‘The Pub’ #43: Why public media are sponsoring polls​, and how a CBC video went viral

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Ryssdal, Fleming, Burt-Wintonick

Ryssdal, Fleming, Burt-Wintonick

My old station in Boston, WBUR, has been commissioning a lot of polls in the last few years. A series of polls showing anemic public support for Boston’s 2024 Olympics bid may have played a role in that bid ultimately fizzling.

But WBUR has also done electoral polling for state and local races and for presidential politics, particularly in neighboring New Hampshire. This practice recently attracted the skepticism of New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen, in a Twitter exchange with his Northeastern University counterpart Dan Kennedy.

So how does polling fit with public media’s mission? On The Pub this week, WBUR Managing Director of News and Programming Sam Fleming responds to Rosen’s critique.

Also, Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talks about his show’s new economic poll, the “Economic Anxiety Index.” While he has copious journalistic reasons for investing in polling, he admits there is promotional value as well in creating new data that other media might pick up.

“I’d have been thrilled to tiny little bits if John Harwood in the CNBC economic debate had said the other night to one of those 10 people up on that stage, ‘Listen, there was a Marketplace survey the other day that said people are losing sleep in this economy over their finances,’” Ryssdal told me. “I’d have jumped up and down on my couch.”

Also on the show:

  • Mira Burt-Wintonick, producer of the recently discontinued CBC radio show WireTap, talks about how she and her colleagues transformed an old radio segment into a viral video that’s likely gotten more exposure than the entire 11-year run of their show.
  • We open up Adam’s Gripe Bag, a collection of sundry media stories that made me angry in the last week, including Pandora’s botched announcement of an exclusive-but-not-really deal with Serial and This American Life, Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple’s misguided criticism of the New York Times, and why the National Weather Service can’t come up with more intuitive terms for severe weather “watches” and “warnings.”

There are still free tickets left for our live show Monday in Atlanta at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace. Register here!

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at adam@current.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

  • Mark Pugner

    If you’re going to have sound effects on this show, don’t forget the classics like a kazoo or slide whistle!
    The media love to rig polls because that is where the campaign funds ultimately end up. That way the campaigns can hit up the big money donors for more money. Then after the elections are over the polling organizations are all stunned over the outcome. The networks all love all the money that flows during elections.

  • Mike Savage

    Am I the only one concerned about TAL’s continued ventures into commercial media? Pandora is a serious player and threat to local broadcasters. It is hard for me to hear Ira Glass asking listeners to ‘do their part’ during fundraising spots that used to be really effective on public radio. Every time I hear him say that he does these pledge shows to ‘support the mission of public broadcasting’, I cringe. Although it may be technically true, it still just doesn’t feel right.