Category Archives: On Point

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point: August 15, 2023


I hope you have been having a fine summer and have been able to take some time off to get away from this relentless news cycle, to a lake or the ocean or your favorite place to decompress. At On Point, we’ll take a week off from our live show production next week and what we have planned for that week we hope will be a much needed treat for your listeners. More on that later.

But first I want to share the news that On Point is now heard on more public radio stations than ever before. APM tells me that as of June 30th On Point was carried on 342 public radio stations. The last two digits seemed familiar. A quick check confirmed that since being recast as a single topic conversation, guided by Meghna Chakrabarti, over the course of one hour, back in October 2020, On Point has picked up an even 100 stations! We could not be more delighted nor honored. But that nice round number hasn’t lasted long, because by the time you read this, it will be 101 thanks to WUWM. After trying out various shows and soliciting feedback from its listeners, we’re honored that Milwaukee selected On Point for its weekday schedule. The depth we bring to each show was a signature element from the start — and as On Point has evolved from one driven by the daily news agenda, we have also worked to ensure a breadth of topics across the week. I was speaking recently with the editor in chief of a national publication who told me how much he loved the range of topics we cover. As he put it, “Things that interest you which are consequential.” And that pretty much sums it up. With just five topics or stories each week, we get to be choosy. It does have to interest us. It does have to be consequential. It does have to be something that we can advance over the course of an hour that other shows with different formats and cadences could not.

And that means we give a lot of thought to how On Point connects to the news cycle. Many stations don’t broadcast us live at 10 a.m. Eastern. It’s important that we are just as relevant to people who hear us at 2 p.m. or 7 p.m. as we are to those who listen at 10 a.m. Our mantra is that On Point prioritizes being news relevant, over news reactive. Whether listeners have heard All Things Considered followed by Morning Edition, or Morning Edition followed by All Things Considered it’s important that we are distinctive and additive in our listeners’ lives, not repetitive. I’m looking forward to diving into this topic further at the upcoming Public Radio Content Conference in Philadelphia where I’ll be moderating a panel on how local talk shows define their editorial identity and relationship with the daily news cycle. Joining me on the panel will be WUNC Program Director, Terry Gildea, and Catie Talarski, Senior Director of Storytelling and Radio Programming at Connecticut Public. If the prep call we had last week is anything to go by, it’ll be a fascinating conversation! And if you’re attending the Content Conference in person, I really hope you will also be able to join us at the On Point breakfast earlier the same day. Look out for an invite to that from APM. I hope to see you there!

And before I sign off, that much needed treat for your listeners when On Point takes a week off from live production next week is something we are calling On Point’s Week of Wonder. It’s a curation of five shows from the past year exploring and reveling in the wonder of the world we live in. From the transformational power of awe to the healing power of music. It might just be the audio tonic for our times.

Hope to see you in Philly!

Jonathan Dyer
Executive Producer, On Point

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point: May 16, 2023

Hello again,

In late April, an episode of On Point focused on an effort underway in Texas to strike down the 

preventive care provision in the Affordable Care Act. Since the act was signed into law in 2010, 

many preventive care screenings have been free of charge. But in April a federal judge in Texas 

ruled that the preventive care provision of the ACA is unlawful for those with private insurance. 

We spent that episode exploring the people and the motivations behind that effort — one that 

could impact 150 million Americans. If you didn’t hear it, you might not have even heard of the 

case; it hasn’t received prominent media attention. On Point Host Meghna Chakrabarti asked 

University of Michigan law professor Nicholas Bagley, an expert on health law, what he thinks is 

behind that. “First of all, it’s complicated,” he replied. And that, at On Point, is our sweet spot. 

When there’s a topic that, in the words of Professor Bagley, is a “big deal” and we should “be 

taking this litigation seriously,” but isn’t getting the attention it deserves because of its complexity 

— and it can’t be encapsulated in a four and a half minute piece, a brief interview or a snappy 

sound bite — that’s where On Point can deliver. We offer something unique to public radio 

listeners who are hungry for rich, meaningful conversations and deep dives on a single topic 

each weekday. 

Listeners tell us that the inclination to lean into complexity and help guide the listener to 

understanding, is something they value. I also think it’s a big reason why On Point has earned 

seven journalism awards in the past two years alone. 

