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JournalistI'm Joshua Johnson, host of the news talk show "1A" from WAMU and NPR. AMA

Mar 16th 2017 by 1AJoshua • 7 Questions • 50 Points

1A provides two hours of daily conversation on big issues and provocative stories. We welcome people from all walks of life sharing their questions and experiences, in a forum that's compassionate, intelligent, courageous and fun.

1A airs live from Washington. I moved to D.C. after almost six years at KQED in San Francisco. I also taught podcasting at UC Berkeley. I'm from West Palm Beach, FL and went to The University of Miami.

Proof: https://twitter.com/1a/status/842099592556601344

Update, 4 PM ET: Thanks for all the questions, everyone! I'll check back tomorrow and next week and post a few more answers, too, if you'd like.

Q:

What topics are you most excited about covering in the future? Is there anything you'd like to cover but most likely can't/won't?

A:

I kind of like everything. I have very broad tastes and I get bored easily. Nothing's really off the table. I tend not to focus on topics as much as on the stories themselves. Because we're a general interest news show for a national audience, we don't ever want to get too inside baseball. Even the brainy NPR audience is busy and can have a short attention span, even for a topic they find interesting. I fall back on the words of Albert Einstein: If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough. Any topic that we can make compelling, clear, and concise is fair game.


Q:

Hey Josh,

Enjoying listening to your show.

Can you speak to the impact that political rhetoric has on civility. How do shows like yours help and impact the tone of national discourse?

A:

First of all, I love your screen name. The first time my family went into a Harris Teeter, we thought it was like what grocery stores must be like in Heaven.

Anyway…

I think what 1A can do for the national discourse is create a space where, to borrow an expression from Dr. Martin Luther King, people can disagree without being violently disagreeable. Civility is essential to what we do, but so is being welcoming. I find that many spaces for discourse feel like cage matches waiting to happen—combative, bellicose, bloodthirsty, pushy and rude—even if they're illuminating. I wouldn't want to be part of a conversation like that. And I think most people would prefer to not have to fight one another, especially when all they really need to do debate.

I think political rhetoric can gin this up in ways that make understanding harder to come by, but they also say something about how we view one another. I wouldn't ignore the rhetoric, but I would try to keep it in its place.


Q:

Did you get any pushback, internally or from listeners, on the recent show on PrEP? It was a great interview, but I could see people hand-wringing because sex was discussed (and a few inside slang terms dropped offhand).

AND: Is it seriously true that 1 in 5 black men in DC is HIV positive? You seemed taken aback too; I was wondering if that was ever supplemented with sources.

Thanks and keep up the great work.

A:

We didn't get any pushback. We got a lot of listeners who said they appreciated us being willing to take on tough subjects like that. Generally when we do controversial topics, listeners either say they appreciate the discussion or they don't think we went far enough.

As for the statistic, I found a link from DC that suggests the actual rate might be lower, but these kinds of stats are inherently difficult to verify, especially on live radio.


Q:

Hey Josh! Huge fan of the show, everything I wanted from the new show after Diane Rehm's departure.

I had another long question about political dialogue and how to better speak to people with dissenting views, but this has really been pressing me lately because I'm torn.

How do you think society/media should address trolls like Milo Yiannopoulos? There are arguments back and forth about whether we should just ignore them and make it as difficult as possible for them communicate, relegating them to online forums rather than giving them a platform like Bill Maher did. Others argue that we should try to debate them. But is there any virtue in debating a troll? When their only aim is to cause chaos and disruption, why should they be given any level of credence/authenticity?

I can always ask my other question if this one is too close to home given UC Berkley is your alma mater.

p.s.- It was such a nice surprise having you introduce the NPR Politics podcast live show in D.C.! Totally worth the trip up from Jacksonville :)

A:

First of all, wow! Thank you for driving up from Jacksonville! I'm honored you made the trip and I'm glad it was worth it.

As for dealing with trolls…it's generally best to leave them under their bridge. If they climb up, then you deal with them. Milo Yiannopoulos makes his living being provocative and his provocation is having real impact on people.

We actually debated interviewing him, and thankfully our producers talked me off that idiotic ledge. I think they were right because Milo is not what journalists refer to as a newsmaker. He's not writing legislation, he's not lobbying lawmakers, he's not elected, he has no proven track record of tangible impacts on society, and indeed many people still have never heard of him.

This is different from, for example, the show we did on the controversy over transgender people using restrooms. We interviewed a Christian conservative legal activist who had filed a court brief with the U.S. Supreme Court against equal bathroom access for trans people. We got a lot of flack for that from a few folks. But unlike Mr. Yiannopoulos, this other guest was actually a newsmaker. He was materially involved in a specific conflict in a tangible way that could have a real-world impact. I care far less about what people say and far more about what people do. If Milo does something to someone, different story. But then he wouldn't be a troll. The Leslie Jones incident had an impact, but generally, his trolling is more offensive than impactful in a tangible way. Generally, I would avoid debating trolls for the same reason I would avoid wrestling with a pig. You walk away filthy and only the pig has any fun.


Q:

How do you view the media? Do you think you hold a true and unbiased take to the news? Also are you worried about NPR losing all its funding and going away?

A:

I'll answer the last part first: Nope. NPR only gets a small portion of its funding from any government source. The largest piece comes from individuals. It's a very diverse funding model that works very well. The larger concern with regard to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is for NPR member stations, which license the network's programming. I honestly don't know what that risk really is right now, but it is worth nothing that CPB has been a political target for decades and it's still going strong.

As for my take on the news: No one is unbiased, myself included, but I do have a sense of what truth is. I find my perspective on the truth is much sharper if I own and acknowledge my biases first. If you do that, then you can step outside them and view a situation dispassionately.

In terms of how I view the media: Things are changing so much and so fast that "media" is very different than when I was growing up, or ten years ago. I think the news media, specifically, are probably going to be just fine once we re-establish our relationship with our audiences, deal honestly with the concerns and complaints they have, and figure out our funding models, especially commercial media.

The media are run by human beings, which means they're imperfect. But I think they'll turn out okay.


Q:

Will you cover the all important topic facing the average American. What foods go well with A1 sauce?

A:

We can't cover everything—one of the temptations of an hourly talk show is to discuss everything we find interesting. But everything is "interesting" to someone. Our responsibility is to focus on what's essential, what's compelling, what's different and what we can present in an incisive way. Sometimes we back away from topics not because we don't like them, but because we're still figuring out how to approach them in a way that's worth your time. I would rather keep the bar super-high and focus on being compelling than to just worry about what's important or interesting. It's the presentation aspect of radio that makes covering everything tough.

As for A1 sauce…shame on you for thinking that a good steak needs anything but salt and pepper.


Q:

Hello Josh,

I'm really enjoying your show, actually just finished listening to your segment on the future of the auto industry. There you touched on the future of self driving cars, do you have any plans to cover the future of automation and robotics in everyday life more generally?

A:

ABSOLUTELY!

Several people on our team are obsessed with our robot overlords. And honestly, I still consider it an injustice that God did not destine me to be a Star Fleet captain. So this is my way of living vicariously that Benjamin Sisko life I never had.