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Courtesy of PBS

NOW on PBS Podcast

Exchanges on this award-winning public affairs show are electrifying

By David Wilson

It is a perfect spring evening. Shadows lengthen over green fields, and the sky is a palette of deepening blues. Yet I barely notice the scenery as I drive through the countryside. I am riveted by a remarkable exchange pouring out of my iPod.

Maria Hinojosa, a senior producer with the PBS investigative newsmagazine show NOW, is squaring off against the sheriff of the south-central Arizona county of Maricopa. Documents obtained under freedom of information requests appear to confirm what many of the county’s Hispanic residents have believed for a long time: the sheriff is a bigot. The documents show that his office is doing a great job of cracking down on minor traffic infractions — which, incidentally, have led to the arrests of several thousand illegal immigrants — but coming up short when it comes to handling more serious crimes like rape and domestic violence.

The sheriff is a flat-out bully. He yells, he interrupts, he insults. Yet Hinojosa stands her ground, eventually cornering the sheriff with his own statistics. Remarkably, she keeps her cool throughout. The exchange is electric.

NOW’s podcasts are audio versions of the award-winning PBS television show. The seamless transition to audio testifies to the quality of the reporting that goes into each weekly episode — images don’t “sell” these stories; the stories sell themselves. Whether the topic is coal mining in Wyoming, melting glaciers in the Himalayas or pandemic research in university labs, these pieces are among the best that American journalism has to offer today, podcasted or otherwise.

Like all good journalism, NOW podcasts are hopeful, even when probing sober subjects such as Pacific islands slowly drowning due to climate change or traumatized soldiers returning home from Iraq. The hope consists in the fact that there are still organizations and individuals who care enough about truth-telling to invest the time and resources into this kind of reporting.

These pieces are as close to a great read as a listen can be. But a word to the wise: keep an eye on your speedometer.

Author's photo
David Wilson is the editor-publisher of The Observer.
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