Our most recent honors are two Gracies from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation. The 

On Point episode, An Invisible Epidemic: Survivors of domestic violence on living with traumatic 

brain injury, was honored in the Investigative Feature Category and Behind the decades-long 

fight to close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ won in the Public Affairs category for nationally syndicated 

non-commercial radio. Not surprisingly, we are proud that our efforts to push the boundaries of 

how a show like On Point can make an impact are being recognized by our professional peers. 

But, frankly, we are even more gratified by the recognition that we get from listeners. 

Immediately following the traumatic brain injury show we received multiple messages from 

women, survivors of domestic violence, who told us that they had heard their own story being 

told. One wrote, “This show helped me to finally end the ongoing questions of self-doubt and 

blame that have haunted me for 65 years.” 

And it’s not just awards that On Point has been picking up recently — we’ve also been picking 

up new stations, so if you’re receiving this newsletter for the first time because you have 

recently added On Point to your schedule, we send our profound thanks. I know that with The 

Takeaway ending its run, consequent schedule changes are not taken lightly. We are truly 

energized by the opportunity to share our work with your listeners. 

Jonathan Dyer

Executive Producer, On Point

Two wins at the Gracies are On Point’s latest honors!

Congratulations to On Point! We’re thrilled to share On Point’s latest honors: two wins at the Gracies.

The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation has announced that On Point is being honored with Gracie Awards this year in two different categories.

On Point episodes An Invisible Epidemic: Survivors of domestic violence on living with traumatic brain injury is honored in the Investigative Feature Category and Behind the decades-long fight to close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ won in the Public Affairs category for nationally syndicated non-commercial radio.

Both episodes shine a light on under-reported stories that we at On Point believe are essential to tell. It’s gratifying to be recognized by our peers in journalism and, we think, speaks to the value that On Point brings our listeners.

It’s the second year in a row that On Point has appeared on the Gracie’s list of winners and brings the show’s awards tally to seven (five national, two regional) in just the first two years of its new one-hour-one-topic format, a rare and remarkable achievement.

Since 1951 the Gracies have been recognizing individual achievement and exemplary programming created by, for and about women in news and entertainment.

Congratulations again!

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point: March 2, 2023

Hello again,

I’m delighted to start this newsletter with the news that On Point’s series Smarter Health: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of American Health Care has won first place in the American Health Care Journalists Association’s 2022 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism, specifically in the audio reporting (large division) category. As you know, On Point covers a diverse array of topics, so to have the nation’s most knowledgeable healthcare journalists — experts in their field — single out On Point feels especially rewarding. It’s also quite flattering to be in some pretty esteemed company as ProPublica, The New Yorker, the San Francisco Chronicle, and yes public radio stations WWNO and WRKF, who jointly won in the small division. Congrats to you!

This is the fifth journalism award that On Point has received since adopting its one-hour format two years ago. And I think that speaks volumes about the editorial ambition of On Point and the value we bring to our listeners’ understanding of the complex world we live in.

To bring the series to fruition, the entire On Point team stepped up so that senior editor Dorey Scheimer could be relieved of her day-to-day, and week-to-week duties. She spent three months researching and building contacts, persuading reluctant contributors the value of telling their important story. Working closely with our host Meghna Chakrabarti and sound designer Tim Skoog, Dorey put together this remarkable four-part series into how artificial intelligence and machine learning are revolutionizing the healthcare industry. And as is our signature, the voices of those with lived experience, and you the patient, were placed front and center.

One of the things that always strikes people who know anything about how daily shows like On Point are put together, is that each of our producers has a week, more-or-less, to produce each show. This means they get the opportunity to approach their show topic like a reporter, to do original reporting, and engage deeply with their subject. That is true not just for On Point’s series but for every episode.

Looking ahead, the On Point team is already hard at work on our next ambitious series which will explore what some regard as the defining political current in the world today: populism. Over the course of a week, our journey will take us from Oshkosh to Amazonia, from the turn-of-the 20th century’s William Jennings Bryan, to Donald Trump in the 21st century. You can be assured of some highly relevant, nuanced conversations as we explore populism’s global reach, its authoritarian risk, and its democratic promise. Look out for it starting Monday April 10.

Let’s keep making sense of the world …. Together.

