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samgreenspan187 karma

I'm really glad to answer this.

First, I want to clarify that Bellwether is not the first endeavor of speculative journalism. Pretty much any financial/business reporting is speculative (what are the markets going to do? How will this new CEO change the company?) , as is most political reporting (how will this new policy change things? Will this politician live up to their campaign promises?). The podcast "The Big One" from KPCC was a fantastic work of speculative journalism about what happens if and WHEN Southern California is hit with a massive earthquake. See also: the weather report.

As for conspiracy theories and disinformation and fake news—this was not something I really thought about when I got into making Bellwether, but certainly one that I've paid a lot of attention to over the past couple years. I wound up becoming a fellow of the Institute for the Future's Digital Intelligence Lab, which was founded by Sam Woolley, one of the foremost researchers on disinformation and "computational propaganda." In talking with him and his team, I got to wondering if speculative journalism might also be used to combat disinformation as well, in that it might inspire audiences to do their research after engaging with a story.

I'll shout this from the hills: MY GOAL IS NOT TO CONFUSE PEOPLE, OR MIX FACT AND FICTION. I am telling stories in a way such that it might not be imminently obvious what's real and what's not, but I'd much rather have people be inspired to do their own fact checking rather than just take my word for it, or not.

So, for Bellwether, everything you hear me say and everyone you hear me talk to is 100% real and lives up the guidelines of "normal" journalism. But that's presented within a sci-fi frame that is a way of me expressing opinions and what-ifs in a way that I can't do (and, frankly, can have more fun doing) than as "just" a journalist.

I hope that it's more than popcorn entertainment. I'm covering difficult topics, and this is my way of covering them in a novel way.

samgreenspan102 karma

Great question! Gonna have to break this down into a few parts:

  1. "simply reporting events" - Reporting is never simple. If a news report reads as simple and straight-ahead, it's because writers and editors are doing a very good and often invisible job of distilling information into a clear narrative.
  2. "as they occur" - The pace of the news is insane. When I worked at NPR, my desk faced four always-on muted TV screens with the major news networks so we could always know up to the second what other outlets were covering. It was exhausting. I'd leave the office feeling like the blast from all that artificial light was just killing not, not to mention the constant deluge of information. For me, one of the great things of the podcast revolution has been the ability to take a step back from having to 'get there first,' and offer more considered and measured comment on the news. Sometimes it takes a while for things to settle before one can really have anything to say about it.
  3. "without bias" - Anything I have to say about this is just going to be a less good version of what Brooke Gladstone has already said on On The Media. In short: there's no such thing as no bias, at best there is balance and transparency. And, plenty of other people are already doing that. I'm just trying to offer a more essayistic and novel way of presenting the stories of our weird world
  4. "What happened" - I know, right?

samgreenspan52 karma

Also, sorry, I did misread this question. I'm trying to do this as quickly as I can and glossed over the end of your sentence. I do actually really like Reason, and delve into the Ricochet podcast from time to time.

samgreenspan47 karma

Current rotation (in no particular order)

Today, Explained

Today In Focus

The Bay

Flash Forward


The Organist

The Daily

Gender Reveal

Fresh Air


Longest Shortest Time

This American Life

Radiolab/More Perfect

Van Sounds

Ear Hustle

How To Survive The End of the World

An Arm and a Leg

Have You Heard George's Podcast (listening through for a second time now)

the memory palace

Reply All

Lost Notes

Welcome To LA

samgreenspan46 karma

Well-put. Though I do defend the label.