Stepping In With The Facts

Download
Listen to “Stepping In With The Facts”

Zach Hirsch’s recent story on NPR is proof you can find national stories right in your neighborhood. Zach recorded a fairly simple chat in a backyard and turned it into one of the most important stories he says he’s ever produced.

Of course, no radio story is ever “simple.” For starters, the conversation he recorded with neighbors was about the Confederate flag. Zach said it was a bold move on his part to reach out and talk to someone displaying that flag.

Download
Listen to “I had to be brave”
Download
Listen to “I texted my partner”
Download
Listen to “I think the microphone is kind of a shield”

In the end, the bravery, the communication system he set up with his partner, and thinking of his mic as a shield may have been a case of overpreparing. The people who spoke turned out to be, as Zach puts it, sweet.

Download
Listen to “I didn’t have to be as on guard”

But then, after the interview, Zach spent a great deal of time fact-checking the people he talked to. He included what he learned in his narration. And, that caught my ear when I heard the story. So, I reached out to Zach with a handful of my own questions: What obligation do reporters have with interviewees post-interview fact checking? What if the bulk of a story consists of correcting interviewees? Can’t people simply say what’s true to them? Zach tackles these questions and more on this episode of HowSound.

[Correction: In this episode Rob states that the immediate area around Plattsburgh (Clinton County, NY) went for Trump. It actually didn’t. It’s the broader North Country region that went for Trump. (Clinton County was the only North Country county where Hillary won, 47 to 46 percent.) So this region, this part of Upstate NY, voted for Trump. Plattsburgh did not.]

Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Website

  • Bobbi

    11.05.17

    Reply

    It sounded like Rob was attacking Zach’s style, not interviewing him about it. Maybe it’s because Zach was a past student of his but I thought Rob was pretty condescending in this interview, which I’ve heard from Rob once or twice before but this is probably the strongest example of it. I don’t know how we can get anywhere as a society if we don’t expect people to deal in facts. Note I say facts, not truth, because truth can be subjective but fact can’t. I see nothing wrong with what Zach did our said and if I make a statement I actually appreciate it if someone correct me if I’m wrong. I didn’t feel like Zach was rude or disrespectful about it and it sounded like Rob was calling him on the carpet like some kind of high school student. Seems to me Rob owes Zach an apology.

    Also, it’s interesting that the person who was interviewed claims they didn’t say half of what was in that story when it was his own voice saying it. There’s a lot of interesting research right now about how you can or cannot change the minds of people who are in the ‘true believer’ mindset.

    • Zach Hirsch

      11.08.17

      Reply

      Hi Bobbi, I didn’t find Rob condescending at all. He asked solid, challenging questions about the story. It’s always an interviewer’s job to be tough and skeptical, especially in an episode about ethics and standards. I don’t think Rob was implying that I was being disrespectful or that I did something wrong, I think he was just trying to establish and clarify the thinking behind such an intense level of fact checking. So no apology necessary. I’m glad you liked the story!

  • rob rosenthal

    11.09.17

    Reply

    Hey Zach — Thanks for chiming in. — r

    Hi Bobbi,

    Thanks for writing and listening. Sorry this episode upset you.

    I can see how this episode may sound different than many other episodes. Frequently, Howsound tends toward cheerleading. I mostly ask softball question. On this episode, I asked somewhat harder questions though it seemed to me more like a frank chat than anything else. Certainly, that was the intent. No calling on the carpet. No raking over the coals. Just a couple of radio producers working through an important topic.

    Best,
    Rob

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*