Depressingly relentless waves of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to wreak havoc around the world in 2021, which made it difficult and often impossible to regularly do the kind of on-the-ground reporting that we pride ourselves on here at TRNN. But the news didn’t stop, and neither did we. Even if we couldn’t cover them in person, our expansion of audio reporting at TRNN allowed us to intimately cover this year’s most important stories and to bring you the voices of people on the front lines of the fight for a better world. In this special year-in-review episode of The Real News Network podcast, Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez and TRNN’s resident radio legend Marc Steiner discuss the importance of audio reporting and the projects we’re working on for 2022. They also recount some of the highlights from our coverage this past year on The Marc Steiner Show, Working People, and TRNN’s other podcast offerings, including: the fall of Kabul to the Taliban; the fight for Indigenous land at Fairy Creek; Jewish activists around the world speaking out against the Israeli occupation; strikes at Kellogg’s, Warrior Met Coal, Frito-Lay, and more; and the introduction of our new TRNN podcast Art for the End Times.
Pre-Production/Studio: Dwayne Gladden
Post-Production: Stephen Frank
Maximillian Alvarez: Welcome everyone, to The Real News Network Podcast. My name is Maximillian Alvarez. I’m the Editor-in-Chief here at The Real News.
Marc Steiner: And I’m Marc Steiner, host of The Marc Steiner Show, and good to have y’all with us.
Maximillian Alvarez: So it has been a wild and incredible year here at The Real News Network and just in the world in general.
Marc Steiner: Amen to that.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. We hope that this podcast recording finds all of you safe and happy and healthy. And as we wrap up an intense year of covering this unfolding world here at The Real News over the past year, we wanted to check in with our amazing Real News podcast listeners and get me on with our amazing host of The Marc Steiner Show, Marc Steiner, to reflect on a particular part of what we do here at The Real News, which is podcasts.
Obviously, The Real News has, in many ways, made its name through video reporting – Which, we still do great video reporting every week with shows like The Police Accountability Report and Rattling the Bars – But this year we’ve really focused on building up our podcast presence and we hope that y’all have enjoyed the content that we’ve been bringing y’all. First and foremost through our premier podcast, The Marc Steiner Show, but also through my show, Working People. And now we are incredibly excited to have Art for the End Times hosted by the amazing Lyta Gold.
Marc Steiner: Yes.
Maximillian Alvarez: As part of our Real News Network podcast offering. So there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening over here on the podcast feed. And so we wanted to talk to y’all and have me and Marc reflect on the year of content that we produced, the important stories that we’ve covered, the kinds of stories that we’re excited to cover in the coming year.
And as always, as Marc reminds his listeners at the end of every show, we very much want to hear your feedback. We love hearing from y’all. We love knowing the kinds of stories that you really appreciated, the kinds of guests that you want us to have on and topics that you want us to cover. So anyway, we figured this would be a nice podcast episode for y’all as you’re heading into the holidays. And Marc, I wanted to get you on this recording here, as a living audio legend both in podcast form, radio form, Peabody Award winner. You’ve been around the block, right?
Marc Steiner: A little bit.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. And I mean, it’s just been so incredible to hear the ways that The Steiner Show has grown over the year, the work that you and Stephen Frank have done has been incredible. And I guess I wanted to maybe start by getting some of your thoughts on reflecting on a year of The Steiner Show produced as a premier podcast. And if there were any particular episodes that you and Stephen did that particularly stand out to you as something that you’re proud of, or that give listeners a real sense of the soul of The Steiner Show and what you think audio can do here at The Real News.
Marc Steiner: Yeah. The Halloween one we did, not that… [laughs] Which was a lot of fun. I guess, I mean, it’s funny, when I looked at the shows of the past year, I picked out one that we’d actually did in 2020 instead of 2021, which was the one I did with Eddie Conway and Paul Coates, our host, Eddie Conway, and two men who I go back with a long time, should I say the amount of time? Yes. Why not? Two [hosts] I go back with almost 50 years, before Eddie went to prison and when Paul Coates was head of the Panther Party in Baltimore, and have been through so much with those two men. And to be able to take their book and to have a conversation about their lives in the past, how they’re different, how they’re the same, was amazing to me. And that was just a true joy.
