It's kind of an accepted practice.
July 16, 2019 6:29 AM   Subscribe

She still wonders why no one ever asked her to come on the show herself. Content from historian Sarah Milov's forthcoming book on the history of The Cigarette was used exclusively as fodder for a segment on public radio's "Here & Now." The segment, America's Complex History with Tobacco, was presented by three men: two historians and the NPR host. Milov's name, nor her book, were ever mentioned.

The omission is even more onerous because the two historians are tenured professors with prestigious curriculum vitarium. This is Milov's first book. She expects to be up for tenure next year at the University of Virginia, where she is an assistant professor.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat (31 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Here & Now would do well to invite her to do a show when the book comes out in October.
posted by Bee'sWing at 6:49 AM on July 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Sigh. Yesterday we had the post about Stephanie Evergreen and women in data visualization, which included this helpful graphic on the expertise feedback loop. It seems just as on point here as it was there.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:52 AM on July 16, 2019 [12 favorites]


Academics often get criticized for "not coming down out of their ivory towers" to share their work with the general public. Here's a historian who would love to do that! I'm sure she'll talk excitedly about her research for hours (jeez almost every academic will happily geek out about their work, just ask them). The producers obviously read and liked her book, but didn't bother to contact her!? Easier to stick with their old guy known quantities who they can train to sound like experts.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 7:11 AM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


The Chronicle of Higher Education did a nice piece on this today. I think it's much more damning of WBUR (the producing station) than of the two historians, both of whom know Milov and frequently have her on their own show. From the article:

Sam Fleming, managing director of news and programming at WBUR, told The Lily that "It’s unfortunate that we didn’t acknowledge the author who was largely responsible for much of the content."

But then Monday afternoon, Here & Now’s host, Hobson, tweeted: "Historians @edward_l_ayers & @ndbconnolly did not cite @allofmilov in the segment, but they should have. I know the BackStory team and I know how sorry they are. I am sorry as well."

Say what? fumed Connolly. He and Ayers didn’t cite Milov because for two years the Here & Now producers have cut and discouraged those citations, so why keep beating their heads against the wall? Of that tweet thread, Connolly said, "I and a number of people are very upset by being thrown under the bus."

Marsha Barber, a professor of journalism at Ryerson University and a former CBC news producer, said that it’s possible Milov was the victim of "a somewhat unthinking intellectual arrogance." But, she said, the ultimate responsibility for making sure ideas are attributed is the journalist’s, not the historian guests.

posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:15 AM on July 16, 2019 [17 favorites]


> But then Monday afternoon, Here & Now’s host, Hobson, tweeted: "Historians @edward_l_ayers & @ndbconnolly did not cite @allofmilov in the segment, but they should have. I know the BackStory team and I know how sorry they are. I am sorry as well."

Say what? fumed Connolly. He and Ayers didn’t cite Milov because for two years the Here & Now producers have cut and discouraged those citations, so why keep beating their heads against the wall? Of that tweet thread, Connolly said, "I and a number of people are very upset by being thrown under the bus."


Oh my gods, all of you people are being dicks. Stop being "sorry sorry sorry" on behalf of other people after the fact because you got called out, and just take some damn responsibility.

As for the historians, why should keep beating your heads against the wall of including proper citations for academic work? Um, because you're an academic? And you would want credit for your own work? Because it's how academia works? Sorry that this is such a bother?
posted by desuetude at 7:39 AM on July 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


As for the historians, why should keep beating your heads against the wall of including proper citations for academic work? Um, because you're an academic? And you would want credit for your own work? Because it's how academia works? Sorry that this is such a bother?

This isn't academia, it's a media interview. It's not a peer reviewed publication. It's not a conference presentation. They're on this show to give snippets of broad insight, which is then to be woven together by the show/journalist/host, who has the responsibility to shine the spotlight on everyone who should get credit.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 7:53 AM on July 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


This isn't academia, it's a media interview. It's not a peer reviewed publication. It's not a conference presentation.

Orders of magnitude more people are going to be exposed to Here & Now than any publication or presentation. It's the responsibility of these senior academics -- who themselves host a long-running radio program and know how things work, let us not forget -- to hold up their juniors to the light whenever they get the chance.
posted by Etrigan at 7:58 AM on July 16, 2019 [31 favorites]


I would agree this sounds like a mess up on the part of the producers of Here&Now than Ayers and Connolly. I listen to Backstory (a fantastic show!) and they ALWAYS cite their sources and give ample talking time to the authors - it's part of the reason why I like it.
posted by cyml at 8:05 AM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


The way you do this as a tenured powerful man is tell them publicly that you won’t go on the show unless a woman is involved. (There are other important issues here but this is how you address sexism that inures to your benefit.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:08 AM on July 16, 2019 [51 favorites]


I mean, economists do similar things all the time---publicly refuse to be on "manels," refuse to participate in things that don't include women. Econ is much worse in terms of gender balance than history, and this should be a baseline thing. It makes even less sense not to do this when you're literally talking about a woman's own work.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:13 AM on July 16, 2019 [8 favorites]


