Want to Talk Politics and Not Start a Fight? Try Call-In Radio

When President Trump announced his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a small business owner from Tennessee named John felt relief. John voted for Trump, in part because he wanted to see an originalist replace Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch’s speech reassured him, and he called the radio show Indivisible to explain why.

In a calm, measured tone, John said he hoped to see Gorsuch and the Supreme Court defend the First and Second amendments. He was followed by Charlie, a Democrat from Atlanta who wondered how Gorsuch might approach a case alleging a conflict of interest by Trump. He, too, was polite. Others joined the conversation, which lasted an hour, each offering their opinion with civility and respect. It was unlike most political conversations these days.

Which is the point.

Indivisible, a call-in radio show airing four nights a week through Trump’s first 100 days, aims to turn the nation’s political cacophony into a conversation by drawing people out of their echo chambers and into a dialog. “I hope people are saying, ‘I’m a liberal, but that actually made sense to me,’” says host Charlie Sykes. “Maybe they’ve never had a format where they had that exposure before.”

When people listened to each other, there were moments where listeners felt like they had been changed on some level. WNYC president Laura Walker on the station’s election season call-in podcasts

Mention “echo chamber” and “bubble” and people invariably think of Facebook or Fox News. But radio shows and podcasts contributed to the problem, too. WNYC decided to try something different last fall when it invited people of all political leanings to call in for episodes of The United States of Anxiety. “When people listened to each other, there were moments where listeners felt like they had been changed on some level,” says Laura Walker, CEO and president of WNYC. That prompted the station to work with Minnesota Public Radio and The Economist to launch a national call-in show about politics.

Indivisible is recorded live at 8 pm Eastern with a different host each night. Like the audience, the hosts represent a variety of perspectives. Brian Lehrer is pretty liberal, for example, while Sykes labels himself a “contrarian conservative.” The hosts see themselves as sounding boards, not megaphones, trying to help bridge the vast rift between left and right.

The hosts and their guests, which have included filmmaker Michael Moore and columnist George Will, offer a diversity of opinion, which is amplified by the callers. Each night, people in Portland, Oregon are hearing from people in Auburn, Alabama—perhaps for the first time. “If you can create a place where people feel they can bring their own point-of-view and state it in an environment where it will be heard, that’s a huge service,” Walker says.

There’s a benefit to being in an authentic, unscripted conversation together. We’re time-shifted and talking to each other in 140 characters, but this is a live conversation where people are talking—it’s not always perfect, but it’s real. Indivisible executive producer Megan Ryan

The show hopes to soon have callers actually chatting with each other, instead of with hosts. But many callers find even speaking with the host therapeutic. “It’s a very urgent time, politically and emotionally,” says Megan Ryan, who produces the show and takes calls. “We say, ‘I hear you, thank you for calling.’ There’s something powerful about being heard.”

Indivisible is available as a podcast too, but to its creators, the live aspect is as important as the call-in format. “There’s a benefit to being in an authentic, unscripted conversation together,” says Ryan. “We’re time-shifted and talking to each other in 140 characters, but this is a live conversation where people are talking—it’s not always perfect, but it’s real.”

John from Nashville and Charlie from Atlanta didn’t vote for the same candidate. They don’t have the same vision for the country. But if Americans who don’t agree can learn to actually listen to each other, the rift might not be permanent—the nation might be indivisible after all.

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source : https://www.wired.com/2017/02/indivisible-call-in-radio-podcast/

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