But this year, there’s a bunch. I mean, it’s interesting because in the coming year, we really are going to focus on a couple of real strong areas for us here at Real News at The Steiner Show. And I looked back and saw how many programs we actually did that fit into those categories. I wasn’t even aware of how much we did.
Maximillian Alvarez: [laughs] Yeah. You look back and you’re like, oh no wonder I’m so goddamn tired.
Marc Steiner: [laughs] Let me get a rest. Now! Give me that drink. So one is a series we’ve been doing lots of people like Luke Savage, Bill Fletcher, Liz Theoharis, Rick Perlstein. Stories around the rise of the right wing in America and the danger that poses to the future of our society and to the planet. And how it’s happening internationally and not just, oh, woe is me, but what the hell can we do about it? How do you stop it? How do you organize it? How do we prepare for it and confront it and change it?
And so, all those conversations I just mentioned meant a lot to me. And we want to continue that coming up in the past and really hit it hard. I’ve been working with the poor people’s campaign, Liz Theoharis and Reverend Barber, talking about doing a series with them on people who are struggling around the country in multiracial working-class communities.
So that was one set. And then the other piece that really grabbed me was all the ones we did in Not in Our Name, which is a series of hearing Jewish activist from across the globe, the United States, in Canada, Europe, Israel, from the other continent, in Africa, from Latin America, all over, talking about saying no. The oppression of Palestinians has to end and not be done in our name. And some people haven’t liked all I’ve done because I have included anti-Zionists, non-Zionists, and Zionists. Why? Because I want to see you united front built to say, we’re going to stop this.
And then we can battle the rest later, let’s stop this oppression. So those things have meant a lot to me, in the last year kind of getting those up and trying to… And they’ve gotten some good response. And the stuff we’ve done on Native American struggles as well, and Indigenous struggles here and in Canada, which is something that I’ve always been involved with and is near to my heart.
So yeah, there’s been a lot. And it’s been a great experience working with somebody like Stephen Frank, who I call him this… He’s an audio artist and a sound designer. He’s a sound designing artist. He’s amazing. And to work with him, he makes even me sound good. So it’s just been a joy to have that work with him and also the great camaraderie here at Real News. You, working with you, Max, working with Dwayne. I mean it’s a great, solid, hardworking crew and I like it a lot. And so do you all, that’s why you listen to us.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah. We, I mean, we hope that it comes through for you folks listening, because I am genuinely so proud of all the work that we do for that very reason. Like you said Marc, obviously we are all committed to the work that we do. We are committed to lifting up the voices and struggles and stories that so often go ignored by mainstream media. But also bringing coverage that really, I think, honors the humanity of people, right? That really tries to see deep into that core of the stuff that binds us together and reminds us of what we should be fighting for.
And why we have to fight, why we can’t give up. Whether we’re talking about labor struggles here in the United States or the struggle against apartheid violence in Palestine. Or, as you mentioned, the crucial struggles in places like Fairy Creek in Canada where Indigenous people are fighting for their land against the relentless, colonialist onslaught of this or that extractive industry.
This stuff is really important. That’s why we have all committed ourselves to covering it for y’all. But I think that for me, what you just described, Marc, about our team is probably the thing that I’m most proud of and that I’m always thinking about whenever I listen to an episode of The Steiner Show or I watch one of our video reports or read one of our text reports, is I just see all the love and passion and camaraderie that our great team here at The Real News pours into all of that. Even if folks who are reading it, listening to it, viewing it, even if you don’t see all that behind the scenes labor, that’s the stuff that makes our work what it is. You mentioned Stephen Frank on the audio side, Dwayne Gladden, our studio manager, Adam Coley, Cameron Granadino on the studio side, on the editorial side, geez, Jocelyn Dombroski, our new managing editor, Kayla Rivara. Just so many incredible people and who really make our work what it is.
