What I learned from doing a call-in radio show during the pandemic

Fighting misinformation and disinformation is full-time job

Sree’s newsletter is produced w/ Zach Peterson (@zachprague). A meme about today’s misinformation problem AND featuring a dog? I just have to share.

Scroll down for Read Something; Watch Something; and a weekly tech tip from Robert S. Anthony (@newyorkbob).

Recent #NYTReadalong episodes: Writer Jonathan Boorstein helped us mark the end of Pride Month and we paid tribute to the late Rich Meislin, a pioneering web journalist; and author & former NYT weddings writer Cate DotyNYTReadalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email sree@digimentors.group and neil@digimentors.group.

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One of my pandemic projects has voluntarily come to an end after 15 months, 55 episodes and 165 guests. “Coping with Covid19: A Helpful, Hopeful Call-in Show” ran on WBAI 99.5 FM, a progressive radio station in NYC, from March 2020 to June 2021. Here’s the final episode, featuring my very first guest, Robert Anthony (@newyorkbob) and return guest Mary C. Curtis (@mcurtisnc3).

Some thoughts on what I learned doing the show:

We talked to New Yorkers and listeners around the world during the depths of our darkest days, relying on experts, science and hope. There’s so much misinformation and disinformation out there on social and traditional media that fighting misconception and incorrect medical advice became a major goal of the show.

Talking to New Yorkers during a crisis is always interesting, but having an open call-in line was its own adventure. We had folks who had great questions and needed serious help. We also had some folks who seemed to specialize in hate-listening, and one gent (Russell from White Plains) who called in 50 out of 55 episodes just to argue with me and my guests.

We heard live how lies by anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, Fox hosts, the former president, poison the American mind. Even as NYC and America open up, there's still work to be done - so many Americans refusing to get the vaccine and so many billions around the world awaiting for the vaccine. There’s also so much work to get people back on their feet, to fix America's infrastructure, to prep for the next crisis.

We called the call-in show "helpful & hopeful" even though things were so bad when we launched in March 2020 because I knew that by pulling together, New Yorkers could get past it. What I didn't know was the toll would be 600,000 dead in the US and politicizing of everything.

A show about health turned into a show about four national crises - health, economy, race and the election. And while we had specialist guests, some of our speakers were able to illuminate the intersectionality of the four crises. Unforgettable episodes with Prof. Kimberle Crenshaw (who coined the term “intersectionality” three decades ago) and Sapphire (whose novel “Push” became the Oscar-winning “Precious”) showed us how to think smartly about all four.

A big thank you to WBAI Program Director Linda Perry Barr (@lindaperrybarr) for asking me to do the show and for her support, promotion and ideas. A big thank you to engineers Shawn, Giovanni & Kathryn for making the magic happen in the studio. They went into the studio every week even as hosts like me got to do our work from the comfort of our homes. A big thank you to Lisa Herndon (@thestandouters) for live-tweeting every episode.

And, finally, a big thank you to my teenage son, Krishna Sreenivasan (@KrishnaSreeniv), who was locked down w/his parents & twin sister for the pandemic. He volunteered to produce the show with me and ended up booking all the guests, doing the scripting, music selection and more. Because of the way his birthday lands on the calendar, he was 16 when we started and 18 when we finished. Working w/ him was a special treat - perhaps the only positive for me during this pandemic.

- Sree

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Read Something

Twitter is setting a good precedent here. The lack of any sort of critical thought having gone into the systems that have driven the social media boom of the last decade-plus has led us…here. This is the first quarter mile of a marathon for sure, but tech companies building real-world applications for AI and machine learning should be hiring teams exactly like this—and putting their ideas to practice. [If you prefer to listen to something: Azeem Azhar interviewed Dr. Rumman Chowdhury, the Director of the aforementioned Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (META) team at Twitter. Listen here or on any major podcast platform.]


Windows 11: Will Your PC Be Ready?

By Robert S. Anthony
Each week, veteran tech journalist Robert S. Anthony shares a tech tip you don’t want to miss. Follow him @newyorkbob.

