On The Media

On The Media, hosted by Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone, is America's only national radio program devoted to media criticism and analysis, lifting the veil on how the media works.

Recent Episodes

Under the Influence

As the opioid crisis in America rages, the government struggles to react. A look at how a 2016 bill weakened the Drug Enforcement Agency and why nobody noticed. Also, how painkillers took off in America, thanks to industry-sponsored junk science; the power of addict death notices to spread understanding about the depths of the crisis; and inside a new report exposing the exploitation faced by many senior citizens.


1. Lenny Bernstein [@LennyMBernstein], health and medicine reporter for The Washington Post, on a new report exposing how the drug industry helped push through a 2016 bill that undercut the DEA's ability to fight against opioid abuse.


2. Barry Meier [@BarryMeier], New York Times reporter and author of "Pain Killer: A 'Wonder' Drug's Trail of Addiction and Death," on how pharmaceutical companies like Purdue pushed painkillers as "wonder" drugs, based on junk science.


3. Anna Clark [@annaleighclark], Detroit-based journalist, on how obituaries and death notices for addicts are providing some of the most valuable insight into the epidemic and helping to reduce stigma.


4. Rachel Aviv [@rachelaviv], staff writer for The New Yorker, on how she reported her recent story on the way a system of guardianship is leaving many elderly people exploited. 

Raqqa Liberated

News came this week that the US backed Syrian Democratic Forces had finally liberated the city of Raqqa from the grip of ISIS. For the past three years the people trapped inside the oppressive ISIS regime suffered daily. Yet, reports of torture and assassination in the terrorized city did not come from traditional outlets. Rather, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a band of citizen journalists led by Abdel Aziz al-Hamza, risked their lives to report the egregious conditions in a place that was notoriously difficult to enter or escape. Matthew Heineman followed this group in his new documentary, City of Ghosts. Bob speaks with Heineman and al-Hamza about their experiences in Raqqa and how these journalists found inspiration to continue their work.


Also, Iraq’s nine-month operation to push ISIS out of Mosul yielded bittersweet news this summer: the liberation of a starved and terrorized city. Over the previous three years, ISIS sought to completely isolate the people of Mosul by shutting off access to the internet and outside media. Radio Al-Ghad, a community radio station, defied the media blackout and risked death to give a voice to the civilian population. Brooke speaks to Al-Ghad’s founder Mohammed Al-Musali about how his heroic team managed to shine a light into Mosul, win over ISIS supporters, and save countless lives.

Losing Power

The President is once again threatening the press, but it's unclear whether he will be able to follow through. A look at which threats to the First Amendment we should be taking seriously. Also, looking beyond the "adults in the room" trope; reporting on the worsening situation in Puerto Rico; the role of gossip and whisper networks in protecting women; and the story of one of the original godfathers of gossip.


1. David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, on threats to the First Amendment under the Trump Administration.


2. James Mann, author of "Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet," on why we should be wary of the military personnel who are increasingly in charge of our government.


3. David Begnaud, CBS news correspondent, on the work of covering Puerto Rico and the deteriorating situation on the ground.


4. Anne Helen Petersen, Buzzfeed senior culture writer, on the history of gossip and its essential role in the saga of Harvey Weinstein.


5. Neal Gabler, author of "Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity" on the story of Walter Winchell, one of the godfathers of gossip journalism.

Puerto Rico's Never-ending Emergency

David Begnaud of CBS was in Puerto Rico before Hurricane Maria hit on September 20. Then, he and his team reported for two weeks straight, posting videos on Twitter and sending dispatches to the network. He tracked the logjam of aid stuck in ports, the snaking lines for water, the utter chaos at the San Juan airport. In response, Puerto Ricans of the diaspora have begun nominating him for honorary status as one of their own. After a short break, he's back on the island and still reporting. Begnaud speaks to Bob about how a recent rainstorm has made conditions even worse than they were before he left, and how he is serving as a conduit between Puerto Rican officials and FEMA.  

More Human Than Human

The news has been awash in reports of the rising death tolls for the Las Vegas shooting and the ongoing devastation in Puerto Rico. This week, why the media's emphasis on the numbers distorts our understanding of tragedies. Also, a case for using the word "terrorism" more cautiously; what we get wrong when we make assumptions about country music; and a look what it means to be human in the context of Blade Runner.


1. Bob ruminates on the media's knee-jerk attempts to quantify a crisis. And Omaya Sosa Pascual, a journalist with the Center for Investigative Journalism in Puerto Rico, discusses the scale of devastation on the island.


2. New Yorker columnist Masha Gessen explains why the media should apply the term "terrorism" with care.


3. Buzzfeed News's world correspondent J. Lester Feder on how country music went conservative. 


4. Historian Nadine Hubbs examines generic assumptions about country music, and how they betray an underlying discomfort with the working class in America.


5. Historian Alison Landsberg speaks with Brooke about Blade Runner and human memory.

After Vegas

On Sunday night, a gunman opened fire on an outdoor music festival in Las Vegas, NV. Since then, reports of deaths and injuries have been mounting, making for what's being called "the deadliest mass shooting" in modern American history. Amid the tragedy, we're seeing a spate of familiar media tropes: from offers of "thoughts and prayers" and tussles over the appropriate time to talk about gun control to mis-identification of perpetrators and publication of unconfirmed reports. Brooke recalls some points from On the Media's Breaking News Consumer's Handbook: Active Shooter Edition to remind us that, while this latest tragedy might feel unique, the media is recycling a playbook that we've seen all-too-many times before.