Jonathan Dyer
Executive Producer, On Point

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point | November 21, 2022

Hello again,

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, let me start by thanking you for bringing On Point to your listeners. Thanks also to all of you who attended the On Point breakfast that Meghna and I hosted at this year’s Public Radio Content Conference in New Orleans. It was great to meet so many of you in person and hear how On Point is connecting with your audiences. The audience is at the heart of everything we do — and Meghna and I spoke about how we place a premium on reflecting the lived experiences of our listeners and the role of authentic audience engagement in our journalism.

Six months into the pandemic, in October 2020, we did an episode about how the pandemic-induced recession was particularly affecting women. At the time it had been dubbed a she-cession. Experts were saying that a decade’s worth of economic advancement for women in the workforce had been lost. We asked listeners to call into our voicemail line with their stories of how the she-cession had affected them, and they responded in abundance. Now, a recent study by Harvard labor economist Claudia Goldin reveals that the economic impact of the recession on women was not as clear-cut as the buzzword made it out to be. We have been able to go back to those listeners who shared their she-cession experiences with us to, effectively, report the story for 2022. Just before I sat down to write this letter, On Point’s Senior Editor, Dorey Scheimer, was sharing some of their stories with me, including a heartwarming tale from a woman who was really struggling last time we spoke with her. I know this show will be compelling because our listeners helped make it that way.

We love hearing from the audience, but asked ourselves if phone calls and voicemails felt a bit too old school, especially for millennial and Gen Z listeners? So we worked with the folks at VoxPop to develop a custom On Point app that alerts listeners when we need their help. After many tweaks and tests the likes of which would make Boeing proud, I’m delighted to say the On Point app is finally ready and fans are downloading it from the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app makes it easy for people to record with just the click of a button and then share their story with us. I’m excited to see how it engages audiences beyond the daily show in a way that contributes to it.

On Point App

We’re going to be using the app to invite listeners to share their stories for our upcoming series. It’s on the topic of trust and is a five-parter rolling out Monday through Friday next week (Nov. 28 – Dec. 2). Trust is a bond that holds everything from families to entire nations together but it seems like mistrust is everywhere from social media to politics to familial relationships.

Essential Trust: What Trust Is, Why We Need It, and What Happens When It’s Lost will explore how trust is created in the neural networks of an individual human brain, and then scaled up to the trust we have in people, institutions and societies at large. We’ll investigate what makes our capacity to trust uniquely precious, uniquely human, and worthy of our protection. We’ll also make the series available as a stand-alone offering in the new year. I think you’ll find it true to our mission to make sense of the world – together.

Jonathan Dyer
Executive Producer, On Point

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point | August 25, 2022

On Point’s listeners love to let us know what they think. Maybe it’s because our origins include taking live listener phone calls. The fact that On Point’s listeners know that we don’t do that anymore — and that their calls go straight to voicemail today — doesn’t stop them from calling in. Those voicemails are automatically transcribed and sent to an internal Slack channel so it’s easy to see how the audience is responding to a show in real time. And we’re paying attention!

In recent months one show stands out for the number of listeners who called and emailed (many to Meghna directly). It was an episode from late July looking into the Reuters Institute study that revealed that 40% of Americans actively avoid the news. Quite a few listeners called us to say that they too were actively avoiding the news (though seemingly still listening to On Point) because, to quote Sam who called us from Oregon, it’s “because it’s most depressing.” He told us that he “actually feels better” the less he follows the news. Others, like Joe in Massachusetts told us that in these times, he “cannot be an ostrich who buries his head in the sand or a child who feels that if he closes his eyes that the bad man will disappear.” Sylvia in Florida craved solutions. Marty in Maine enigmatically pondered, “What is news?”

I share this with you not just to demonstrate how engaged On Point’s listeners are but also because I think about listeners like these all the time. How can we best serve and engage them and, indeed, how should we be thinking about how we define news for a show (this one) that is committed to making sense of the world, and all that could mean? Given that we have an hour to explore each topic we take on, we have an opportunity to be highly selective about our approach. We’re intentional about the broad mix of topics we cover across a week, ensuring that we are mindful of but not handcuffed to the headlines, and most importantly, relevant to our listener’s lives.

I’m hoping that this newsletter can be the starting point of conversations that we would love to have with you in person in New Orleans! Meghna and I will beat this year’s Public Radio Content Conference to talk about how On Point is offering public radio listeners what they need in these times.

So, as a conversation starter, here are some of the questions I ask as I think of what makes a signature edition of On Point and example episodes that demonstrate it:

Some thoughts to get us started….and I look forward to picking up the conversation in New Orleans!

