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On the Media
Sundays at 3pm

On The Media decodes what we hear, read, and see in the media every day, and arms us with critical tools necessary to survive the information age.

While maintaining the civility and fairness that are the hallmarks of public radio, On The Media tackles sticky issues with a frankness and transparency trusted by one million people a week. Winner of 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.

Find a list of recent episodes of On the Media below. To learn more about the show, click here.

  • 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 the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the ousting of Sam Altman from OpenAI, the nonprofit tech company behind the AI chatbot ChatGPT, was front-page news. First Sam Altman was removed as CEO by the board. Then Altman was hired by Microsoft. Then Altman was reinstated, and most of the board resigned. The juicy boardroom drama, which read like a plot from the HBO show Succession, captivated those who have been following news about artificial intelligence (AI). But Max Read, tech journalist and author of the column "The interested normie's guide to OpenAI drama," points out that, for many people, questions arose: like, who is Sam Altman? What is OpenAI? And why is this receiving top-level coverage when there are at least two wars ongoing? Brooke speaks with Max Read about why the OpenAI story captured the media's attention, the stakes of this drama for ordinary people, and what better coverage of AI looks like. This is a segment from our December 1st, 2023 episode, Word Watch: “Genocide,” and Do We Have to Care About OpenAI?
  • As the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas officially ended this week, fighting has resumed in Gaza. Meanwhile, some of the public discourse around the war has narrowed in to a debate over a word: genocide. Beyond its cultural and political implications, genocide is a criminal charge—with strict criteria observed by international courts. So strict that since the creation of the law in the 1950s, only three genocides have been formally recognized by the UN Convention and gone to trial. This week, Micah speaks with Ernesto Verdeja, the Executive Director of the Institute For The Study of Genocide and a professor of Peace Studies and Global Politics at the University of Notre Dame, about how the term means different things to different groups of people. And why the legal limitations of the word could derail discussions from focusing on ending the violence in Gaza. This is a segment from our December 1st, 2023 episode, Word Watch: “Genocide,” and Do We Have to Care About OpenAI?
  • If you’ve been keeping up with the swirling maelstrom of tech news this year, including the latest drama involving OpenAI's firing and subsequent rehiring of its CEO Sam Altman, you’ve most likely heard of "effective altruism." The term also bubbled up last year, when one of its most vocal advocates, crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, was exposed for money laundering and extensive fraud. Long before its adoption by Silicon Valley denizens, effective altruism started as a niche philosophy brewed up in the halls of Oxford University in the 2000s. It posited that people have a moral obligation to donate a percentage of their income to evidenced-based charities working to ameliorate global issues. But it ultimately took flight in Silicon Valley, where under its banner, the debate over how to protect humanity from the seemingly unbounded powers of AGI, or advanced general intelligence, now rages. This week, Brooke speaks with Deepa Seetharaman, who covers artificial intelligence for the Wall Street Journal, about the extent to which effective altruism is shaping and driving the development and regulation of artificial intelligence in Silicon Valley, and why we should pay attention to this niche philosophy. This is a segment from our December 1st, 2023 episode, Word Watch: “Genocide,” and Do We Have to Care About OpenAI?
  • 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).
  • In the early 2010s, the newspaper business stared out at a bleak future. Readers were gravitating toward social media and, for the first time in history, getting more of their news from the internet than physical newspapers. Digital media companies like Vice were the insurgent new faces of the media landscape, poised for shattering success. But fast forward to 2023: Buzzfeed News folded in April, Vice filed for bankruptcy a month later, and many other outlets are fighting for survival. But the New York Times is hotter than ever. Last year, the company added 1 million subscribers to its base, bringing its total up to 9.7 million this year. It also boasts a slew of acquisitions, including but not limited to The Athletic, Wirecutter, Serial Productions, and Wordle. How did they rise so quickly, in a sea of struggling media companies? This week, Micah Loewinger teases out the secret to the Times' success, and traces the transformation of the company into a stable, profitable powerhouse of the Internet — by trying to mimic, and beat, Big Tech at its own game. This is a segment from our November 24, 2023 program, Is the New York Times a Tech Company Now? It originally aired on our July 21, 2023 program, Staying Alive.