Category Archives: 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  ..er … 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.

TAKE THE SURVEY

A word from Jonathan Dyer, EP of On Point: August 2021

Hello there,

When I last wrote in May, I had been Executive Producer of On Point for just three months — and it was day one for our series, Amazon: The Prime Effect. Amazon has proved the perfect case study for the On Point treatment. It impacts our lives in so many more ways than most of us appreciate with an intentionality that is little recognized. The series has demonstrated how a show like On Point can deliver smartly produced, vibrant, original journalism.

Host Meghna Chakrabarti and Senior Editor Dorey Scheimer have taken us on quite a journey since then. In episode one, we learned just how relentless Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, was in his ambition from the outset. It’s fair to say that ‘relentless’ was a corporate value. Type ‘relentless.com’ into your web browser if you need confirmation of that.

As we were putting together the episode about Amazon Web Services (AWS) , the company’s cloud computing arm, we tried estimating just how much of what we access online every day relies on AWS. Tim Bray, a leading engineer and former vice president of AWS, told us that Amazon has 50% of the cloud computing market, which is behind, in his words, “a very high proportion of things we access on the internet every day.” That Zoom call you were just on and the Netflix drama you binge-watched last weekend were both supported by AWS. Yes, Netflix relies on its biggest competitor to deliver its own product. What kind of power does that give Amazon? We should know that and that’s why I believe a project like The Prime Effect is essential listening for the public radio audience.

Most recently, in Episode 7, we learned that Amazon has partnered with more than 1,800 law enforcement agencies to enable them to access the Neighbors Public Safety Service — a digital platform that connects emergency services with Ring camera customers. Critics call Ring the largest civilian surveillance network the US has ever seen. And to think that 20 years ago Amazon was primarily known for selling books and CDs. We hope your audiences have found the series engaging and insightful; and don’t forget, some of these episodes are available as specials in APM’s quarterly specials package.

This week, as violence and chaos unfolds in Afghanistan, we’re hard at work, preparing an exploration of America’s longest running war for our next series to follow The Prime Effect. What can we understand from looking back over the twenty years since 9/11? We promise deep, rich, powerful conversations in this series slated for September, as On Point — which began as “special coverage” after 9/11 — marks its own twentieth anniversary.

I’d be remiss not to share that the On Point team was humbled, and yet exceedingly proud, to be honored by The Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) with the 2021 National Edward R. Murrow Award. Announced on Aug. 17, we won in the News Documentary category for What the President Knew. For this episode, we analyzed the early days before 9/11 and the COVID pandemic through the eyes of people who were at senior positions in the White House and national security services. The hour revealed what factors influence moments when Presidents make decisions that do not protect the safety of the American people. 

We are happy to talk to you about these episodes or any others. Share your feedback or questions about the show, anytime. Please reach out to your station relations representative – they’re always interested to hear from you! Keep an eye out for future communications from the On Point team – you’ll be hearing from us every few months. And I hope to run into you, virtually at least, at the PRPD conference next month. And thanks.

Jonathan Dyer
Executive Producer, On Point

On Point has a new Executive Producer: Jonathan Dyer joins the show on Feb. 16.

Jonathan Dyer: Executive Producer, On Point

Jonathan was Managing Editor at The World for more than a decade, a key figure in the leadership team overseeing more than 30 journalists in Boston and London. He also created and edited Boston Calling, a weekly BBC World Service broadcast and podcast heard by millions of global listeners.

Before that, Jonathan was part of the senior team that devised and launched The Takeaway. He got his start at the BBC as an engineer and has a keen understanding of every aspect that goes into getting a daily show on the air.