Newsfail: An Interview with Alison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein

Devon Douglas-Bowers

Below is the transcript of a recent interview I had with podcast hosts Alison Kilkenny and Jamie Kilstein of Citizen Radio about their upcoming book #Newsfail.

Tell us about Citizen Radio.

Citizen Radio is an independent news/comedy podcast we host (wearecitizenradio.com) that is 100% supported by our listeners. The show is free for everyone, but all our financial backing comes from our listeners. We discuss under-and-unreported stories in an accessible, funny way that appeals to people who are tired of the pro-war soundbite culture of establishment media.

What is Newsfail about and why did you feel the need to write it?

#NEWSFAIL highlights some of the establishment media’s worst fuck ups in recent memory and also makes an argument for the importance of independent media. We also tell the story of us (Jamie and Allison) meeting and how we built Citizen Radio, transforming the show from a crappy podcast where we conducted an interview with Ralph Nader from our bathtub to a source for news/comedy downloaded millions of times by listeners from all over the world.

What do you think is unique about the book?

We try to be funny, accessible, and vulnerable. Comedy is an important vehicle for news because oftentimes we’re talking about really heavy subjects and it’s important to laugh sometimes to keep one’s sanity. Oftentimes, on mainstream news panels, pundits are afraid to express doubt or change their mind because then they’re no longer considered “experts,” but we like to think we’re all in the process of learning and growing, so #NEWSFAIL comes less from a place of judge condescension and more a place of love and understanding (plus some filthy language and inappropriate jokes 🙂

In the book you regularly criticize the mainstream media, what do you think are the main problem with the MSM and how can independent media remedy those problems?

The establishment media lacks diversity when it comes to gender and race, but also viewpoints. Voices of peace are woefully underrepresented in the media, which gives the false impression all Americans are war hungry sociopaths.

Generally with regards to politics, people think that it should be taken in a serious manner, especially with regards to foreign policy and other issues, but it is also in a liberal-conservative binary. How do you think that Newsfail challenges that notion? Do you think that the book successfully shows that humor can be used to promote progressive politics?

We hope so! We really didn’t want this book to be a Fox News-bashing manifesto because, okay, most liberals get Fox is really bad, but the other networks aren’t much better when it comes to that pro-war agenda. We want our readers and listeners to think critically about all media — not just when it comes to places like Fox News.

Regarding the usage of language, the both of you use a rather large amount of swearing, something that is also deemed negative in the mainstream sphere. What are your thoughts on the use of ‘foul’ language and can it be used to connect with people?

We don’t find foul language offensive. What we find offensive is bombing civilians, lying to Americans about weapons of mass destruction, and cutting funding to schools and social safety net programs. A little swearing can be therapeutic 🙂

At the end of the day, what do you want people to get out of the book?

We want the book to be a sort of manual for progressives, but also a call to challenge them a little bit. If you consider yourself a good liberal, read this book and maybe challenge yourself to go a little more left. Ideally, we’d like the book to be an extension of Citizen Radio, so progressives will meet each other through their shared experience of reading the book and build a sense of community.

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