See you there!

Jonathan Dyer
Executive Producer, On Point

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point | May 18, 2022

Hello again,

I’m delighted to start this newsletter by sharing the news that On Point has been honored with a 2022 Gracie Award for our episode looking back at the 1992 acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers accused of beating Rodney King. The episode, which won in the national radio documentary category, was produced during the 2021 trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, and focused on what had and had not changed in the U.S. between the two trials — nearly 30 years apart.

Additionally, The Alliance for Women in Media Foundation, which is behind the Gracie Awards, awarded Meghna Chakrabarti an Honorable Mention in the Reporter/Host/Correspondent category. They note that they found Meghna’s work to be ‘outstanding’ and ‘exceptional’ — and all of us on the team could not agree more!

The documentary award comes just a few months after On Point received the National Edward R. Murrow Award for news documentary. It bears pointing out that On Point, a daily show, has now won two major documentary awards in successive years. I think that speaks volumes about the effort and ambition of the On Point production team. Both of the award-winning episodes I just mentioned reached into history to help us understand the present. I believe it’s a signature of our storytelling — and you might have heard it in some of our recent shows on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, such as our exploration of whether war crimes are being committed and what the consequences of that might be.

In my last newsletter, I wrote that the war in Ukraine was just breaking out, and what a remarkable couple of months it has been for many of us in journalism as we’ve sought to comprehend and interpret the awful and historic events alongside our audiences. And I think that’s where a show like On Point is unmatched. We brought you the only long-form interview given by Ambassador Bill Taylor since the war broke out. The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine from 2006 to 2009 and 2019 to 2020, he shared his unrivaled insight into the U.S. relationship with Ukraine.

We brought together retired colonels Alexander Vindman and Larry Wilkerson for a smart, passionate, and fascinating debate about what the U.S. role in Ukraine should be. Both men have unique and personal perspectives on global conflict. Vindman was born in Ukraine and testified in the first impeachment hearing against then-president Donald Trump. Wilkerson served as Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff during the Iraq war.

We’ve also spent a gripping hour hearing first-hand, in depth accounts, from Ukrainians living through the war.

Looking ahead, I’m really excited about a forthcoming four-part series exploring how artificial intelligence and machine learning are revolutionizing healthcare in the U.S. Produced by On Point’s Senior Editor, Dorey Scheimer, the series will take a close look at the technology itself, the ethical dilemmas it presents, and regulations being considered. We’ll also meet physicians and patients already experiencing this emerging technology in the treatment room. Look out for the series, Smarter Health: AI, Machine Learning and the Future of Medicine, beginning Friday, May 27 and rolling out subsequent Fridays.

Jonathan Dyer
Executive Producer, On Point

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point | February 15, 2022

“Goosebumps.” That one word sentence was Slacked to me by WBUR’s Chief Content Officer, Victor Hernandez, as he listened to the episode of On Point marking the 20th anniversary of the creation of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Coincidentally, host Meghna Chakrabarti had asked our guests to describe the fact that Guantanamo is still with us today in one word. “Regret” said Michael Lehnert, the retired Marine Corps major general who supervised the construction of the detention camp at Guantanamo in January 2002. He would go on to run it for three months. “Disbelief” said Moazzam Begg who spent two years as a Guantanamo Bay detainee from 2003 to 2005. In contrast, Carol Rosenberg, a New York Times reporter deeply immersed in the Guantanamo story said she was “Unsurprised.”

But those one-word answers, as revealing as they are, were not the reason for Victor’s message. He had been listening as Lehnert described his experience in the early days of Guantanamo and as Begg shared what it felt like to be taken into custody in Pakistan, transported to Cuba, and detained at Guantanamo. And those goosebumps came as Meghna brought the two men together to speak one-on-one: a former captor and a former captive. Moazzam Begg told On Point listeners that the previous night he had gone to see another former Guantanamo detainee, Shaker Aamer, who spent 13 years at Guantanamo without charge. The first thing Aamer told Begg was to send Lehnert his “warmest regards.” It was as surprising as it was genuine and heartfelt, especially as it contrasts so profoundly with the harsh treatment the detainees later received. Aamer described how Lehnert showed “dignity and humility” to the prisoners, recalling that when Aamer asked to know how his wife and child were faring, Begg said the general made a phone call and returned with candies to celebrate the news that Aamer’s wife had given birth to his son.

