This week saw a couple of attempts at explaining journalistic mistakes. The first was a terse apology from 60 minutes over a botched report on the Benghazi compound attack in 2012. The second was a re-examination of The New York Times decision to delay publication of an article warrantless wire tapping for over a year. Bob examines both of these stories - and how each outlet handled them.
Jim James - All is Forgiven
A new radio documentary titled We Knew JFK: Unheard Stories from the Kennedy Archives airs on public radio stations across the country, timed to the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. The documentary showcases anecdotes from people who worked with JFK and knew him personally. Bob speaks to Robert MacNeil, of MacNeil/Lehrer fame, the host and co-writer of the documentary, about JFK's nuanced relationship with journalists.
Last weekend, a small group of women in the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America held a meeting at a restaurant in a Dallas suburb. In the parking lot outside a group of men women and children wielding assault rifles held a pro-gun demonstration, saying they were exercising their First Amendment rights. Bob speaks to Slate's Dahlia Lithwick about the rise of Open Carry demonstrations, and whether carrying a gun qualifies as free speech.
Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and countless books, articles, television specials and made for TV movies will no doubt commemorate the event. Bob speaks with Reason.com editor Nick Gillespie about how the media fascination with the fallen president has less to do with his impact on the country and more to do with the Baby Boomer generation's feeling of self-importance.
When news outlets pay for exclusive access to a story it’s called 'checkbook journalism.' The Washington Post's Paul Farhi just reported about two recent cases of NBC News doing just that. Bob speaks with Farhi about the ethical problems raised by paying for news exclusives.
This week's Obamacare troubles came in the form of media challenging the oft repeated claim by the administration that if you like your health insurance policy, you can keep it. Bob talks to Washington Post writer, and author of The Fact Checker blog Glenn Kessler about why the "you can keep it" claim was so misleading, and why the media are just now getting around to correcting it.
Over a century before the rise of the Nigerian email scam, there was the "Spanish Prisoner" Letter, a scam which bears a striking resemblance to the emails that still dupe people today. Bob talks to historian Robert Whitaker, who wrote about "Spanish Prisoner" letters in the history journal The Appendix.
This week the 75th Anniversary of War of the Worlds passed by and the press recounted the familiar story of a nation plunged into panic by Orson Welles and the growing power of radio. Turns out, it’s much more complicated than that. Bob talks with Professor Michael Socolow, who says tales of nation-wide panic are overblown and can be traced to a nervous newspaper industry and faulty scholarship. Socolow and Jefferson Pooley wrote about War of the Worlds in Slate this week.
In 2007, Halliburton employee Jamie Leigh Jones ignited a media firestorm when she went public with a horrific story about being raped by colleagues in Iraq. Six years later, one of the reporters who covered the story as it happened has written a 10,000 word corrective, saying that the Jones story was false. Bob talks to Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer about her decision to correct the narrative.
Some of the first reporting of the flawed Jamie Leigh Jones story was a 20/20 investigation from Brian Ross of ABC news. Bob takes a look at Ross's checkered reporting past.
Bach - Suite for Cello No. 1 in G
For a few years Conan O'Brien's late night talk show has been doing a segment called Media Reacts where they play a montage of news anchors reading copy -- the exact same copy -- on local news stations across the country. It's eerie. Bob talks with KWWL 7 News Director Dan Schillinger and finds out why the media reacts in unison on some stories. (Schillnger explains this Austin Powers inspired example in particular.)
When OTM producer Sarah Abdurrahman tried getting answers from the Department of Homeland Security for her border detainment story, she experienced first hand how opaque the behemoth federal agency can be with reporters. But her experience wasn't unique. Brooke speaks with New York Times contributor Susan Stellin and Rio Grande Valley correspondent for the Associated Press Christopher Sherman--two journalists that regularly come in contact with DHS and its various agencies--about just how difficult it can be to get information.
Former Congressman Lee Hamilton told Brooke that the best way to get answers from the Department of Homeland Security is for constituents to put pressure on their representatives in Congress. Now the Data News Team at WNYC has created a tool to help do just that. Bob speaks to John Keefe, WNYC's Senior Editor for Data News and Journalism Technology, about the new tool, and how listeners can use it to do their own investigative reporting.
Acid Pauli - MST
This round of budget clashes are over (for now), but how should we assess the damage done by these regular crises? Bob talks with Reuters financial blogger Felix Salmon who says that the real story of these political battles is the slow motion, irreversible damage they're doing to America's financial standing.
Two weeks ago we talked with James Fallows about rampant false equivalency by newspapers in covering the federal government shutdown. This week, Bob speaks with Andrew Tyndall of The Tyndall Report who says broadcast news had its own weakness -- choosing anecdotal stories of real people hurt by the shutdown over informative analysis.
Healthcare.gov launched in the beginning of the month to much frustration, as hundreds of thousands of people flocked to buy insurance from the online exchange. Because of technical glitches, the majority of these users were turned away due to website problems. Bob talks to programmer and Bloomberg Businessweek contributor Paul Ford who says while healthcare.gov was open for business at the beginning of the month, it’s failure may be attributed to its closed code.
There are billions of pages of government documents in the public domain in varying states of redaction, but there is no central database of these documents, and no way to compare them to one another. Enter The Declassification Engine, a project created by computer scientists, statisticians and historians to give us the most complete history of our redacted past. Bob talks to Columbia University historian Matthew Connelly about the project.
Last week the press thought they had found the face of Obamacare in young Chad Henderson who, they widely reported, had made it through the thicket of federal exchange webpages and gotten coverage. One problem: he hadn't bought the coverage. Bob talks with Politico's Kyle Cheney about covering the story and the lessons journalists can learn from it.
In a world steeped in regular government leaks, there’s a tendency to believe that journalists’ exposure of government secrets is a new phenomenon. We think of the press of the past – during wartime, especially – as more willing to obey censorship laws to protect government secrets. Bob talks to nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein who says this isn’t so, and he tells us about the leak of one of the government’s most-protected secrets to prove it.