The Time Is Now

How do you like the new theme? A lot easier on the eyes, innit.

But anyway, today I want to introduce you to some of the news resources that I’m consulting regularly, some of which I’ve only discovered in the last few weeks. In contrast to the commercial, mainstream news media, these are for the most part independent and/or public, with a much greater density of information and complexity. If you are fed up with your regular newscasts (as I had been), then you might want to take a closer look at the following.

Democracy Now! (democracynow.org)
“Democracy Now!” is an independent, one-hour-long radio and television news broadcast that airs live every weekday on several hundred radio and TV stations and the internet from 8 to 9 a.m. ET (1 to 2 p.m. GMT). Only very recently did I come across this show which has been around for about 13 years now. All thanks to the documentary “The End Of America” (very recommendable, by the way).

For the past year or so, I had given up following the news entirely—mostly because the outlets aren’t exactly delivering news anymore but glorified tales of celebrity and town gossip. For example, why THE FUCK does CNN report on the Obamas choosing a dog for their kids? Who on this godforsaken earth really gives a shit? And what’s worse, 168 people deemed that story worthy enough of their comments (there’s probably the answer to the previous rhetorical question). This type of reporting is now everywhere, and at one point last year I had enough of it.

Luckily, “Democracy Now!” came my way. It is exactly the type of news show that I had been looking for all these years: thoroughly investigative, liberal, lots of time for interviews with involved parties (each program is 60 minutes long), an abundance of material background, a great network of independent correspondents and activists, and so on. This should be mandatory viewing for everyone. Period. To get an idea of what they’re doing at “DN!,” have a look at the show from March 16.

Every episode that ever aired is available for streaming on their website.

60 Minutes (CBS, 60minutes.com)
This is the only “mainstream” journalistic show from a major network that gets regular attention in my books. Most of you probably know it. “60 Minutes” has been around since 1968 and has remained a steady fixture in the news circle. In both quality and topic, the reports are very diverse. Compare the two following clips to see what I mean…

“Is Peace Out Of Reach?” (January 25, 2009)
Vodpod videos no longer available.

“A Meal To Die For” (November 25, 2008)
Vodpod videos no longer available.

New episodes air every Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on CBS, and are streamable on the website shortly thereafter. You can either watch complete episodes or just individual segments like the ones above. Fortunately, those streams are also playable on computers located outside the U.S.

The 1999 film “The Insider” (directed by Michael Mann and starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino) was based on one of those segments. The film’s working title was even “60 Minutes.”

All Things Considered (NPR, npr.org/programs/atc)
This is a daily radio news broadcast produced by National Public Radio. It airs from 4 to 6 p.m. ET and is also available on-demand on NPR’s website for international audiences. Apparently, “ATC” is the third-most-listened-to radio program in the U.S.

Thorough reporting, no dilly-dally. That’s all there’s to it. Check it out.

Planet Money (NPR, npr.org/blogs/money)
This is a blog and podcast which successfully explains the world’s financial situation in laymen’s terms. I highly recommend this place to everyone who is interested in the ongoing crisis but is as dumbfounded by the experts’ terminology and rhetoric as I am. Wonderful.

The Baseline Scenario (baselinescenario.com)
Once you’ve got the hang of the aforementioned financial terminology you should stop by this great blog. (You might notice that it looks similar to mine. It’s where I stole the new design from.) It is maintained by three financial experts who really know their field. They are equally fond of bringing the issues across in simple words as the folks at NPR’s “Planet Money.”

One of the writers, Simon Johnson (former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)), was on “The Colbert Report” just last week. Check it out (the segment with Johnson starts at about 4:50 into the video)…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! (NPR, npr.org/programs/waitwait)
Here’s another NPR show. This one’s a weekly news quiz of about 45 minutes. It airs every Saturday and is available to stream and download. If you’ve followed the week’s events, this is the place to go. Hilarious and informative at the same time.

This American Life (thisamericanlife.org)
Along with “Democracy Now!,” this is the most exciting of all the resources in this post. Over thirteen years in the making by now, “This American Life” is an extraordinary weekly radio broadcast that offers insightful reports on all kinds of issues. The makers like to call it a “documentary on the radio,” which, indeed, it is. The quality of the reporting and the careful handling of the sometimes delicate topics is outstanding. As a result, “TAL” is one of the most successful radio shows and podcasts in the U.S. (By the way, this also comes from public radio. Notice a pattern here?)

Episodes air every Friday and are available to stream and download the following Monday. Brandnew episodes will air about twice per month. In the other weeks, older shows are rerun. I would like to give you some pointers as to where to start in the immense archive that is available on the show’s website. Every single back episode can be streamed for free, so you’re easily lost.

  • In May and October of last year and February of this year, “This American Life” teamed up with some people from NPR’s aforementioned “Planet Money” to produce a series of insightful, yet easy-to-understand episodes about the state of the economy and how we ended up in this quagmire in the first place. These three one-hour-long episodes single-handedly allowed me to understand the situation we’re in right now. They are an even better place to start than the “Planet Money” blog. Absolutely brilliant.

    Downloadable transcripts are available in PDF format for all three of these episodes if you want to re-read some key issues.

    When you’re done with those, you can head over to my brothers in arms at Schreibkrampf and have a look at a more condensed but visualized version of what Jon Stewart likes to call the “clusterfuck to the poorhouse.”

  • Somewhere Out There” from February 13, 2009
    This is sort of a Valentine’s Day episode. Although your usual love stories are also talked about, the major highlight for me is one about two eight-year-old girls. In fact, the two girls are transgender boys, i.e. girls trapped inside a boy’s body. They talk about their hardships of being faced with such a situation—the trouble in school, the dirty looks from the neighbors, the parents’ struggle, etc. But they do it in such an adult and mature way that you can’t have anything but utter respect for both of them. Never in my life have I heard an eight-year-old talk so eloquently, articulate, and well-spoken about their life, let alone two of them. Stunning.
  • The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar” from March 14, 2008
    A granddaughter of Bobby Dunbar’s, a Louisiana man who was famously kidnapped as a child in 1912, unearths astounding material evidence in connection to her grandfather’s kidnapping that will ultimately rewrite the histories of three families. I just listened to this one last night and have to say that I was more than just impressed.

When you’re done with these five episodes, there’s only about 370 left to go. Get to it. (-; The material on “TAL” is so amazing and mind-blowing that I’m most likely going to keep posting about individual episodes in the future.

Moreover, show host Ira Glass teamed up with premium cable channel Showtime a few years ago to produce a TV version of the radio show. So far, two seasons (six episodes each) have aired and a couple more should be down the road. Here’s the trailer for the TV show…

And if you want to put a face to the strange man’s strange voice, here is Ira on David Letterman’s “Late Night” in April of 2007.

This shall be it for now. More resource recommendations to come in one of the next posts.

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