On the Media The Peabody Award-winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Host Brooke Gladstone examines threats to free speech and government transparency, cast a skeptical eye on media coverage of the week's big stories and unravel hidden political narratives in everything we read, watch and hear.
On the Media

On the Media


The Peabody Award-winning On the Media podcast is your guide to examining how the media sausage is made. Host Brooke Gladstone examines threats to free speech and government transparency, cast a skeptical eye on media coverage of the week's big stories and unravel hidden political narratives in everything we read, watch and hear.

Most Recent Episodes

Sorry, That's Classified

If millions of Americans have access to classified documents, can we really call them secrets? On this week's On the Media, a former Pentagon official explains how America's bloated classification system came to be. Plus, a look at the stories we tell about Baby Boomers, and how our country might change after they're gone. 1. Oona Hathaway [@oonahathaway], professor at Yale Law School and former special counsel at the Pentagon, on the complicated nature of classified documents. Listen. 2. Noah Smith [@VildeHaya], contributing reporter for The Washington Post, on how a video game led to leaks of military documents. Listen. 3. Philip Bump [@pbump], national columnist at The Washington Post, on his latest book 'The Aftermath: The Last Days of the Baby Boom and the Future of Power in America.' Listen. 4. Brian Lehrer [@BrianLehrer], host of WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show, on the news events that defined generations. Listen. Music: Passing Time by John RenbournAtlantic City by Randy NewmanEye Surgery by Thomas NewmanYoung at Heart by Brad MehldauYour Mother Should Know by Brad MehldauWhen I'm 64 by Fred Hersch

Operation Podcast: What the CIA's Latest Media Venture Can Teach Us About the Agency

For decades, the Central Intelligence Agency has cultivated its appeal as an organization shrouded in secrecy, engaged in cutting edge tech and no-holds-barred espionage in defense of the US. It's an image that sells in Hollywood. The CIA also assisted in the making of some movies about some real life operations. But as the agency ages, it continues to strive to stay up to date. In 2022, when the CIA turned 75, the agency launched operation:podcast. Brooke speaks with David Shamus McCarthy, author of Selling the CIA: Public Relations and the Culture of Secrecy, about the latest venture for the agency and the CIA's long history of public relations initiatives.

Operation Podcast: What the CIA's Latest Media Venture Can Teach Us About the Agency

Great Expectations

Many of us are still cookin' with gas, but should we? On this week's On the Media, a look at why gas stoves, and the political flame-war over appliances, are back in the news. Plus, why new research says we've left the golden age of science and technology. 1. Paris Marx [@parismarx], the host of the podcast 'Tech Won't Save Us,' and the author of 'Road to Nowhere: What Silicon Valley Gets Wrong about the Future of Transportation,' on the longstanding debate on electric cars in the US, and whether they really do enough to lower carbon emissions. Listen. 2. Rebecca Leber [@rebleber], a senior reporter covering climate at Vox, on how the controversy surrounding gas stoves is nothing new, and the gas industry's long PR campaign to convince the public that "cooking was gas" is just better. Listen. 3. William Broad [@WilliamJBroad], a science journalist and senior writer at The New York Times, on new research published in Nature that suggests that our mad sprint for scientific breakthroughs has slowed significantly, and what this might mean for science. Listen.

Salvation Through Technology?

Human aspirations for technology are vast. One day, maybe we'll develop technologies that cure cancer. Rid us of viruses. Perhaps fix that pesky climate change. Even, deliver us from death altogether.... But is the increasing belief in salvation through technology just religion in new clothes? Meghan O'Gieblyn is the author of the book God, Human, Animal, Machine: Technology, Metaphor, and the Search for Meaning. In the fall of 2021 Brooke spoke to O'Gieblyn about the shared assumptions of Christian creationists and transhumanist tech leaders, the flawed metaphor of the mind as a computer, and the relationships of humans to the machines we build. This is a segment from our October 15th, 2021 program, Against the Machine.

It's a Machine's World

Schools across the country are considering whether to ban the new AI chatbot, ChatGPT. On this week's On the Media, a look at the ever-present hype around AI and claims that machines can think. Plus, the potential implications of handing over decision-making to computers. 1. Tina Tallon [@ttallon], assistant professor of A.I. and the Arts at the University of Florida, on the love-hate relationship with AI technology over the past 70 years, and Nitasha Tiku [@nitashatiku], tech culture reporter for The Washington Post, on history of the tech itself. Listen. 2. Geoffrey Hinton [@geoffreyhinton], a cognitive psychologist and computer scientist, on holograms, memories, and the origins of neural networks. Listen.3. Matt Devost [@MattDevost], international cybersecurity expert and CEO and co-founder of the global strategic advisory firm OODA llc., on the rise of AI-powered weapons and what it means for the future of warfare. Listen. Music:Original music by Tina TallonHorizon 12.2 by Thomas NewmanBubble Wrap by Thomas NewmanSeventy-two Degrees and Sunny by Thomas NewmanEye Surgery by Thomas NewmanFinal Retribution by John ZornLachrymose Fairy by Thomas Newman