When Microsoft’s Windows 95 went on sale at midnight on August 24, 1995, there were two lines at computer stores: One for Windows 95 and another to buy extra computer memory and larger hard disks to satisfy the demands of the new PC operating system. Expect some of the same this fall as Windows 11 arrives.

No, you won’t need to wait in line to buy Windows 11—it will be a free online upgrade via Windows Update—but if your computer coughs and wheezes through Windows 10 now, it may not have the pep for Windows 11’s slick, glassy-looking new interface and new features.

The fastest way to check is to look at the Windows 11 specifications page and download and run Microsoft’s Windows 11 compatibility checker on your PC. When run on a 2018-vintage Microsoft Surface Pro 6 computer with an Intel Core i5 main processor, the utility gave the green light for Windows 11.

New features like Windows 11’s support for Auto HDR (high dynamic range) graphics improve the contrast and colors in game software but requires a compatible graphics chip and screen in your PC. A Direct Storage feature lets games load textures directly to the graphics chip, thus relieving the main processor of extra work and speeding up the game, but here again the graphics chip will need to be compatible with the process.

A key new Windows 11 feature is access to Android apps, not through the Google Play store, but via Amazon’s smaller Android app store. Intel’s Bridge technology, which allows Android apps to run on PC processors, will provide the under-the-hood magic.

As Window 11 adds features, others are dropped. For example, the Cortana voice assistant icon won’t appear on the task bar at the bottom of the screen by default—but it can be added later.  

The Windows 10 “live tiles” that show photo thumbnails and e-mail snippets will disappear in favor of smartphone-like widgets. Skype won’t be installed by Windows 11 but can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store. A full list of “deprecations and removals” is on the Windows 11 specifications page.

In short, be prepared to add hard disk storage, upgrade memory or invest in a new graphics card where possible as Windows 11 arrives later this year. Otherwise, fear not: Your favorite electronics vendor will be happy to sell you one of an upcoming wave of “Windows 11-ready” PCs by then.

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A Thread To Follow

For some summer beach reaching, I am going to tackle “The Cruelty Is The Point: The Past, Present and Future of Trump’s America” by Adam Serwer (@adamserwer), whose piece in The Atlantic in 2018 was the most important essay of the Trump era. I’ll be sharing my thoughts and analysis over the next couple of weeks, so please follow along on this Twitter thread (you don’t need a Twitter account to do so).


Watch Something

Last week I had Christina Hillsberg (@christinahillsb), a former CIA spy turned stay-at-home mom of five, on my show for a discussion about parenting during the pandemic. Parents have seen it all over the last 18 months, and Christina offered up some terrific advice on how to make it through the pandemic and raise kids that are ready for the world around them. Her book, "License to Parent: How My Career as a Spy Helped Me Raise Resourceful, Self-Sufficient Kids" is out now.


Worthy Thread

Bookmark this thread for when you see businesses folding up their rainbow flags for the year, and then again for when they roll them back out in 11 months.


Odds & Ends

🗞  Recent #NYTReadalong episodes: Writer Jonathan Boorstein helped us mark the end of Pride Month and we paid tribute to the late Rich Meislin, a pioneering web journalist; and author & former NYT weddings writer Cate DotyNYTReadalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email sree@digimentors.group and neil@digimentors.group.

The Readalong is followed, on Sundays at 11 am-noon ET, by a medical show I’m co-executive producing with surgeons Sujana Chandrasekhar, M.D. (@DrSujanaENT), and Marina Kurian, M.D. (@MarinaKurian), called She’s On Call (watch live or later).

After 250 episodes in 250 days, my global show has moved from daily episodes to 1-2 times a week. The best way to know when I’m on the air and see all my archived shows, is to subscribe to my YouTube channel or my Whatsapp alerts.

The Sunday #NYTReadalong is sponsored by Muck Rack. Interested in sponsorship opportunities? Email sree@digimentors.group and neil@digimentors.group.

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