Hyphen | Radiolab | Minnesota Public Radio | Current.org
A cohost of the public-radio show Radiolab says he “pushed too hard” in an interview, but the station that produces the show has pushed back against accusations that a segment it released as a podcast was unfair.
Kao Kalia Yang wrote a long piece, published Monday, about her treatment by Radiolab and its producers. Cohost Robert Krulwich interviewed Yang’s uncle, Eng Yang, a Hmong man who survived attacks by the Viet Cong that many people believe involved chemical weapons. She translated for her uncle during the interview.
Krulwich “told me that I would need a court order” when she asked for a copy of the unedited interview, she writes, saying also that Radiolab spurned her offer of materials that supported her uncle’s position. Radiolab released the report as a podcast Sept. 24 and edited the podcast twice, she writes, first to add more context, the show said, then to add an apology by Krulwich.
Krulwich also published a blog post Sept. 30 apologizing for the tone he took in the interview “I pushed too hard,” he wrote.
I didn’t understand how I was coming across. I now can hear that my tone was oddly angry. That’s not acceptable — especially when talking to a man who has suffered through a nightmare in Southeast Asia that was beyond horrific.
The interview is very uncomfortable to listen to. You can hear it go south at 18:28, when Kalia Yang stops translating; she starts expressing her unhappiness with the interview at about 19:35, and then ends the interview at about the 20-minute point. During the interview, Krulwich pushed Yang to defend statements that the yellow substance that fell on Hmong people was a chemical weapon; some scientists believe it was in fact solid waste from bees.
Dean Cappello, the chief content officer of Radiolab home WYNC, answered some of Yang’s charges in a communication to Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins, sharing the questions Radiolab sent Eng Yang and Kalia Yang in advance, and saying that a Radiolab producer had decided the materials Kalia Yang was offering weren’t compelling.
Cohost Jad Abumrad told Current’s Andrew Lapin, “I don’t feel like an outcry of emotion should necessarily divert a line of questioning which is valid.” Poynter’s Kelly McBride spoke at a conference at which Abumrad also spoke and told Lapin that, as he puts it, “the lack of diversity on Radiolab’s staff may have played a role in its perceived insensitivity toward the Hmong people.”
“Ethically, [Radiolab] didn’t deceive anybody. They didn’t get anything horribly wrong and cause damage by getting it wrong. They just framed their story in a way that discounted somebody else’s story, and that was hurtful,” she said.
The “Yellow Rain” story has not yet been broadcast; Lapin reports it will air sometime in 2013.