An Obit, This Time For Real

This past week’s coverage of Hurricane Florence has had all the trappings of a terrible storm: the satellite images, the sandbags and empty grocery stores, the newscasters dressed in flood gear.  One recurring side character we seem to have avoided this time around, though, is the doctored image of a shark swimming on a flooded highway. It’s a preposterous hoax that succeeds, occasionally, on the merits of some kernel of truth; for instance, whole swathes of interstate highway in North Carolina are, as of this moment, covered with water. That kernel of truth is what hoaxers and jokers build their handiwork upon — as did the veteran hoaxer Alan Abel, who passed away late last week at the age of 94. Abel made a name for himself inventing characters and causes and turning the joke on the media; in 1980 he staged his own death and got himself an Continue reading "An Obit, This Time For Real"

Doomed to Repeat

The anniversary of a disaster gives us a moment to reflect on whether we have learned the right lessons — or any at all. This week, we examine the narratives that have solidified ten years after the financial crisis, and one year after Hurricane Maria. 
  1. Political anthropologist Yarimar Bonilla [@yarimarbonilla] on how we can focus our attention on Puerto Rico's structural challenges even as the president spouts falsities about the "unsung success" of the federal response to Hurricane Maria. Listen.
  2. Dean Starkman [@deanstarkman], author of The Watchdog That Didn't Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism, on how the signs of the financial crisis had been visible leading up to it but many journalists were looking elsewhere. Listen.

  3. Brown University professor Mark Blyth [@MkBlyth] takes on the most popular narratives of the financial crash.  Continue reading "Doomed to Repeat"

O See, Can You Say

Between the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill and an anonymous op-ed from within the Trump White House, a wave of rule-bending and -breaking has crashed on Washington. This week, we explore how political decorum and popular dissent have evolved since the early days of our republic — and how the legal protections for those core freedoms could transform our future.
  1. Brooke and Bob on how best to cover the anonymous op/ed written by a "senior official in the Trump administration." Listen.
  2. Geoffrey Stone, professor of law at University of Chicago, on our evolving — and occasionally faulty — interpretations of the first amendment. And, Laura Weinrib, professor of law at University of Chicago, on how early-20th century labor struggles gave birth to our modern ideas about freedom of speech. Listen.

  3. Tim Wu [@superwuster], professor of law at Columbia University, on how the first amendment Continue reading "O See, Can You Say"

CNN’s Lanny Davis Problem

Six weeks ago, CNN broke a blockbuster story: According to several anonymous sources, President Trump had advance knowledge of the infamous Trump Tower meeting. It was a potential smoking gun, until one of those sources — Lanny Davis, attorney for Michael Cohen — recanted. Beyond that headache for CNN, there was another. The original article had claimed, "Contacted by CNN, one of Cohen's attorneys, Lanny Davis, declined to comment." Depending on how you understand the word "comment," and depending your general disposition, that claim could be technically true or woefully, mendaciously disingenuous. Bob spoke with Washington Post media reporter Paul Farhi about the implications — and dangers — of this latest media mishap. 

Planet Fire

People like neo-nazi Andrew Anglin and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones have long tested the limits of permissible speech. On this week’s On the Media, hear from a lawyer who defends the First Amendment rights of society’s worst actors. Plus, a lawyer suing in defense of government transparency, a fire historian weighs in on the coverage of the California wildfires, and a Texas journalist who has reported on hundreds of executions.
  1. Marc Randazza [@marcorandazza], first amendment lawyer, on Alex Jones, the Unite the Right rally, and free speech. Listen. 
  2. Mark Pedroli [@MarkPedroli], attorney, on the technology used by former Missouri governor Eric Greitens to skirt transparency lawsListen. 

  3. Stephen Pyne, fire historian and professor at Arizona State University, on the tropes, faults, and failings of wildfire coverageListen. 

  4. Michael Graczyk, recently retired A.P. reporter, on his experience covering more Continue reading "Planet Fire"

Enemy of the People

At a rally in Tampa, Florida, Trump supporters attacked CNN reporter Jim Acosta, prompting the president to double down on his anti-press "Enemy of the People" rhetoric. A look at how and why the president incites his base — and where it all might lead. And, as the regulatory battle surrounding 3D gun blueprints rages on, we dive into the worldview of Cody Wilson, the man who started the controversy. Plus, why we’re still living in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s killing, six years later. 1. Greg Sargent [@ThePlumLineGS], columnist at the Washington Post, on the president's dangerous anti-press rhetoric. Listen. 2. Andy Greenberg [@a_greenberg], reporter for Wired, on the regulatory battles surrounding 3D gun blueprints. And, Cody Wilson [@Radomysisky], founder of Defense Distributed, speaking on his vision for an open source library for gun schematics. Listen.
  1. Benjamin Crump [@AttorneyCrump], civil Continue reading "Enemy of the People"