Daily Archives: December 20, 2015

Why I broke up with RadioLab

I posted last week about the podcasts I love. Many people responded that they loved RL. I used to be in that camp. I haven’t talked that much about why I broke up with them, but I did mention it. One of my friends asked me why, so here is my response.

Part I:

In the fall of 2012 I was walking to meet a friend for lunch and listening to the episode “The Fact of the Matter.” Then the segment Yellow Rain came on. I remember hearing Robert Krulwich interrogate Eng Yang and his niece, Kao Kalia Yang, and I was on the verge of tears at his questioning.

Shortly after the episode aired, Ms. Yang wrote a response, specifically about how she and her uncle had agreed to participate because they believed they would finally get to tell their story and be believed. Instead, they were badgered and not taken seriously, diminished. I urge you to listen to the episode and then read Ms. Yang’s response. She had a further follow-up.

Part II:

In March 2012, This American Life produced an entire episode retracting the Mike Daisy Foxconn story. At the time I thought it was overkill. Why was Ira bending over backwards? I didn’t understand.

Part III:

sunset behind the mekong

I’d spent the winter of 2011 in SE Asia. I visited Laos. I learned not only about the Hmong people, but how Laos got the worst of it during the Vietnam War era. Everyone was carpet bombing the fuck out of them. They have more unexploded ordinances than any other country in SE Asia and it would take centuries to clear all the bombs if anyone was doing any actual clearing. This was not something I’d learned in high school or college history classes.

Part IV:

So after having traveled to Laos and hearing TAL’s retraction, I expected a similar level of respect from Radioplab. Instead, their response disheartened me. They weren’t interested in facts, or the truth, as they said. They had destroyed my trust. Why couldn’t they believe the Yangs? I wrote an email to the show, telling them they had broken my trust. They never responded to my email. They dug in, got defensive, and didn’t see how they’d harmed the Yangs.


I had learned some fantastic things from Radkoplab, but I’m still heartbroken about the treatment of the Yangs. On a piece about facts and truth, they couldn’t see their own errors or admit they had fucked up and done harm. I’ve tried to listen a few times since the fall of 2012, and each time I just get really sad and also don’t know what to believe from their story. I can learn about the things they cover in other places.

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