HBO's "The Last of Us" and The Curse of Video Game Adaptations

This week HBO is set to release its latest show, The Last Of Us, about two strangers, who end up on a perilous journey together through a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic America. The show, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, is based on a hit video game series of the same name. It should be an easy hit for the network. Yet, the show's creators have had to contend with what's known as the "video game curse." Dating back to the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie, adaptations of video games into film and television have left us with a long list of critical failures. From 2022's Uncharted, to the 2021 Mortal Kombat, and the 2016 Assassin's Creed movie, which earned a whopping 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. This week, OTM Correspondent Micah Loewinger speaks with New Yorker writer and editor, Alex Barasch, about his latest piece 'Can a Video Game Be Prestige TV?,' if HBO's latest venture could finally break the infamous curse, and why studios continue to make productions based on video games.

Caution: Fragile!

The start of a new year is a time to look both forward and back. On this week's On the Media, hear how facing our climate's fragility could inspire hope, instead of despair. Plus, a physicist explains how creation stories help us understand our place in the universe. 1. Luke Kemp [@LukaKemp], a Research Associate at Cambridge's Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, on a new study that says we need to put more attention on the possibility of human extinction and other climate catastrophes. Bryan Walsh [@bryanrwalsh], editor of Vox's 'Future Perfect,' also explains why our brains have a hard time processing catastrophes like climate change. Listen. 2. Mark Blyth [@MkBlyth], professor of International Economics and Public Affairs at Brown University, on how the economy is ultimately a mirror of our accomplishments, advances, fears, and mistakes. Listen.3. Guido Tonelli, a particle physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, on the importance of creation myths, and what scientists can tell us about the fragility of the universe. Listen. Music in this week's show:Merkabah - John ZornCarmen Fantasy - Anderson & RoeThe Stone - The ChieftainsSuite for Solo Cello No. 6 in D Major (Bach) - Yo Yo MaSentimental Journey - The Sydney Dale OrchestraPeace Piece (Bill Evans) - Kronos QuartetLove Theme from Spartacus - Yusef Lateef

A Taxonomy of TikTok Panics

At the end of 2022, Congress passed legislation to ban TikTok from all government devices, citing data privacy concerns and potential ties between the app and the Chinese government. But this isn't the first time the incredibly popular social media platform occupied headlines. Ever since TikTok exploded worldwide in 2018, news outlets across the country have breathlessly reported on TikTok challenges, which they claim range from the bizarre (licking toilet seats) to the dangerous ("National School Shooting Day"). However, the actual reach and impact of these challenges remain mysterious — or, more often, minimal. On the Media correspondent Micah Loewinger breaks down a short history of these TikTok panics, and looks into the failures of news outlets to judiciously report on overblown TikTok virality, as well as the cyclic paranoia that arises when we face new technology (think: comic books corrupting youth in the 1950s). He poses the question: haven't we been through this already? Special thanks to New York City Municipal Archives for providing archival audio related to the effects of radio and comics books on children. This segment originally aired on our May 13th, 2022 program, Seeing is Believing.


In October, a court ruled in favor of the Department of Justice and blocked the merging of two publishing giants: Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. On this week's On the Media, hear what readers will lose if conglomerates further monopolize the market. Plus, it turns out readers do not want to curl up with a good ebook. 1. Alexandra Alter [@xanalter], reporter at the New York Times, on how the booming publishing industry is wrestling with supply chain nightmares and more to meet reader demand. Listen. 2. Katy Waldman [@xwaldie], writer at The New Yorker, explains what's at stake in the DOJ v. Penguin Random House case. Listen. 3. Margot Boyer-Dry [@M_BigDeal], freelance culture writer, on why book covers are looking more and more similar, blobs and all. Listen. 4. John B. Thompson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Cambridge, on how Amazon changed the book market for good, and why the appeal of the print book persists. Listen. Music in this week's show:Paperback Writer - Quartetto d'Archi Dell'Orchestra Sinfonica di MilanoGuiseppe VerdiTymperturbably Blue - Duke EllingtonI Could Write A Book - Miles DavisTateh's Picture Book - Randy NewmanMy Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors - Moxy Fruvous

The Origins of America's White Jesus

During this holiday season, you likely encountered public nativity scenes depicting the birth of Jesus, presenting the family with very rare exceptions as white. And the same can be said of his ubiquitous adult portrait –– with fair skin and hair a radiant gold, and eyes fixed on the middle distance. In this segment from 2020, Eloise talks to Mbiyu Chui, pastor at the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Detroit, about unlearning Jesus's whiteness. She also hears from Edward Blum, author of The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America, about how the image came dominate in the U.S., and psychologist Simon Howard on how White Jesus has infiltrated our subconsciouses. Lastly, Eloise speaks to Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, womanist theologian and Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary, about the theology of the Black Christ. This is segment first aired in our October 1st, 2020 program, God Bless.