The best thing on the radio in my view is an hour-long weekly program on NPR called On the Media, produced by WNYC, and hosted by journalism veterans Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield.
Full disclosure: I’m a journalism grad, a giant consumer of journalism, and I think about what makes good journalism more than the average person. So On the Media (OTM) is right in my wheelhouse.
But while it’s heady, it’s not geeky—and it serves a double purpose: In examining what the press got right and wrong and why over the last week, it provides a really efficient roundup of the big stories. So it’s a nice weekly digest—with the addition of explaining what might have been distorted with a little fact checking. Which is to say, you don’t have to be a journalism geek to enjoy the program.
OTM also takes the time to dive a little deeper into topics that get a high volume but a low quality of coverage.
Last week, it was immigration. One segment looked at perceptions and misperceptions about immigration here in the United States. It featured an interview with Prof. Doug Massey, a sociologist at Princeton.
Massey brought a true social scientist’s approach to the subject: That is, there was no moral pontificating, and no vilification of people who are afraid of immigrants. Instead, there was just a lot of good information, information that helps understand the angst.
For example, when asked about the biggest myth about the state of illegal immigration, Massey had this to say:
In fact, illegal migration ended eight years ago and has been zero or negative since 2008, because migration is a young person’s game. If you don’t migrate between the ages of 15 and 30, you don’t migrate at all, and the average age in Mexico is now 28 years old.
Massey had illuminating and often surprising answers to a lot of other questions—one observation really struck me:
You have to remember that the baby boom grew up in the whitest, most native America that’s ever existed. In 1970, the foreign-born percentage of the United States, for the first and only time in American history, fell below 5 percent. And African-Americans were segregated and out of sight. That’s the America that people look back and think that that’s normal. And that’s all changed.
It certainly has changed.
He went on to explain that no matter what we do—even if we shut off all immigration, the America of 1970 isn’t coming back.
“That world is gone for good,” said Massey, “and there’s nothing you can do about it, except adapt and make it work for you.”
The good news, of course, is that humans can and do change. I know this from personal experience.
I didn’t know a single black person until I was 17–that’s when I met a black girl at Sears, where we both worked. I didn’t know a gay person until… and I could reel off a dozen more. Experience and personal relationships opened my eyes. But it never stops.
Even when we first moved to the city, there were characters on the street who would give me pause and make me wary. Some of that is healthy. But some is borne of ignorance. The first times I was in the distinct minority on a subway car, I was self-conscious and if not afraid, I was nervous.
Now, I don’t even notice. I don’t think my old self would recognize the new.
I’d like to tell you I don’t have a racist, bigoted, frightened bone in my body. Except that’d be a patent lie, because, well, I’m a human being.
And I don’t necessarily like change.
But in the end, change has always been good for me.
You can listen to the recording of the interview, as well as read a transcript. I hope you will.