BackTalk: Tell Me More Blog Conversations

The program takes a look at what folks are discussing on the blog, including an earlier interview with actor Terrence Howard and response to the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for BackTalk, where we lift the curtain on conversations happening on our blog. I'm joined by my web producer, Lee Hill, who's here to tell us what folks are talking about out there in the blogosphere. Lee, anything interesting?

LEE HILL: Michel, interesting would be an understatement. Our interview Tuesday with Terrence Howard remains the top emailed story on npr.org, even today. You can imagine the traffic that's been bringing to our blog. The comments have been flowing nonstop.

MARTIN: Just to bring everybody up to speed, in case you didn't hear the interview, we spoke with actor Terrence Howard because he's hosting the PBS documentary series "Independent Lens." The first installment is a film called "Knocking." It's a film that explores the Jehovah's Witness religion.

Well, we ran into the interview because we had believed that the actor is a practicing Jehovah's Witness, but it turned out not to be. He talks about it better than I can. Here's a clip.

(Soundbite of previous NPR broadcast)

Mr. TERRENCE HOWARD (Actor): If I had a chance to, I would be a witness today. But, you know, have I - do I have the discipline yet? No. But one day, I will. So I don't mind them saying that. I wish I could say I'm a witness, but I'm not.

HILL: So listeners hear the interview and they, of course, begin to blog this thing out. One thing I noticed was a vast majority of the comments seemed to come from Jehovah's Witness members, and that was a little interesting. I don't know; there must have been a church alert or something sent out, because they completely converged on our blog. Whatever the case, members of the religion seem to appreciate Terrence's openness, but many were surprised to know he was even affiliated with their faith. Here's Judith.

JUDITH (Caller): I had no idea about his supposed affiliation with Jehovah's Witnesses. I applaud his candor, openness and honesty. He spoke with such validity and respect you could tell his answers were from his experience, his heart. I myself am one of Jehovah's Witnesses and would only hope I could speak as eloquent about my faith as he did and the recognition he gave Jehovah God for the Bible. I thank Terrence and you and NPR for sharing.

MARTIN: Not everybody blogging was a witness. Some had some critical thoughts to offer about the faith. A note from Alex reads: The reality is that the Watchtower religion has brought much pain and hurt to families. As a potential convert is talked into a Bible study, which turns out to be only a book study of Watchtower materials, the policy of extreme shunning is glossed over; heartache is the reward for joining this high-control group.

HILL: Those are strong words, Michel.

MARTIN: They are. And it was another story that was very poignant for us. Yesterday, we led the program with a story about the Congressional Food Stamp Challenge. Some members of Congress decided to try to understand the experience of living on food stamps by cutting their own food budgets to the amount that food stamp recipients receive - that's $21 a week. And after the program, we get a call from Regine(ph). For her, it's not a temporary challenge; it's a way of life.

REGINE (Caller): I have to tell you, I've been trying to get some help with food for almost about a month, and it is so hard that this congressman was trying to survive. But we are doing it every day, and nothing hurt me more when I'm walking home and I can't really know what I'm going to feed my children, because my situation is really hard. I can get another job, but I decided not to because I'm trying to get an education. And it is very hard to find someone to help me just to feed my kids.

MARTIN: And finally, board the money train - our summer financial series on how to get and keep your finances on track. Remember, we're still looking for three listeners. For details, go to our Web site at npr.org/tellmemore.

Thanks, Lee.

HILL: Thanks, Michel.

MARTIN: That's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin. You've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium.

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