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.
July 23, 2021
A look at how journalism selectively judges objectivity and bias… Which produces better reporting: proximity to the community you cover? Or distance? Who gets to decide?
2. Bruce Shapiro [@dartcenter], executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia Journalism School, on why trauma shouldn't disqualify reporters from reporting on topics into which they have insight. Listen.
3. Ernest Owens [@mrernestowens], Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists president, about the double-standards facing journalists who have identities or lived experiences that are different from editors who still determine what constitutes "objectivity." Listen.
Music from this week's show:
Frail As a Breeze — Erik Friedlander
Night Thoughts — John Zorn
Fallen Leaves — Marcos Ciscar
Middlesex Times — Michael Andrews
Bubble Wrap — Thomas Newman
Transparence — Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Carmen Fantasy — Anderson + Row
Tribute to America — The O’Neill Brothers
July 21, 2021
In 2015, a tragedy gripped Romanian consciousness when a fire at a popular club in the country's capital killed 27 people, injured nearly 200 more, and sparked national protests about corruption. In the weeks following the fire, 37 of those injured died in hospitals — a statistic that authorities and doctors claimed was simply a result of their injuries.
But the victims' families and a small team of reporters at the Romanian daily paper the Sports Gazette had their doubts — doubts that were confirmed when the Gazette learned that a national supplier of medical disinfectants was diluting their products, nearly ten times over, to reap profits and pad the pockets of its CEO. The burn victims of the fire hadn't died from injuries; they died from preventable bacterial infections, a consequence of malpractice that stemmed from doctors, hospital managers and the highest officials in government.
In 2019, filmmaker Alexander Nanau wrote, produced and directed the film Collective, chronicling this saga. Last year, the film was released in the US, and in early 2021 it received two Academy Award nominations. In this podcast extra, recorded in March, Nanau speaks with Brooke about why he decided to follow the story, how the pieces fell into place, and how this single story changed Romania's relationship with the press — possibly for good.
July 16, 2021
As numbers of the vaccinated rise, theaters around the country are once again opening. In celebration, this week’s show is all about Shakespeare, including how the quintessentially English Bard became an American icon, and what a production in Kabul, Afghanistan meant to the community that produced it.
1. James Shapiro, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, explains how Shakespeare was absorbed into American culture and identity. Listen.
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
Timber Town - Derek and Brandon Fiechter
July 14, 2021
Hilma af Klint was a Swedish painter born in 1862 who painted big, bold canvases suffused with rich, strange colors denoting masculine and feminine, the gush of life and the serenity of cosmic order. She found inspiration in unorthodox places, including the spirit realm. And she had a vision: that her work would one day be displayed in a spiral temple.
For decades after her death, her work was hidden away — at first by her request, and then because it couldn't find an audience. Now that it's on display in a building like the one she imagined, her work is a sensation that has invited a radical re-imagining of the history of abstract art. In 2019, Brooke walked through the exhibit with senior curator Tracey Bashkoff, who brought af Klint's work to the Guggenheim after discovering it in a catalogue.
Next, Brooke explores Spiritualism — a movement that shaped af Klint's life and work. Broadly defined as a religious movement based on the idea that the living can communicate with spirits dwelling in the afterlife — that we can talk to the dead — Spiritualism grew quickly. After all, the telegraph was allowing people to communicate across time and space; why not spiritual realms?
At the time, the ideal spirit medium was thought to be an adolescent girl, unencumbered by education and thoughts of her own. But a curious thing happened as women started speaking as spirit mediums: they became accustomed to speaking in public, and others became accustomed to hearing them. And on top of that, the spirits had some radically progressive ideas about individual self-sovereignty, abolition and women's rights. Brooke speaks with Ann Braude, director of the Women's Studies in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School and author of Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America, about this curious moment in American history, and how it helped bring women — and reformist ideas — into the public sphere.
July 9, 2021
Nearly a quarter of American adults reported drinking more at home to cope with their pandemic blues. This week, we take a deep dive into the ancient history of booze, how Americans normalized drinking alone, and how the media shaped the shifting reputation of red wine. Plus, can scientists cook up a synthetic alcohol with all its perks, and none of its dangers?
2. Iain Gately, author of Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol, on the ancient origins of our core beliefs about booze. Listen.
3. Robert Taylor, managing editor at Wine Spectator Video, on red wine's constantly changing reputation as a healthy substance. Listen.
When I Get Low I Get High - Ella Fitzgerald
Tomorrow Never Knows - Quartetto D/Archi Dell'Orchestra Sinfonica Di Milano
Il Casanova Di Federico Fellini - Solisti E Orchestre Del Cinema Italiano
Option with Variations - Kronos Quartet/composer Rhiannon Giddens
July 7, 2021
There are many Americas. Nowadays they barely speak to each other. But during the most perilous years of the last century, one young composer went in search of a sound that melded many of the nation's strains into something singular and new. He was a man of the left, though of no political party: gay, but neither closeted nor out; Jewish, but agnostic, unless you count music as a religion. This independence day (or near enough!), we revisit Sara Fishko's 2017 piece on the story of Aaron Copland.
