Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Pitch . . .

 I have been struck with an idea for a new podcast.  Here's the pitch: it's Firing Line meets MSNBC's  Morning Joe with a dash of This Week in Tech in a podcast format.  The idea of this new panel discussion show would be to cover whatever convulsive disagreement has recently coursed throughout the cyber halls of skepdom.

If Buckley and Hef can talk, why can't we all?
I am not envisioning a Bill Mahr/Bill O'Reilly style show which unfortunately is echoed too much in the emotion filled rhetoric that is flung during times of intra-skeptical disagreement such as the recent news that Skepchick officially will not being involved with TAM.  My idea is about a month or so after the initial wave of disagreement calms down that a panel of four or so thoughtful skeptics, without any direct stake or allegiance in the disagreement de jour, would thoughtfully discuss the hot topic.  The guests would have to be carefully picked for their ability not to flip out, and all would agree to a basic set of civility rules.  

The podcast would not be weekly or even monthly.  In a perfect world it almost never would be produced, but only when the poo hits the fan would this 'Shield' type podcast spring into action to be a controlled civil arena of discussion.  I am not going to be so bold to posit this would solve anything, but sometimes just hearing people disagreeing in a reasonable tone of voice is enough to help people remember that those with whom you disagree are not terrible.  

Do I know who might be willing or able to pull off such a podcast? Sadly, no.  Do I think this is basically a pipe dream? Yeah, probably.  However, I do think there are times in the 'club' of skepticism such a dialogue would be helpful.  For many who are better listeners than readers (like me) it may serve a vital service help facilitate learning about what others think about the current skeptical disagreement without having to read page after page of comments and blogs.  

However, if you think are a brave enough sort, Parrot at his Dumbass Media Empire is looking to help new podcasters along.  He might be a good resource to reach out for help.  Then again he (or anyone else) might wish to stay away from such an effort with a 10 foot (3.048meter) pole.  


  1. I kind of already did that, with two episodes?
    and I followed it up (and in fact preceded it, with a panel at D*C) with eps about women and feminism, skepticism and contributions to the field.

    The podcast Rationally Speaking did one on Women in Skepticism too, by Massimo and Julia.

    I have also contacted some people to discuss a 'sticky' topic or two, with some people declining and (what appeared to be in one case) finding themselves too busy to talk to me.

    I try as best as I can to do a mixture of 'just hot now!' episodes, sometimes with a turn-around of half a day before publishing, to older issues or things that just interest me and may not be strictly about skepticism.

    The result? I don't get as many listeners for the hot-topics as I would (say) an audio essay on sports superstitions.

    I honestly don't think people are that bothered. People want to get a mix of personalities, entertainment, information and a congenial atmosphere. We already have that in podcasts.

  2. I know the two TS episodes. I enjoyed them both.

    It's not that the general topic of women and skepticism has not been covered at all. It has, and not too shabbily either. However, I do think there is value in a having a timely, reasoned discussion on the particular issue of the moment. Each situation has its own nuances and feel about it. Also, not all problems are related to women and skepticism. When Dr. Plait gave his "Don't be a Dick Speech" there was a lot of chatter across the blogs, forums, and comments sections, which at times became quite heated.

    If such a podcast does not get a lot of downloads, I can live with it. A lot of people (thankfully) do not give it too much attention to the crisis of the moement. However, a substantial portion of the interested skeptical public I think do. (I won't hazard a guess on percentages.)

    I agree getting the right type of person to agree to do such a podcast would be quite a challenge. As I noted this is more a dream than something I think is likely to occur. I do think it did happen it would be useful.

  3. If it was a bunch of people talking about 'topic du-jour', then sure, it's a feasible idea (and why not?). It might come across as rather clique-y and insider-y though.

    But if it was a show that readily and easily contacted stakeholders in what you've called 'crisis of the moment' - what could that mean?

    Brian Dunning being accused of wire fraud:

    James Randi on the Jose Alvarez legal issues:

    George Hrab on being sued for $50,000 for libel by Nancy Clark, which he has since podcasted about, written songs about, etc.:

    And I'm sure there's any other number of clashes and court-cases and issues and so on...just how comfortable would they be to talk about it?

    Perhaps it's better to just focus on skepticism. Which, after all my experiences, I've become happier and far more successful, in doing that.

  4. I would first like to reiterate that I would not expect, or maybe even desire, a stakeholder to appear on the podcast.

    Any of the topics you listed could might well be the topic for an episode especially when the issue turns into a topic of heated and passionate debate within the skeptical community. While it is a fine line, my idea is to have a robust and civil discussion of a divisive topic that is causing disagreement with the community. The idea is not to supersede doing front line skepticism, and I would hope to avoid it being tabloid-ish too.

    From my personal perspective the premise of the SkepReview blog is to not be an outreach platform, but to generally be an inside baseball discussion between skeptics for skeptics active within the communtiy.* (There are many others who perform outreach and educational functions much better than I equipped to perform. I salute them.) Therefore, I do not see an issue of having a podcast targeted to those within “the club.” For me, it is a natural extension or parallel media device to the target audience of this blog.

    I doubt my idea will ever take root. I doubt few have the right stuff to tackle the issue of the time with it's likely blowback. I know I do not. I do think in times of internal distress it would be a useful exercise. If it is ever produced and someone thinks it's a stupid idea, then one can choose not to listen. I am fine with that.

    *Yes. I know. There is a disagreement whether skepticism is a community or movement. That is a topic for another day.

  5. ...I speak (type?) too soon!

    1. I listened to the episode of Ask an Atheist. It was in spirit of my idea for the most part. Having Zvan on the episode was somewhat counter productive. I think it personalized the discussion a bit more than I think was necessary. But thanks for the recommendation, it is appreciated.


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