Begg went on to describe Guantanamo as a “bipartisan project…overseen by Democrat(s) and by Republican(s)…overseen by a Black president and white presidents. It’s been overseen by East Coasters and West Coasters. And it is wholly American as far as the rest of the world thinks.”

I don’t usually spend these newsletters writing about a few minutes in one show, but I’ve been thinking about moments like this quite a bit recently. Primarily because I’m coming up on my first anniversary as the EP at On Point, and I’ve been thinking about how our newly reimagined show has been able to cement its identity as a place where long-form journalism is able to explore the complexities of the lived experience, and how invaluable that is in understanding the nuance of the world we live in. I really hope you’re hearing that in On Point.

Looking ahead, keep an eye out for announcements about our next special series, slated for March, as well as a deep dive into a technological development that has the potential to be this century’s most transformative force, later this spring. And yes, we’ll be telling that story from the perspective of those living that experience. I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Jonathan Dyer
Executive Producer, On Point

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point

“How can you be a patriot in a country you no longer recognize?” That phrase has stuck with me. I was listening to retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson reveal how his long-time boss and friend, General Colin Powell, had come to reflect on that question in the days following the mob attack on the Capitol on January 6th. It had struck Wilkerson, too, when he read it on the cover flap of John Le Carre’s latest and final book, Silverview. 

Wilkerson was talking in a pre-recorded interview for On Point that we thought would be part of the next day’s show reflecting on the life of the former Secretary of State. I dropped into the studio to check in on how it was going — and the body language from the crew in the control room told me everything I needed to know. In cinematic detail, Wilkerson was describing the machinations behind Colin Powell’s speech at the UN in 2003, making the case for war in Iraq. At the time, Wilkerson was in charge of assembling the US intelligence used in Powell’s address. While writing the presentation, Wilkerson recalled Powell grabbing him by his jacket, shoving him into a room at the CIA and shouting at him, “I am sick and tired of this crap (not the word Powell actually used) on terrorism and terrorists, I’m not gonna present it.”  

The story of what happened next, as told by Wilkerson, was itself like something from a John Le Carre novel. It’s one of the most remarkable interviews Meghna has done all year and we rapidly made the decision that it would fill the entire hourWilkerson told us that he had received some 200 interview requests in the days after Powell’s death, but said yes to only one: On Point.  

I have long thought that behind great radio are great relationships; relationships that we have with our listeners and relationships that we build with our guests and interviewees. The listener places their trust in a host they connect with and the same is true for the people we invite onto On Point. So often, people open up to Meghna because they feel like they know her — and  they know she’s deeply intellectually curious and profoundly empathetic. 

It was incredibly rewarding to read similar observations about Meghna in the recent APM survey about what you’re hearing during On Point, and in our series, Amazon: The Prime Effect and The Longest WarMany listeners are giving you “great feedback about Meghna’s hosting and probing intelligence,” noting that it’s “a real differentiator from other shows.” And it sounds like we’re hitting the mark in producing shows that offer “the balance between deeply researched yet conversational and approachable.” A big thank you to everyone who took the survey and shared feedback, we appreciate your input. 

And speaking of special series from On Point, new ones are in the works. Look out for announcements about signature programming rolling out in February and April. 

And finally, I have to share this photograph of On Point Senior Editor Dorey Scheimer and Meghna Chakrabarti receiving the National Edward R. Murrow Award for news documentary (large market radio) at a gala celebration in New York’s Gotham Hall last month — Dorey’s smile says it all. I have written here before that I know On Point is not a documentary series, but this honor shows the power of what a show like ours can do and how we can reimagine what it means to be a modern radio program. I was more than glad to be there in Gotham Hall, along with a few other senior leaders and winning journalists from WBUR, proving that with a Covid vaccine and a negative Covid test you can party like it’s … 2021. 

Jonathan Dyer 

Executive Producer, On Point

On Point is looking for your feedback

Please provide input by October 31

On Point has spent the last several months covering Amazon – and how it shapes the global economy and how we live and work today – in their broadcast series, “The Prime Effect.” From this reporting, which ran as episodes of On Point, they also produced a three-part series of hour-long specials for you to air in July, August and September.

The On Point team is seeking station feedback on this recent series, as well as any overall feedback on the show. Thank you in advance for taking this brief 5-minute survey to provide your input. We will share your feedback with On Point for their consideration. Please provide your input by October 31.