a deep dive into the meteoric rise and stumble of the podcast industry. 1. Dan Froomkin [@froomkin], editor of presswatchers.org, on how the press is failing the public in covering Donald Trump in this moment. Listen. 2. OTM Producer Molly Rosen [@mollyfication] with Kevin Marks [@kevinmarks], a software engineer who wrote the first script that downloaded "audio blogs" onto iTunes, and Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations at Libsyn, on Apple's power over podcasts. Listen. 3. Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] takes stock of how we got to this moment in podcasting and the role public radio stations will play in the future, feat: Alex Sujong Laughlin [@alexlaughs], supervising producer and co-owner at Defector Media, Anna Sale [@annasale] host of Death, Sex & Money, Felix Salmon [@felixsalmon], host of Slate Money, and Nick Quah [@nwquah], podcast critic for Vulture and New York Magazine. Listen.
Last week on the show, Brooke spoke to two writers about new wrinkles in the now 6-year-old #MeToo movement. But we had one additional interview that we wanted to share. In this midweek podcast extra, Brooke sits down with Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post television critic, to discuss three phases of TV post-#MeToo. Plus, Loofbourow explains how series like "Fleabag," "The Morning Show," and "Unbelievable" have internalized lessons from the movement, and what we can expect going forward.
Israel began a ground operation in Gaza as a conflict that’s already left thousands dead continues to escalate. On this week’s On the Media, reflections on the unique difficulty of covering this war. Plus, six years after explosive allegations against Harvey Weinstein helped launch a movement, how MeToo lives on in the media. 1. David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, on striving to balance perceptions and narratives, and the challenges posed to a reporter covering the Israel-Hamas war. Listen. 2. Vickie Wang [@VickieDeTaiwan] is an interpreter, writer, and stand-up comic, on how one television show sparked a movement in Taiwan. Listen. 3. Yomi Adegoke [@yomiadegoke], columnist for The Guardian and British Vogue, on the powerful intersection of #MeToo and the internet. Listen. Music: Frail as a Breeze - Erik Friedlander Whispers of a Heavenly Death - John Zorn Fallen Leaves - Marcos Ciscar I Am - India Arie Boy Moves the Sun - Michael Andrews Quizas Quizas Quizas - Ramon Sole
There's been no shortage of opinions across the globe as the Israel-Hamas conflict rages on. But stateside, there's also been an abundance of statements: from individuals, brands, and even colleges and universities. That isn't uncommon in the social-media age, but do all those words actually tell us something? In this midweek podcast extra, Brooke sits down with Sam Adler-Bell, writer and co-host of the podcast “Know Your Enemy,” to talk about the phenomena of "statementese," when we started expecting comments from institutions, and the potential downside of thinking that Instagram posts are all we can do.
Experts say disinformation around the Israel-Hamas war is running rampant. On this week’s On the Media, a guide to understanding your feed in the midst of armed conflict. Plus, a deep dive into Saudi Arabia’s rebranding experiment. 1. Mike Caulfield [@uwcip], a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, Aric Toler [@AricToler], a reporter at the visual investigations team at the New York Times, and Shayan Sadarizadeh [@Shayan86], a journalist at BBC Monitoring and BBC Verify, on how to navigate your social media feed in the midst of the war in Israel and Gaza. Listen. 2. OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] looks at Saudi Arabia's strategy to shore up its power, and the role the nation could play in negotiations for peace between Israel and Palestine. Featuring: Justin Scheck [@ScheckNYTimes], a reporter at the New York Times, and co-author of Blood and Oil: Mohammed Bin Salman’s Ruthless Quest For Global Power, Ahmed Al Omran [@ahmed], a reporter based in Saudi Arabia, and Kim Ghattas [@KimGhattas], a writer at The Atlantic and author of Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East. Listen.
It's been over 20 days since the United States has had a Speaker of the House. Republican Kevin McCarthy was ousted by the right flank of his party earlier this month, and the tumultuous race for a new Speaker has revealed deep divisions in the Republican party. On Tuesday morning, House Republicans selected Tom Emmer, the majority whip from Minnesota, as their next man up. He's the third nominee the GOP has offered up in the past three weeks, after Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan each failed to secure enough Republican votes to win on the House floor. And with conflict brewing in the Middle East and government shutdown looming on the horizon, House Republicans have left Congress in paralysis with their inability to elect a speaker. For the midweek podcast, OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger speaks with Brian Rosenwald, a Scholar in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Talk Radio’s America: How an Industry Took Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States, about how the long-deteriorating relationship between conservative media and the GOP led us to this point.
