Podcasting and Radio News

The Lonely Pharmacy on a Hill

Ambi: Pill being counted and stored in pill bottles.

Host Intro: Consolidation of the healthcare industry has become a major sticking point in the national healthcare debate leading up to the 2020 Presidential election. Wholesale mergers between healthcare insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (or PBMs) dominated healthcare news in 2018 and 2019, promising patients lowered costs and an end to the complicated drug supply chain. With prescription drug pricing under scrutiny from regulators and voters alike, the conversation has intensified, hoping these major conglomerates stand by their word. But how do these mergers really affect patients and their local pharmacies to boot? Vlad Silver has the story.

Track: I’m sitting in Forever Coffee Bar near Bennett Ave and 181 Street looking at the entrance to CityDrug and Surgical, one of the lone local pharmacies in Washington Heights amid a sea of chain drug stores. The mood is peaceful in the coffee bar, a stark contrast to the constant bustle of patients and staff in the store across. There, pharmacist Alex Kronis shares his concern for the state of his business in the face of these mergers.

Act:  It’s crazy that PBM’s and the biggest chain drug stores can merge. What’s next, that they can own the manufacturers? That’s one thing they don’t need because that they can outsource. That’s too much of a problem. But if they buy a few manufacturers that’s it, they can buy a couple of generic companies and that would be it.

Track: Besides Alex stands Eugene Paus, a pharmacy technician and first-hand witness of the effects Big Pharma can have on local pharmacies.

Act: Small business will be out of business before they come up with a plan of action against Big Pharma. One couldn’t point a finger and say that CVS took all my business, but they did. They have made it harder for small business owners to fill prescriptions because they own certain PBMs by making reimbursements so they that we are forced out of business. There’s not much we can do.

Track: CityDrugs patrons echo these concerns, including Alan Sidransky, local writer and activist who questions the merits of the system from the ground up.

Act: Our medical system is a disaster. This is a nightmare. There is no way we should be the most advanced country in the world and still be dealing with this. The problem is that people are used to this. This system flat out does not work. This is a nonsensical system that is based on profit and profit only. It turns a blind eye to reasonable things that must be done to change the system.

Track: Mr. Kronis goes on to criticize the system further and suggests insurance companies prey upon the public.

Act: Generally, unless you work in this field, the population has no idea what’s going on, and on some levels its quite complicated. The way its all linked together is simple and its complicated; the mechanics are complicated; the idea is simple.

Track: Eugene counters with a wholesale overhaul, suggesting what the system needs is radical change, from top to bottom.

Act: If you got rid of PBM and insurance, healthcare would become as cheap as modern boxed food, where ramen noodles cost 99 cents. You’ll be buying your blood pressure for 99 cents a bottle, not $100 for a month’s supply. Just get rid of insurance and PBMs all together and your problem is completely solved. The drug companies will be forced to lower the cost of their drugs, otherwise no one would buy what they’re selling.

Track: This is Vlad Silver, from Baruch College, signing off.

Vlad : Podcast #2

Take a 21st century park and transform it into a medieval marketplace, replete with elaborate costumes, jousting, and the music, dance, and craft of another era. Fort Tryon Park, home of the famed Cloisters museum in Upper Manahattan is the annual home of a free Medieval Festival, now in its 35th year. The event attracts locals and travelers alike to a experience the world as it once was many centuries ago, complete with food and drink to boot. Dozens of vendors occupy the long stretch of park for a day and bring kings, knights, and minstrels to Manhattan in modern times. I would like to dive into the event scheduled for next Sunday and grab testimony from organizers and visitors alike about what the even means to them and the experience they seek, whether the trip is their first visit or their 35th.

Vlad – Podcast Pitch

What is the dark underbelly of social media really like? What are the subtle ways in which web developers and social media sites feed on our data and use it as fuel to keep us plugged into their platform? My idea for this first episode is to taking a deep dive into the intricacies of web design to suss out how developers tailor platforms such as Facebook and Youtube to gather aspects of data usage that users barely even consider when clicking away online. I’d like to talk to a particular developer who codes for several smaller platforms and get the inside account of how they gather data from the platform, how ads are geared toward users and what effect data collection has had on platform integration. We know that online media has us hooked but: how? why? and, mostly importantly, how sinister is the practice?

Vlad: Backstory Podcast

Backstory is a long-form history-based podcast which focuses on a particular topic relevant to current events and expands upon that topic in their weekly hour. The show is by no means new to the scene, having debuted in 2008 when podcasting was still in its infancy. The show is largely scripted but features interview sessions, testimonials, archival audio, and much more, depending on the topic being covered. The July 19th episode covering the more nuance details of the Apollo 11 flight in 1969 featured lengthy interviews with members of mission control and their families, including NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz, one of the more notable figures involved with the lunar landing.

Several hosts are involved with the production, including veterans Ed Ayer and Brian Balogh, with Joanne Freeman and Nathan Connolly having joined later on. One or more of them will be present for various episodes, riffing off each other, or tackling a particular angle of the topic at hand. Due to both the pedigree of the show and length of the episodes, the podcast has amassed a variety of sponsors, with ads interlaced 2-3 times during the course of the episode. Notable sponsors include none other than the History Channel, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation, along with personal donors such as John Grisham and Edward L. Ayers.

There are quite literally hundreds of episodes to choose from to start, ranging from coverage on the infancy and subsequent growth of Silicon Valley, a lengthy interview with Karl Rove, a short biography of Alexander Hamilton, or the history of American Censorship. The topics range far and wide and can appeal to anyone from history buffs to the average listener looking for a deeper dive into an unfamiliar topic. Some of the episodes can get quite heady but others are more general analyses of an interesting topic.

The podcast is available on most outlets, such as iTunes, Stitcher, Pocket Casts, and is consistently featured in the top recommended podcasts for News or History. Despite its high ratings however, it does not boast particularly high subscription rates, though its longevity speaks for itself. The hosts cover topics very thoroughly and do a decent job at maintaining political neutrality despite the subject matter. Some of the more interesting episodes to start off with, regardless of interests are the aforementioned Hamilton: A History episode, Nixon Beyond Watergate, Lincoln the Lawyer, and In the Shadow the Mushroom Cloud.