That was incoherent. What I meant to say is that if econ---which has a huge gender imbalance---can figure out how to make sure women are appropriately recognized and included in public speaking opportunities then I feel like historians can surely figure it out.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:17 AM on July 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


This story is particularly disappointing because within the past few years Backstory revamped themselves and went from being three old white dudes to one old white dude, one white woman, and one young black dude. They consistently make an effort to address inequities of representation in their storytelling. That they were (however accidentally) part of this screw-up is not a good look for them.
posted by suelac at 8:24 AM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've gotten really pissed off at the habit of media people calling the SAME FEW HISTORIANS/ACADEMICS to talk about whatever, whether it's their specialty or not. The crunch point was when BBC Newsnight invited David Starkey, an expert in the personal politics of the Tudor Monarchy to come talk about race riots in London in 2011 - with predictably ignorant results. They didn't call Paul Gilroy, author of Black Atlantic and an expert on Black British history and identity; heck, if they had to have an old, white man, they could have called David Underdown, who at least has studied the history of riots and popular politics in Britain. But Starkey had done lots of popular TV series, so he was in the rolodex. (And yes, I can imagine that in 2011, the BBC were still using a rolodex.)

When I first started listening to In Our Time, I was feeling a bit skeptical. When I got to the episode on the enclosures and the early modern agricultural revolution, I thought - if they don't have Mark Overton (best summary book I'd found on the topic), this will be shite. They had Mark Overton, along with some other area experts. I've become an obsessive fan of their science episodes since - and I've noticed that they definitely have their favourite people in paleontology (Jane Francis, Richard Corfield, Steve Jones) that they may be calling at the loss of someone slightly more specific - but I think what they are doing is having academics who are very experienced in that specific radio format and the pairing them with 1-2 subject area specialists who may have less radio experience.

Anyways: the NPR types should just bloody well interview the academics who did the research/wrote the book(s) in the first place, rather than getting some other academics or popular writers to summarize someone else's work. That's who I want to hear from, and that's who's voice and name should be associated with the insights. It's just decent.
posted by jb at 8:28 AM on July 16, 2019 [8 favorites]


Up here in Canada, CBC's Quirks and Quarks always interviews one of the scientists involved in the research, and the results are 90% great. Even when Bob McDonald is awkward or in over his head, the enthusiasm of the scientists for their own work pretty much always rescues him.
posted by clawsoon at 8:38 AM on July 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


Sam Fleming, managing director of news and programming at WBUR, told The Lily that "It’s unfortunate that we didn’t acknowledge the author who was largely responsible for much of the content."

This phrasing is driving me mad, and I can't articulate why, except that it's very close to when men say that they help their wives with housework.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:58 AM on July 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


Unfortunate that this thing we are in charge of went the way it did. Seems like it's just unfortunate that things happen. You know, in this crazy world we live in, who can really say who is in charge of the thing we are in charge of? Who can really say who benefits? Who can say what the causal mechanisms are? Life goes on despite mysterious bad luck happening in unfortunate ways. I think that acknowledging that it has happened and that some people might not like it is extremely magnanimous, by the way, so you're welcome. BTW anything good that happens is something I did and that is why I am qualified to be a manager. But this, this is a mystery.

(That is uncharitable but this is why that phrasing drives me nuts, because it implies a lot of the above.)
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:01 AM on July 16, 2019 [25 favorites]


"It's unfortunate that" makes it sound like it was somehow something that happened around them, rather than something they did. External factors rather than an actual choice they made not to do so. It's a locus of control thing.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:03 AM on July 16, 2019 [8 favorites]


I can never figure out what "Here and Now" is quite trying to be, but I almost never like it, and this kind of "hey, we're just talking about stuff with some, you know, guys" is at least part of it.
posted by allthinky at 9:36 AM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


Orders of magnitude more people are going to be exposed to Here & Now than any publication or presentation.

I think you vastly overstate the influence of public radio.
posted by spitbull at 9:42 AM on July 16, 2019


Seems more like laziness than malice, but the effect is has is the same, I suppose.

I've noticed that the entire podcast ecosystem is intensely incestuous. Even at the professional / radio-broadcast levels -- and Here & Now is basically a grown-up podcast -- where they ought to be able to get better guests, for some reason (and I think it's just ease of getting someone on the show who knows the format) radio shows and podcasters loooooooove interviewing other podcasters. It's a total circlejerk.

Seriously, if you have a podcast, consider not interviewing anyone who also has a podcast. Because when you do, you're just contributing to a closed social graph. And also it's likely to be boring.

