While maintaining the civility and fairness that are the hallmarks of public radio, OTM tackles sticky issues with a frankness and transparency that has built trust with listeners and led to more than a tripling of its audience in five years.
Since OTM was re-launched in 2001, it has been one of NPR's fastest growing programs, heard on more than 300 public radio stations. It has won Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature reporting and investigative reporting, the National Press Club's Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism and a Peabody Award for its body of work.
November 27, 2020
With the an apparent second wave of COVID-19 in full force, the media are sounding the alarm on a deadly virus growing out of control. But during the Spanish Flu 100 years ago, the media downplayed the pandemic. On this week's show, a look at how the Spanish Flu vanished from our collective memory. Then, how Shakespeare, a British icon, became an American hero.
Berceuse in D Flat Major, Op. 57 Chopin - Ivan Moravec
Crows of Homer - Gerry O'Beirne
The Dancing Master: Maiden Lane (John Playford) - The Broadside Band & Jeremy Barlow
John’s Book of Alleged Dances (John Adams) - Kronos Quartet
Fife Feature: Lowland’s Away (Roy Watrous) - Gregory S. Balvanz & The US Army Fife and Drum Corps
Ballad No. 2 in F, Op. 38 (Chopin) - Ivan Moravec
Little Rose is Gone/Billy in the Lowground - Jim TaylorCollection
Frail As a Breeze - Erik Friedlander
The De Lesseps' Dance - Shakespeare in Love Soundtrack
Kiss Me Kate Overture - Kiss Me Kate Soundtrack
Brush Up Your Shakespeare - Kiss Me Kate Soundtrack
Love & the Rehearsal - Shakespeare in Love Soundtrack
Harpsichord - Four Tet
November 25, 2020
Communicable disease has haunted humanity for all of history. As such, the responses to coronavirus in our midst have a grimly timeless quality. In fact, to one scholar, epidemics are a great lens for peering into the values, temperament, infrastructures and moral structures of the societies they attack. Frank M. Snowden is a professor emeritus of the history of medicine at Yale and author of Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present. An epidemic, he writes, “holds a mirror” to the civilization in which it occurs. In this podcast extra, he speaks to Bob about what we can learn about ourselves from the infectious diseases we've faced, from the bubonic plague in the 14th century to the Ebola outbreak in 2014 to COVID-19 today.
This interview originally aired as a segment in our March 6, 2020 program, Our Bodies, Ourselves.
November 23, 2020
EXTENDED VERSION (includes content we had to leave on the cutting room floor to make the interview fit into the broadcast)
It’s been two weeks since Trump lost the election to Biden. But he and his followers are still claiming victory. Jeff Sharlet, who has been covering the election for Vanity Fair, credits two Christian-adjacent ideas for these claims. The first is the so-called “prosperity gospel”: the notion that, among other things, positive thinking can manifest positive consequences. Even electoral victory in the face of electoral loss. But the problem with prosperity gospel, like day-and-date rapture prophecies, is that when its bets don’t pay off, it’s glaringly obvious.
As prosperity thinking loses its edge for Trump, another strain of fringe Christianity — dating back nearly two millennia — is flourishing. Jeff Sharlet says an ancient heresy, Gnosticism, can help us understand the unifying force of pseudo-intellectualism on the right. Sharlet explains how a gnostic emphasis on "hidden" truths has animated QAnon conspiracies and Trump’s base.
This is the extended version of a segment from our November 20th, 2020 program, Believe It Or Not.
November 20, 2020
As the pandemic spreads, officials are imposing new public health policies. On this week’s On the Media, why so many of the new rules contradict what science tells us about the virus. Plus, what a fringe early Christian movement can tell us about QAnon. And, a former White House photographer reflects on covering presidents in the pre-Trump era.
2. Jeff Sharlet [@jeffsharlet], professor of English at Dartmouth College and author of This Brilliant Darkness: A Book of Strangers, explains how an ancient heresy serves as a blueprint for right wing conspiracies. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Chopin — Nocturne for piano in B flat minor
Gotan Project — Vuelvo al Sur
Hans Zimmer/The Da Vinci Code soundtrack — There Has To Be Mysteries
Michael W. Smith — Agnus Dei
Sentimental journey (instrumental)
November 18, 2020
Back in February we spoke to Pulitzer Prize–winning science writer Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague, in an episode we called "Black Swans". The coronavirus had yet to make landfall in the US but the anxiety was building. After the segment aired, New York Times critic Wesley Morris told us that after he heard the part where Garrett described her role as a consultant on the movie, "Contagion" he felt compelled to rewatch the 2011 thriller. In the film, competency — specifically, within federal government agencies — is the solution to a destructive crisis. This is comforting to watch, like a sort of public health "West Wing." It is also unnerving, and heavy, to watch the thrilling procedural un-spool as people, on- and off-screen, die. Brooke spoke to Morris in March about how for him, it was the pandemic film that most perfectly fit with the current moment — down to Kate Winslet, playing a dogged pathogenic detective, reminding her colleague to stop touching his face.
November 13, 2020
With President Trump refusing to accept the results of the election, analysts are asking if he’s trying to wage a coup. On this week’s On the Media, why so many Republicans support the president’s claims, despite the evidence. Don’t miss On the Media, from WNYC Studios.
1. Bob on the latest Trumpian Big Lie, concerning the very foundation of democracy. Listen.
Hidden Agenda - Kevin MacLeod
Slow Pulse Conga - William Pasley
Accentuate the Positive - Syd Dale Double Dozen and Alec Gould
Blues: La dolce vita dei Nobili - Nino Rota
November 11, 2020
Pfizer announced Monday that its coronavirus vaccine demonstrated more than 90% effectiveness and no serious bad reactions in trial results — an outcome that should enable the company to obtain an emergency authorization soon. Between the vaccine and the unveiling, also on Monday, of a Biden-led coronavirus task force, it seemed like the rare pandemic-era day in which the good news could compete with the tragic. But Pulitzer Prize–winning science writer Laurie Garrett wrote this week in Foreign Policy that even if this vaccine works as advertised, there are still plenty of reasons to worry about much good it can do. In this podcast extra, Garrett tells Brooke about what she views as caveats to the potential breakthrough.
CORRECTION: This podcast contains an error concerning the timing of testing after the second dose of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine candidate. According to a protocol released by Pfizer, Phase 3 study participants were tested for coronavirus "at least 7 days after receipt of the second dose," [emphasis added]. In this interview, Garrett says, "7 days after [the second dose], [participants] got a COVID test. The results presented are what was found at that seven-day point." Rather, the results announced by Pfizer earlier this month were based on testing conducted at least one week after the second dose.
We reached out to Garrett for additional comment, and she added this: "All [Pfizer's] protocol required was a single test at the 7 day point. Eventually, Pfizer has extended that to 14 days. Since we don’t have any breakdown on numbers in the only published info — press release — we don’t know what % of the vax recipients were tested at 7 days, 8 days, 12 days…..no idea. So all we CAN say is that they all got a minimum of response time before testing. It’s a glass half full, half empty issue."
November 6, 2020
With Joe Biden approaching victory, Donald Trump and his political allies flooded the internet with conspiracy theories. This week, On the Media examines the misinformation fueling right-wing demonstrations across the country. Plus, why pollsters seemed to get the election wrong — again. And, how the history of the American right presaged the Republican Party's anti-majoritarian turn.
1. John Mark Hansen, professor of political science at the University of Chicago, explains what exactly it would take to steal a presidential election. Listen.
Music from this week's show:
White Man Sleeps — Kronos Quartet
L’Illusionista — Nino Rota
German Lullaby — The Kiboomers
Frail as a Breeze, Part 2 — Erik Friedlander
Wouldn’t It Be Loverly — Fred Hersh
November 5, 2020
For election night 2020, while cable news had white boards and talking heads, the OTM crew hosted comedians, singers and friends for some great conversation with occasional updates on what was happening in the presidential race. In this podcast extra we highlight one of those conversations.
Mychal Denzel Smith is a writer and fellow at Type Media Center. Brooke spoke to him about his most recent book titled Stakes Is High: After The American Dream which focuses on the perils, for the individual, and the nation of embracing the American myth, better known as the American Dream, the idea that everything is possible for those who work hard. And she asked him what kind of changes the outcome of this election might herald.
To round out the broadcast, Bob and Brooke answered some audience questions...and revisited some of the issues in the conversation they had the day after the 2016 election, Now What?
October 30, 2020
The past few decades have been a time of deep partisan animosity. On this week’s On The Media, how we might move beyond the current polarization. Plus, how one man’s obsession with organizing the natural world led him down a dark path.
Songs of War - US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
John’s Book of Alleged Dances - Kronos Quartet
Nocturne for Piano in B flat minor - Chopin
Il Casanova di Federico Fellini
Death Have Mercy/Breakaway - Regina Carter