1. Our guests should be household names.
Frank Mugisha is the leading gay rights activist in Uganda. Sister Simone Campbell is a powerhouse lobbyist nun. Jose Antonio Vargas won his Pulitzer Prize at age 26, four years before he came out of the closet as undocumented.
Ai-jen Poo helped launch a nanny uprising. Garlin Gilchrist II is reversing the Detroit diaspora. And Larry Lessig is on a shoot-for-the-moon quest to kick big money out of politics.
They're just a few of the amazing people we've been lucky enough to introduce to our listeners. There are so many more out there. Some are well-known already. All of them should be.
2. We're doing something no one else is doing.
This isn't talk radio, and it isn't NPR. We don't rant, we don't pretend every argument is equally valid, and we don't obsess over horse-race minutia.
For us, politics isn't a game. But it is insanely fun. Battles for justice are the greatest stories on earth. They're like "The Princess Bride": full of, as the grandfather put it, "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles!"
On "The Good Fight," we interview genuine heroes winning fights that matter. Then we take those interviews, edit like crazy, stir in original music, narration, and archival audio — and craft spellbinding real-life David vs Goliath radio stories, told from the behind-the-slingshot point of view. And then we ask our listeners to get involved.
3. A golden age of podcasts is dawning. A huge new audience awaits.
Every week, nine out of ten Americans listen to the radio. That's no surprise: radio is uniquely intimate. We've all had "driveway moments" — when you're sitting in your car, right outside your house, unable to move until the story on the radio is done.
Now it's moving online. Suddenly, America is discovering that podcasts — radio shows on the Internet — can be just as powerful. Thanks to the mega-hit podcast "Serial," iPhones, and connected cars, millions of people are tuning in to podcasts for the first time.
The question now is whether podcasts can become, for progressives, the answer to what conservatives did with talk radio in the last century.
This is the moment I've been dreaming of. The moment I've been preparing for.
4. People love "The Good Fight."
Here's what they're saying:
- "Refreshingly anti-cynical ... expertly produced and presented ... a welcome reminder that news doesn't always have to be bad." — The Telegraph1
- "Beautiful, wrenching, and amazing" — Prof. Lawrence Lessig2
- "At first, I was skeptical — it reminded me of the hundreds of activist emails piled up in my inbox. But this show, I quickly found, is no guilt trip. It's funny and stimulating ... It's great." — The Guardian3
- "Best of 2013" — Apple
- "★★★★★" — 437 reviewers on iTunes
- "Exciting! How do you get it to play?" — My mom
5. You've seen our mind-blowing Kickstarter video.
Wait, you haven't seen it yet? Go watch it. Note: The first ending is fake. Stick around for the part with Al Franken.
6. Seriously, though: this means the world to me.
Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated by the place where politics and media collide. My first job out of college was producing Al Franken's show on Air America Radio. Five years ago, I made up my mind to try and launch a show — but it wasn't until a friend signed on to help, a programmer and activist named Aaron Swartz, that I summoned up the courage to actually give it a shot.
On a wintry January day three years ago, with me on the mic and Aaron running the mixing board — all in my bedroom closet — we produced our first podcast.
And from that first moment, I loved it.
But it was more a dream than a job. We both had a lot going on. My son, Mac, had just been born. Aaron was leading the fight against SOPA, and wrestling with an unjust prosecution. The show's only sponsor was the bagel store on 7th Avenue — and it paid us in cream cheese.
A year later, to my delight, MoveOn.org agreed to help me get the show off the ground. But by that point, Aaron was consumed by the court case. On the day I started working on the show full-time, he took his own life.
Today, for me, the show is a way that I can honor his memory. The fundamental vision that has always driven it forward, the one that inspired him to join — the idea that the most important fights are also the most fascinating stories, and that by telling them, we can build the empathy and hope and love that are foundational to social change — that vision has never wavered.
7. The stories we tell, the heroes we lift up, define who we become.
We have a choice to make. We can exalt wealth and status and fame — or we can measure our lives by the difference we make in the lives of others.
Researchers have shown that hearing stories about others' moral decisions affects the choices we make for ourselves. Hearing stories of heroes draws out the best in each of us. I know that a single podcast can't shift the moral center of our culture. But it's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.
"The Good Fight" is my candle.
1. "The best podcasts for news, politics and current affairs," The Telegraph, July 7, 2014
2. "The Good Fight: Ben Wikler's podcast about Aaron Swartz, me and the #MaydayPAC," Lessig Blog, v2, June 24, 2014
3. "Listen to this: Ben Wikler and Aaron Swartz's The Good Fight," The Guardian, July 11, 2014
Lawrence Lessig is a professor at Harvard Law School and the founder of MAYDAY Super PAC, which fights to get big money out of politics.
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