And even beyond the studio and editorial side. We have amazing folks like James Daley, our social media manager, who makes sure that our work gets out there.
Marc Steiner: Yep.
Maximillian Alvarez: To people. I mean, there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes I guess is what I’m saying. And for me, the proudest moments are when it feels like we’re all working together and that we imbu, the coverage that we do with that collective spirit and commitment. And you mentioned it jokingly at the top. The Halloween episode that we did together.
Marc Steiner: Right.
Maximillian Alvarez: I actually really, really love that episode.
Marc Steiner: So did I, so did I.
Maximillian Alvarez: Yeah.
Marc Steiner: Yeah. So did I.
Maximillian Alvarez: ’Cause it was also… For a number of reasons. It was fun. I mean, I hope again that listeners enjoyed it. Like Stephen Frank did an amazing job mastering it, but it was something a little new for our listeners. The Real News has a reputation for being very serious and obviously we all take our work extremely seriously, but we’re also a really fun group of brilliant, committed people who have a great dynamic together. And I think that’s something that we should wear proudly. And I thought that it really came through in that Halloween episode that we did, you got to see us let our hair down a bit and joke with each other but also offer, I thought, a really great discussion about vampires and capitalism and pop culture and all that good stuff.
So I’m really looking forward to doing more coverage like that, where folks can still get that Real News analysis, that flavor that we bring to everything that we do. But also that y’all can get more of a sense of who we are as a team and why we’re so committed to this work and to each other. That’s one of the things that, for me, I was really proud of when I was reflecting on all that we had done. Specifically, on the podcast front at The Real News, but also all the work that we do in general. And yeah, man, I mean like The Steiner Show is just, it’s just been incredible. I mean it, all the work that you’ve done, I mean, getting to work with you was one of the reasons that I came to The Real News and left my previous job at The Chronicle of Higher Education. And it’s just been an incredible honor to work with you to build The Steiner Show into what it is now.
And looking back on a year of work that you and Stephen have done, it was really gobsmacking. That you had Daniel Ellsberg on to talk about denuclearization. You and Stephen Frank got Ali Latifi on, twice. He was reporting in Kabul before the Taliban took Kabul and after the Taliban –
Marc Steiner: Right.
Maximillian Alvarez: – Took Kabul you were there talking to him at that moment in history and we published it for people so they could hear what was happening. You mentioned the Not in Our Name series with folks like Rick Perlstein, Dave Zirin, you had them on to talk about Colin Kaepernick, but you also talk to a coal miner and his wife who’ve been on strike since April 1st. You talk to Mary Annette Pember about the horrors that are being unearthed at native boarding schools in North America. It’s just, I think that’s what’s also impressive is just the breadth of subjects and guests, but all of them still fit within that core of what makes The Steiner Show such a special thing.
Marc Steiner: Well, and I think that, one of the things you just talked about when you come with the coal miner and the work you’re doing on your podcast, I think that one of the things that helps set Real News apart, and will continue to set it apart, is hearing the voices of people who are involved in the day-to-day work and life of the struggle to make America a different kind of place.
Like the miners on strike. And hearing those voices and not just the voices of the pontificators, which are important. I mean, we’re all pontificators. But I mean to have people talk about what they’re doing and what their lives are like, what they’re in the midst of, to me is really a very critical piece to try to do. And I think that’s happening here at The Real News, and I think The Real News is exploding in terms of the work it wants to do.
And I think that, before we go on, if you’re enjoying this conversation I’m having here with my new dear friend Max Alvarez, our Editor-in-Chief. And I don’t say that lightly. I mean I’m really happy when he came in to take that job and really has helped right the ship and keep it and make it grow and move faster, which is wonderful. But I think if you support that, we need you, we really need you, because we want to grow and keep growing, only you can make that happen. And so I want to encourage everybody listening to us, go to therealnews.com/join, therealnews.com/join, and show your support for Real News. It can be a monthly donation. It can be a one-time hit. If all you got is $10, $10.