More than twenty journalists have been killed during the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. On this week’s On the Media, hear about the deadly challenges facing reporters on the ground. Plus, why comparisons of the Hamas attack on October 7th to September 11th serve as a warning for the geopolitical fallout that may lie ahead. 1. OTM host Brooke Gladstone [@OTMBrooke] on the worsening fog of war surrounding Israel and Palestine, and the confusion and disinformation in the coverage of the conflict. Listen. 2. OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] and Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, on the sharp rise in cases of violence against reporters in Gaza and Israel. Listen. 3. Tareq Baconi, president of the board of Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network, and David Klion [@DavidKlion], contributing editor at Jewish Currents, on why comparisons of 9/11 to the Hamas attack forewarn us of geopolitical conflict. Listen.
This week, amid the deluge of coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict following Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7th, a certain historical analogy kept coming up: "this is Israel's 9/11." The analogy has been widely repeated, by officials abroad and stateside. For some invoking 9/11 explains Israel's retaliation. For others, the analogy is a warning, a reminder of the still unfolding violence and death that the American response wrought around the globe. This week, Brooke sits down with David Klion, contributing editor at Jewish Currents, who wrote about the analogy for n+1 magazine, to discuss why we should see it the invocation of 9/11 as a lesson and a warning.
In the third episode of "We Don't Talk About Leonard," Leonard Leo is in Maine, a man in his castle, at the height of his powers. He has helped remake the American judicial system, and now he has a plan to do the same for society and politics — to make a Federalist Society for everything. ProPublica reporters Andrea Bernstein, Andy Kroll, and Ilya Marritz drill even further into the fight to gain influence over state courts, and reveal what Leo and his allies are planning for the future. 1. Big money starts pouring into state Supreme Court races in Wisconsin and across the country. Listen. 2. Leonard Leo takes over a network of conservatives trying to shape American culture. Listen. 3. Leonard Leo faces pushback in a town where people know who he is. 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.
This week, Bloomberg reported that social media posts about the Israel-Hamas conflict have led to a sticky cesspool of confusion and conflict on Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter. On Saturday, just hours after Hamas fighters from Gaza surged into Israel, unverified photos and videos of missile air strikes, buildings and homes being destroyed and other posts depicting military violence — in Israel and Gaza — crowded the platform. But some of the horror, not all of course, were old images passed off as new. Some of this content was posted by anonymous accounts that carried blue checkmarks, which signals that they had purchased verification under X’s “premium” subscription service. Some military footage circulating on X were drawn from video games, and some of the lies were, as usual, pushed by far-right pundits on the platform, for clicks or, possibly, ulterior motives. For the midweek podcast, Brooke speaks with Avi Asher-Schapiro, who covers tech for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, about how Musk's policy changes at X have led to a stronger initial surge of misinformation than usual during this conflict, and how an algorithmically-driven "fog of war" impacts our historical record of this conflict.
Leonard Leo realized that in order to generate conservative rulings, the Supreme Court needs the right kind of cases. In this episode of “We Don’t Talk About Leonard,” ProPublica reporters Andrea Bernstein, Andy Kroll, and Ilya Marritz investigate the machine that Leonard Leo built across the country to bring cases to the Supreme Court and fill vacant judgeships, and the web of nonprofits he’s created through which to funnel dark money into judicial races. 1. The rise of a conservative lawyer through the ranks demonstrates the growing importance of state solicitors general. Listen. 2. Leonard Leo cultivates wealthy donors, and a fishing trip sets off a Supreme Court ethics scandal. Listen. 3. Leonard Leo gains power and prominence as the author of former President Trump's list of potential Supreme Court appointees, and a Federalist Society donor becomes disillusioned. 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.
Donald Trump is in court this week in New York City, again, for a multimillion dollar civil fraud trial. He, his sons, and the Trump organization have been accused of using false financial statements and inflating their net worth by billions. In addition to this case, Trump is facing four criminal indictments: the January 6th insurrection case in DC, the Stormy Daniels hush money case in New York, the classified documents case in Florida, and the political interference case in Georgia. It’s a lot to keep track of, but this civil trial is worth one's attention. If NY State Attorney General Letitia James succeeds, Trump could lose control of his businesses and his most valuable assets, like Trump Tower — along with whatever’s left of the public image he spent decades constructing on television and in the press. Russ Buettner is a reporter on the New York Times Investigation Desk, the team that hunted down Trump’s tax returns and other elusive financial documents, in an effort to understand how exactly the former president got his money and how he lost so much of it. For the midweek podcast, OTM correspondent Micah Loewinger called Russ to learn about what Trump’s history of fraud means for his future, the revelations of the trial so far, and what details have gotten lost in the deluge of coverage.
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.