July 2, 2021
This week marks six months since January 6th, the day a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol. Over 500 rioters have since been arrested, but the legal consequences of what they did are only just beginning to roll in. In this hour, we revisit reporting by OTM's Micah Loewinger surrounding the organizing tactics, media narratives, and evolution of far-right militias.
2. OTM reporter Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] and Militia Watch founder Hampton Stall [@HamptonStall] investigate how a walkie-talkie app called Zello is enabling armed white supremacist groups to gather and recruit. Featuring: Joan Donovan [@BostonJoan] Research Director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University, and Megan Squire [@MeganSquire0] Professor of Computer Science at Elon University. Listen.
3. OTM reporter Micah Loewinger [@MicahLoewinger] on Zello's role in the January 6th insurrection, and what the app is finally doing about its militia members. Featuring: Marcy Wheeler [@emptywheel] national security reporter for Emptywheel, and Cynthia Miller-Idriss [@milleridriss] Director of Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University. Listen.
Tick Of The Clock by Chromatics
Cyclic Bit by Raymond Scott
Genocide by Link Wray
Procession Of The Grand Moghul by Korla Pandit
Gormenghast by John Zorn
June 30, 2021
It's been noted that Trump’s Big Lie and the violence it produced is reminiscent of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy — a potent narrative of grievance after the Civil War recasting the South’s stand as heroic and patriotic. Undergirded by racism, the Lost Cause apologia would stymie Reconstruction, justify decades of lynching and throughout the South, and prove as impossible to uproot as Kudzu.
When it comes to art identified with the Lost Cause of the Confederacy, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by The Band may be pop culture’s most celebrated, and misunderstood, contribution. Despite its charged subject matter, the song is rock-and-roll canon, listed as one of the best of all time by Time Magazine and Rolling Stone.
On paper, its lyrics read as if lifted from the Lost Cause playbook: a nostalgic retelling of the end of the Civil War history seen through the eyes of a downtrodden Southern farmer, laden with grief but not a trace of white supremacy. But the song is not what it seems, or what it seemed when it was first loosed upon the world. The Band’s lead guitarist Robbie Robertson, a Canadian, hadn’t logged much time in the South when he penned “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” in 1969. But in the ensuing decades, some have claimed it as a Neo-Confederate anthem. This uncomfortable fact led Early James, a songwriter from Alabama, to alter the lyrics when he performed the song at an annual The Band tribute concert last summer. Inspired by last summer's racial reckoning, James sang about toppling Confederate monuments.
According to Jack Hamilton, Slate pop critic and author of Just Around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination, the meaning behind the song is both more and less complex than many fans know.
June 25, 2021
June 28th marks the anniversary of a mass shooting that took place inside a newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five journalists. On this week's On the Media, an intimate portrait of the staff of the Capital Gazette in the immediate aftermath of the death of their colleagues — and then over the next several years as they contend with a corporate takeover, buyouts, and the loss of their newsroom. Reported by Chris Benderev of NPR's Embedded.
Part 1: The Attack. Listen.
Part 2: The Aftermath. Listen.
Part 3: The Layoffs. Listen.
Music in this week's show:
Time Is Late — Marcos Ciscar feat. Joakim Johansson
We Insist — Zoë Keating
June 23, 2021
In the 1800s, New Bedford, Massachusetts was the world’s “center of whaling.” More than half of the world’s whaling ships in the 1840s came from New Bedford. The small city was so emblematic of a New England whaling town that it served as the setting for Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick. According to the New York Times, it was then the richest city per capita on the continent. Now, more than a fifth of its approximately 95,000 citizens live in poverty.
But this exceptional historic town is representative of a phenomenon happening in small towns across the United States. It’s local daily newspaper, The Standard-Times, has been bought by Gannett, a hedge fund-backed news conglomerate and stripped down to barebones. It’s become what’s known as a “ghost newspaper," called such for its trimmed down staff and scant original reporting. The mayor of New Bedford was quoted in the New York Times saying: “It used to be that I couldn’t sneeze without having to explain myself. Now, I have to beg people to show up at my press conferences. Please, ask me questions!”
A year and a half ago, a small group of concerned community members gathered to try to address this dearth of local journalism. The result? A new, non-profit news outlet called The New Bedford Light. Brooke talks to Barbara Roessner, the founding editor of The New Bedford Light, about the challenges facing the fledgling outlet and the benefits that local journalism brings to the civic health of a community.