If you’ve got a thousand dollars, a thousand would be great. Whatever you have, whatever you can spend out of a course of the year. And remember that if you do that, this is a nonprofit, it’s tax deductible, and you’re also supporting The Real News and helping this place grow. So please, I want you all to join us at therealnews.com/join. And write to me, by the way, if it’s not too much information. If you want to, firstname.lastname@example.org, I’ll write you right back as I do everybody. And just to say thank you for being part of our large family here and making this work and making part of a change in America and the world. It also, it means a great deal, and that we have this relationship here at Real News, working with Max, by the way, let me tell you he’s amazing. He’s a good guy.
Maximillian Alvarez: Right back at you, brother. And I mean, second, everything that Marc said, we, obviously, this is, as I said at the top, end of year podcast recording for you guys so that we could reflect on the work that we’ve done, talk about what we’re looking forward to doing. But I thought you hit the nail on the head Marc, that I think one of the things that does set us apart and that we’re all very committed to is both covering the necessity for all of us to fight for a better world, but also necessarily and always complimenting that by lifting up the voices of people on the front lines of the battles for a better world itself.
Marc Steiner: Right. Right.
Maximillian Alvarez: So that’s workers going on strike, workers fighting against military coups. I mean, when I was thinking about some of the episodes that I was really proud of on Working People this year, I kind of had a similar experience to you where I was like, oh man, we’re always looking forward. We’re always moving on to the next piece because the news never stops. But looking back I really was like, man, we did a lot of important work. And I had the tremendous honor to get to speak with workers in Myanmar, who were standing up against the military coup earlier this year. I also got to speak with trade unionists in Turkey, who were representing workers who had been fighting for hundreds of days, I think over a thousand days at that point, to get their jobs reinstated.
Marc Steiner: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Maximillian Alvarez: We talked with folks on the ground in Palestine, in Columbia, in Nicaragua. It was, I think, a really incredible feat what we’ve done over the course of this past year, but we are by no means done and we, as Marc said, we really want to build up our capacity to keep doing this. Because obviously it takes time, especially if you’re looking for those voices on the ground as we do here, it’s not particularly easy to do. Like say just at Working People. To find folks to talk to, who are about to go on strike at Kaiser Permanente. I talked to workers on strike at Kellogg’s. I talked to workers on strike at Warrior Met Coal, at Heaven Hill Distillery, at Frito-Lay.
I mean there have been a lot of important worker struggles that we have covered through Working People and beyond. But on top of that we’ve also covered other undercover aspects of the labor movement, like the push for more rank and file democracy in the United Auto Workers union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. But we’ve also, as I think I’m most proud of, we’ve held true to the core of what Working People is all about, which is honoring the humanity of our fellow workers and really giving them space to share their stories about their lives, their jobs, their dreams, their struggles, the ways that they want them to be told. Not just reducing people to sound bites and stuff like that, but really giving them a chance to tell their own story in their own words.
Something that I think is a really common thread between all of the work that we do here at The Real News, and that we… With your support, we will keep bringing y’all both in video form and text form, and definitely in audio form. And so, again, if you guys like the work that we do, we want to hear from you, let us know the kinds of stuff that you want to hear more of. And as always, subscribe on your favorite podcast player, tell your friends about us.
And as Marc said, the single best thing that you can do to support the work that we do and to ensure that we keep having the capacity to do it and to expand what we do, then please head on over to therealnews.com/join. Become a sustainer of our work, because that’s what’s going to allow us to keep bringing you worker interviews. It’s what’s going to keep allowing Marc to be bringing on elected officials, scholars, activists, historians, just all the amazing types of people that he brings on to his show. And of course it will allow us to keep bringing you great shows like Art for the End Times hosted by Lyta Gold.
Marc Steiner: Yes. Yes. Yes.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. So I’m super excited about that show as well. Lyta is a phenomenal…
Marc Steiner: She is.
Maximillian Alvarez: – Podcast presence and just smart as a whip. And we’re so excited to have that show here. So I guess Marc, maybe by way of wrapping us up.
Marc Steiner: Yeah.