The fucking worst are when once-interesting podcasts / radio shows descend into navel-gazing and metanarrative where they're spending more time talking about the show itself, or the process of making the show, than about the show's subject. Granted this is more likely in amateur productions than NPR-grade ones, but I've still seen hints of it. Nobody wants to see the sausage being made, my dudes. Or if we did, we'd listen to a podcast about podcasting, which there are -- I am absolutely certain without even looking -- roughly a thousand of.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:53 AM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that public radio has a wider reach than the ever-decreasing number of sites willing to offer public access to scientific articles. Hell, Elsevier just cut off access to academic articles to one of the biggest college and grad school systems in the entire country.

So yeah, I'm pretty sure a public radio program that reaches just tens of thousands of listeners has far more potential to reach a wider audience than a system that closes out students, candidates, assistants, and professors for entire swathes of the academic world.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:54 AM on July 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


jacquilynne: "It's unfortunate that" makes it sound like it was somehow something that happened around them, rather than something they did.

Passive voice, or, how to identify when someone who did something bad doesn't want to take responsibility.

Total tangent: One thing that always bothered my mother was the cliched prayer phrase, "God bless the hands which prepared this food." Hands? What about the brain? What about the person??
posted by clawsoon at 11:05 AM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Public radio, and journalists don't this all the time. You d hope they d re write the ethics code, not that most journos follow it, anyway.
posted by eustatic at 11:11 AM on July 16, 2019


"It's unfortunate that" makes it sound like it was somehow something that happened around them, rather than something they did.

Passive voice, or, how to identify when someone who did something bad doesn't want to take responsibility.


That isn't passive voice, it's just weaselly. The full quote is It’s unfortunate that we didn’t acknowledge the author who was largely responsible for much of the content. That is active voice ("didn't acknowledge"). The passive-voice version would be something like "It's unfortunate that this episode was written so as not to acknowledge...". There are plenty of ways to obscure fault, but this isn't really one of them.
posted by Etrigan at 11:15 AM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Ah, yes, you are correct, Etrigan. It's unfortunate that my comment was written incorrectly.
posted by clawsoon at 11:58 AM on July 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


He and Ayers didn’t cite Milov because for two years the Here & Now producers have cut and discouraged those citations, so why keep beating their heads against the wall?

That's a bullshit cop-out, trying to shift blame onto WBUR. The solution isn't you go along with their non-attribution and be part of the problem. The solution is you call them out on their BS and explain to them that until they start attributing correctly you'll no longer be a contributor.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:40 PM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


The one thing that bothers me about a bunch of otherwise wonderful Attenborough documentaries is the total absense of attribution. I'm sure it helps the narrative be more compelling to leave the scientists out, but one of the results is that I know a lot about Attenborough and hardly anything about the scientists he got the stories from in the first place.
posted by clawsoon at 2:00 PM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


That’s kind of a dickish tweet by Hobson. Yes, regardless of their assumptions about how the show would be edited, Connolly & Ayers should have cited Dr. Milov. But at least as much blame rests on the producers, who were ultimately responsible for the content. Aside from failing to include Dr. Milov in the first place, they should have at least made sure to give proper attribution somehow, even if all the on-air people neglected to do so.

I’ve had sorta-but-not-exactly-similar experiences in TV documentaries. While working on a doc about US student loan debt a couple years ago I read a lot of research by Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, including her book Paying the Price, from which we took a few ideas about how to approach the topic. She was very generous with her time when we spoke on the phone, but we weren’t able to arrange a filmed interview since she was busy with a book tour at the time. This wasn’t a situation where she was a primary source for the project, but I definitely wanted to credit her somehow.

Some other researchers and experts we filmed interviews with did cite Goldrick-Rab’s work (shoutout to Rohit Chopra, Maggie Thompson, Persis Yu, Amy Laitinen, and Mark Huelsman!). We also scripted and recorded a mention of her in our correspondent’s VO narration. Eventually, we cut every instance of her name in the edit - some by me, some at the request of the execs. In the flow of the piece it just never worked to bring her up, especially since we didn’t really dwell on the details of her research and we were never hearing from her directly. At least we could include her name in the credits that flashed on screen for two seconds at the end.
posted by theory at 3:20 PM on July 16, 2019


> As for the historians, why should keep beating your heads against the wall of including proper citations for academic work? Um, because you're an academic? And you would want credit for your own work? Because it's how academia works? Sorry that this is such a bother?

This isn't academia, it's a media interview. It's not a peer reviewed publication. It's not a conference presentation. They're on this show to give snippets of broad insight, which is then to be woven together by the show/journalist/host, who has the responsibility to shine the spotlight on everyone who should get credit.


Did you misread my comment? I didn't confuse the media with academia. I said that the interviewed historians are academics. As members of a profession (academia) in which one's career lives or dies by attribution, they should be treating other academics as they want to be treated. And they should insist.
posted by desuetude at 9:34 PM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]




Oh gods, it's fantastic that Backstory's researcher spoke up, and I really really hope she doesn't get fired.
posted by desuetude at 9:35 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


« Older Tōhokudaigaku burūgurasu dōkō-kai   |   Sufjan Stevens and the Curious Case of the Missing... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments