Sixty-eight years ago Upton Sinclair, muckraking journalist and erstwhile socialist, won the primary for the governorship of California by a landslide. The response from the state's newspapers and the motion picture industry was swift and merciless: they used every trick they could think of to defeat him. In 2010, Brooke spoke to Greg Mitchell, author of The Campaign of the Century, who argued that, for better or worse, the anti-Sinclair effort ushered in the modern political campaign.
The first presidential debate of the season electrified Romney's supporters and disappointed Obama's. Brooke looks at the reaction to the debate, and checks in on what the pundits are saying.
Last week, a group of scientists in France released a study linking genetically modified food with cancer. Journalists who wanted to see an advanced copy of the research had to sign a confidentially agreement that ensured they wouldn't be able to get other scientists to weigh in on the study. Brooke speaks to science writer Carl Zimmer, who says the researchers were trying to manipulate journalists in order to skew the coverage in their favor.
In 1992, former ABC anchor Carole Simpson became the first woman to moderate a presidential debate. There hasn't been another female moderator since. That'll change later this year, but Simpson says that even this year, women moderators are confined to the vice presidential debate and a town-hall style debate where the moderator can't ask questions of their own. Brooke talks with Simpson about what women moderators might add to debates.
Kelley Stoltz - Little Girl
Today, emoticons - those smiling, frowning, or winking faces comprised of text and punctuation - can be found in everything from emails to text messages. But before their invention 30 years ago, there was no short cut for expressing sentiment in text form. Brooke speaks to computer science professor Scott Fahlman, who came up with the smiling and frowning faces, about how they came to be.
In 2005, The Believer magazine paired a fact-checker with a contributing writer working on a piece. Seven years later some version of their epic, contentious back and forth—first about facts, then about the genre of non-fiction and finally about the nature of truth itself—is a book. Earlier this year, essayist John D’Agata and erstwhile fact-checker Jim Fingal spoke with Brooke about The Lifespan of a Fact.
Sufjan Stevens - Barcarola
This election season, fact checking has become a story in itself. But what do we really know about how different media outlets fact-check their stories, and what could they be doing better? Brooke speaks with "This American Life" host Ira Glass, The New Yorker's Peter Canby, "All Things Considered" producer Chris Turpin and Poynter's Craig Silverman about the process of trying to get things right.
In 1970, the wife and daughters of a Green Beret doctor named Jeffrey MacDonald were stabbed to death, and MacDonald himself was found guilty of the crime. In his new book A Wilderness of Error, Errol Morris writes a revisionist history of the case, suggesting that MacDonald may actually be innocent. Brooke speaks to Morris about why, for him, the facts of the original case just didn't add up.
UNKLE - Cut Me Loose
When riots broke out across the Muslim world in response to an anti-Islamic film called "Innocence of Muslims," news about its origins started pouring in. The media reported that the film was made by Sam Bacile, an Israeli real estate developer in California, who claimed that more than 100 Jewish donors put up the funds for the $5 million project. Those reports turned out to be false, as it was later discovered that "Sam Bacile" was actually an Egyptian Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Brooke speaks to PBS Mediashift.org blogger Devin Harner about how the media got duped into reporting falsehoods.
Talking Heads - Psycho Killer (live version from Stop Making Sense)
The misreporting of facts can have harsh consequences for the people involved. Brooke explores some of the cases that have tarnished the reputations of individuals—and even a whole town.
Citing the Mayan calendar, many people believe that the world will end on December 21, 2012. Some of those people email NASA scientist David Morrison who, unlike most scientists, takes their concerns seriously enough to explain that there is no science to back up the 2012 prophecy. Brooke speaks to Morrison about the possibility of dissuading people from believing the end of the world is near.
Two Steps From Hell - Master of Shadows
In this rebroadcast of our investigation into whether NPR has a liberal bias, Brooke looks at the recent history of NPR scandals, and the consistent drumbeat by conservative lawmakers to defund public broadcasting.
Jun Miyake - Lillies in the Valley (from the Pina soundtrack)
This American Life's Ira Glass drops by to issue a challenge to Brooke and Bob to investigate what he sees as the false charge of liberal bias in public radio and NPR.
The final installment of our exploration into the question: Does NPR have a liberal bias? In this segment we hear from conservative listeners Sam Negus and Kevin Putt. Then FAIR's Steve Rendall provides his take on our endeavor. PEW's Tom Rosenstiel reports his findings in examining NPR's coverage for bias. And finally, Ira Glass returns to discuss what he learned from our coverage.
OTM takes up the question posed by Ira Glass: Does NPR have a liberal bias? Brooke wrestles first with the (surprisingly hard to define) terms. What is liberal? What is bias? What is NPR? We then hear three different perspectives on NPR’s political leanings from political scientist Daniel Hallin, media researcher Tom Rosenstiel and conservative volunteer-listener Sam Negus.
Brooke Gladstone, managing editor and co-host of On the Media, discusses the role of fact checkers and facts — particularly in political coverage.
John Sides says that at conventions, a journalist’s job is to measure how well politicians have riled up their supporters. But, polls take time, while coverage of speeches starts minutes after the speakers open their mouths. So how should journalists fill the void? Should they be striving, as they do, to be the nation’s emotional first responders? Novelist Walter Kirn covered the DNC for The New Republic. He said that watching reporters take the emotional temperature of the room was an alienating experience.
This is the time when most Americans start paying attention to the campaigns, but political reporters have been on the election beat for more than a year and, according to Politico's Dylan Byers, are just plain sick of it. Brooke Speaks to Dylan about why journalists can't wait for this election cycle to be over with.
Galaxie 500 - Summertime
For many reporters, covering conventions is a chore. Literally, a chore - something that an authority makes you do even though it's unpleasant and seems pointless. But conventions do matter -- to voters at least. Brooke talks with political scientist John Sides who says that the post-convention polls you'll be seeing next week are a pretty good indicator of who's going to win.
Last month, we ran a story about real-life headlines that sound like headlines from The Onion. We asked listeners to send us more examples of Onion-esque headlines, and former Onion editor Joe Garden returns to help Brooke choose the best one.