Maximillian Alvarez: Did you have, I guess like any sort of… I’m curious, as I said, as someone who’s worked with audio for so long and has done so much incredible work with audio, not just here at The Real News. I was wondering if you had any, final thoughts on what makes audio different. Or what we can do with audio and podcasts like The Steiner Show and Working People that we might not be able to do with other media. I guess why has audio been such an important medium for you, and why should folks out there support our audio work?
Marc Steiner: Well, I mean, I think especially now, it’s very different because I… One of the things of beauty of audio is you can carry it with you. You can drive and listen to it. You can walk and listen to it. You can sit and listen to it. And if it’s done right, like people like Stephen Frank can make happen, it’s a beautiful sound to listen to in your ears, the sound and the music and the conversation that goes on inside of that makes it a medium where you can get information and actually enjoy listening while you’re doing it. And do other stuff!
You can’t watch video and drive, you’ll kill somebody and yourself. So don’t do that. But you can listen to an audio podcast. So do that! And I think that’s part of the beauty of audio. And I think that it’s also your imagination that… And you’re thinking that it really creates and instills. And I’ve always been, I mean, some people joke, I need to be in audio because I have a face made for radio.
[both laugh] But I think it’s really, it is an important medium, cause it can be used in so many places. And I think that, and I want you to support that work because it’s a burgeoning work at Real News, and it is where podcasts are in this country, and we’re going to do our best to make them really work for you. And I have a thought, since we covered labor so much, and I knew we’ve covered the Kellogg strike and how Kellogg is trying to break the back of labor, really trying to break the back of the union. So here’s my suggestion. A, boycott Kellogg, don’t buy any of their bloody products. None of them. Just don’t buy. And there’s a lot of them. And I’ll send you a whole list if you write to me email@example.com, and you can easily find that on the web as well.
So all those things you’re not buying and saving the money on, then, you go to therealnews.com/join and say, no Kellogg. Yes, Real news. And that money you would have spent on Kellogg, you now can go to Real News. That’s my thought. And we’ll keep bringing you the stories of workers who are fighting to make their lives and our lives better. So, let’s do that. And please go to therealnews.com/join, share your support, to hell with Kellogg, and yes to Real News.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. Couldn’t have said it better myself. And of course if you can, also donate to the strike funds, because workers need our support now more than ever. So, yeah. I thought that you hit the nail right on the head my man. So why don’t we call that a recording. From all of us here at The Real News, we are wishing everyone listening to this safe, happy holidays.
Marc Steiner: Yes. Yes.
Maximillian Alvarez: It’s been a long-ass year for all of us, and please get some rest, do the things that renew you, be with the people who love you, and take some time for yourself. And I don’t know, go for a walk. Like it’s just to decompress after this year, because that, we sure as hell are going to do that on this end.
Marc Steiner: Yes we are.
Maximillian Alvarez: But yeah man, Marc, it’s been an honor working with you this past year. As I said, The Steiner Show is incredible and I can’t wait to see all the great work that you do with it in the coming year. And again, if folks want to catch every new episode of The Steiner Show, you can subscribe on your favorite podcast players, subscribe to The Real News Network master podcast feed, where you will not only get new episodes of The Steiner Show, new episodes of Working People and Art for the End Times, but you will also get the podcast versions of our other video offerings like Rattling the Bars, Police Accountability Report, so on and so forth. So we’ve got, I think, a real feast for folks here on The Real News Network feed. And we’re going to keep bringing y’all amazing stuff in the coming year, and we could not do this work without your support.
So for those who have supported us, thank you so much. It means the world to us. If you are considering being a supporter, there’s no better time than the present. So I’ll say it one more time and then we’ll get out of here. But please, head on over to therealnews.com/join, become a sustainer of our work. Subscribe on your favorite podcast player and yeah, keep those headphones hot because we got a lot of great stuff coming in 2022.
Marc Steiner: And have an incredible New Year everybody and we’ll catch you… We will catch you on the other side.
Maximillian Alvarez: Catch you on the other side. For everyone here at The Real News, this is Maximillian Alvarez. Thank y’all so much for listening. Happy holidays, happy new year, goodbye 2021.