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Podcast focused on talk radio earns Bart Richards Award

Logo for The Divided Dial

A podcast series focused on U.S. talk radio and how it has become dominated by voices from one side of the political spectrum, with one company becoming a powerful political influence, earned the 2022 Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism.

“The Divided Dial,” a five-episode series from “On The Media,” earned the award that annually honors work that evaluates news media coverage of significant subjects or issues. The series, hosted by reporter Katie Thornton and edited by executive producer Katya Rogers, was the result of more than a year’s worth of reporting.

The award was presented during a public event at the National Press Club in May.

Communications at Penn State reviewed entries for the respected national award and then forwarded finalists to external judges. Those judges — Russ Eshleman, associate teaching professor emeritus at Penn State and an award-winning journalist who covered Pennsylvania politics for The Philadelphia Inquirer; Jackie Jones, dean of the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University; and Dan Shelley, president and CEO of the Radio Television Digital News Association — were unanimous in their selection of “The Divided Dial.”

Judges said the podcast series was complete and well-researched, sharing information that engaged casual radio listeners as well as people who understand the changes to the talk radio landscape and marketplace through the years.

“The Divided Dial” focuses on Salem Media Group, its approach to content and its growth and impact. Additionally, the podcast series traces the history of U.S. talk radio by addressing governmental and societal influences on content creation and marketplace success.

Thornton is an award-winning freelance audio and print journalist. She has published with the BBC, Bloomberg, Minnesota Public Radio, National Geographic, NPR, WNYC, 99% Invisible, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Washington Post and many others, and received a prestigious Fulbright Fellowship for her storytelling work.

Rogers is the executive producer of “On The Media,” which is produced by WNYC and aired nationwide on 450 stations with an audience of more than a million weekly listeners. During Rogers’ tenure at the helm of the show, it has won multiple awards, including The Peabody, multiple Mirrors, The Front Page Award. “On the Media” previously earned the Bart Richards Award in back-to-back years, 2011 and 2012.

The Bart Richards Award for Media Criticism, presented by the Bellisario College, annually considers constructively critical articles, books, and electronic and online media reports; academic and other research; and reports by media ombudsmen and journalism watchdog groups.