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Meghna Chakrabarti Introduces The New 'On Point'

Meghna Chakrabarti, host of the new 'On Point'
Meghna Chakrabarti, host of the new 'On Point'

Starting today, On Point from WBUR is making some big changes. On Point is a big part of our morning news schedule here on WYSO, and we wanted to learn some more about what listeners have to expect. So, host Meghna Chakrabarti took some time out of the show’s busy schedule to talk about what’s to come with WYSO’s News Director, Jason Saul.

Jason Saul: I think most people in media are usually looking for more time, right? More airings, more time in front of people. How did you end up approaching this in a more focused kind of way? How did how did you get there?

Meghna Chakrabarti: Yeah, that's actually an excellent question, Jason. And, you know, you're the first person to ask me that in that framing. So, as a two-hour show with the staff that we had, and given what the world is like right now, that there's such a swirl of ever changing deeply important issues and events, I'll be frank, we found it hard to keep up. We found it challenging to keep up in a way that we could deliver the best, really the best quality journalism in the form of a talk show over two hours every day. We had to take a step back and think, okay, given two limited resources: one, the incredible human effort of our producers; and two, time in the day; what could we do where we could maximize those two resources and deliver more? So, not more in terms of minutes, but more in terms of quality. And it seemed to us that when we thought about what the service that we're trying to provide to listeners is, when we thought about it that way, it just made immediate sense to focus our efforts in one hour. And overall, we're hoping that it'll be a journey. That by the end of that journey, people come away thinking, okay, this issue today, this question that was asked and the answers that I got helped me make a little bit more sense of the world around me.

Jason Saul: One of the biggest changes that you've made is to take the live listener out of On Point — you've stopped taking listener calls. Now, I know some people love call-in shows, right? There's a sense of interaction and community among the people that call in. But other people hate call-in shows. Callers can be very, you know, unfocused during their time on the air. What made you want to take the callers out?

Meghna Chakrabarti: So this is a bittersweet decision, but I think ultimately it's the right one. In fact, I know it's the right one. Because there's a couple of things that made us take the live callers out. And I make that distinction, because we are going to strive to still include listener voices and listener engagement. But the reasons why we did it, one is a very practical one in that there's a lot of this country, you know. Mostly slightly west of where you are. The stations just were like, we can't carry you live. It's the wrong time of day for us. So I grew up on the West Coast and I felt very powerfully that if we're going to have a national conversation, we need to be able to reach the whole nation. And second of all, we felt that people who call in to a radio show, they're engaged. They want to be heard. They have something to say, whether or not it's rambling, you know, who knows. But it's kind of actually a subset of a subset of a subset of a subset of what America is. And we thought, you know what, we need to work towards this, but maybe we can find a better way to actually hear from people, but maybe not the people who would be most likely to call in.

Jason Saul: I think a lot of us in journalism have been having these existential moments a lot these past few years, and America's entered this this age of complex disasters. like, it's not just one thing anymore. It's not just a hurricane or an ice storm. It's also the pandemic. What do you think is journalism's role in what we're seeing today? What's important about what we do, when we hopefully do it right?

Meghna Chakrabarti: I couldn't have said it better myself, actually, Jason. We are living in a moment of almost explosive complexity, and that is why every single day in this version of On Point, we really feel like our role is to try to take a piece of that complexity and help people make sense of it. And a lot of times that's just going to mean stepping back directly from the politics of the day and trying to go to go a lot deeper. And, like my fantasy is if we if we help people make sense of different pieces, little pieces every day, that pretty soon a bigger picture emerges and maybe we all feel a little bit more educated about what's driving the complexity of this moment. And can navigate as individuals, as families and as communities through those moments better.

Jason Saul: Well, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate the time that you took to spend with me.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Well, thank you. And I also want to thank all your listeners for listening to On Point and sticking with us, because the really good stuff is yet to come.