NHPR is making some changes to our weekend program line-up, and among them is a national live call-in show, “Notes From America with Kai Wright” from WNYC Studios. The show will air Sunday evenings at 6 p.m., and NHPR listeners will have the opportunity to dial in and share their thoughts.
NHPR’s Julia Furukawa spoke with Kai Wright, host and managing editor of the show, about what to expect and what he hopes the show will offer listeners. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
Julia Furukawa: Kai, your team describes this show, “Notes From America,” as “a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on the future.” So, what does that mean to you and what will you be inviting listeners to talk about?
Kai Wright: Oh, goodness. Well, “invitation” is the really appropriate word there. The show is an invitation into an ongoing conversation. And I guess it’s a conversation that’s rooted in a core assumption… that the majority of people who reside in the United States want to live in a multiracial democracy, and a plural society. That the vast majority of us want to live in a place that reflects our founding documents and where we share opportunity and power and learn from one another. And so we want to have an actual conversation about what that takes. That’s really what the conversation is. So then if the vast majority of us believe that, which I assert is true, then what does it require?
Julia Furukawa: Your show is unique in that it is a live call-in show, which, unfortunately, we don’t have all that many of anymore. So, when you hear from your listeners, how did they inform what you decide to talk about on the show?
Kai Wright: I mean, it’s entirely about what our listeners want to talk about, really. So we’ve been around for a number of years now, first as a reporting project, a podcast that was a reporting project, and then evolved into a local call-in show and are now evolving into a national call-in show. And the DNA of our work has always been that we ask our audience to talk back to us, and when they ask us questions, we then try to go answer them. We recently did a show just on the moral dilemmas of the world of cryptocurrency, right? And then a listener called in and had a follow-up question about that. And so we made a whole other episode to answer that follow-up question.
Julia Furukawa: Very listener-driven content. I think that’s great. So, Kai, “Notes From America,” my understanding is it’s a rebranding of your show, “The United States of Anxiety.” So why did you decide to rename it and will the focus be different now?
Kai Wright: Well, it’s really about catching up to the work we’ve been doing that I’m describing now. Our origins, as I said, were a reporting project on the 2016 elections. That’s how we started this show. And we were reporting on the anxieties that were fueling the Trump movement and the anxieties that the Trump movement caused in others. And that is still, obviously, a very important part of the American conversation. But our show has evolved past that into something that is much more about this positive invitation that we want to make, which is to say, ‘Okay, what kind of country do we want? What kind of society do we want, and what does it require of us?’ And so the name change, as we go national, was really about trying to say, okay, this is no longer an invitation into a conversation about anxiety. It’s not an invitation into a negative conversation. We have to have honest and real conversations about hard things, don’t get me wrong, but we want the space to be one in which we’re saying let’s learn from each other.
NHPR will also be adding “Our Body Politic,” Friday evenings at 9. A full schedule of programs is available here.
NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.
Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.