On Point

Mondays through Thursdays at 11 am

hybrid of a talk program and a news-magazine, "On Point" puts each day's news into context and provides a lively forum for discussion and debate. Topics chosen for the program are often taken from the biggest news stories of the day while others have a direct connection to issues that are at the core of what is urgent and important in the world at the moment. Interwoven are programs containing interviews with personalities, politicians, musicians, writers, and journalists.

Ways to Connect

President-elect Joe Biden says ‘America first’ is history. But is the U.S. as world leader history, too? We discuss Biden’s foreign policy team and America’s place on the world stage.

Guests

Peter Beinart, contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and editor-at-large for Jewish Currents. Professor of journalism at the City University of New York. (@PeterBeinart)

Radio Diary: The Kindness Of A Phone Call

Dec 18, 2020

Hear our hour on the mutual benefits of kindness.


Allyson Cook is a 23. She’s a grad student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

And since the pandemic began, she’s been volunteering for something called the Get Connected program at the Northwood long-term care facility.  “This was an opportunity for volunteers to reach out to seniors … just asking if they were interested or not,” Allyson says.

Hear today’s radio diary on an ER doctor’s ethical dilemma amid the pandemic. 


The pandemic has been rife with ethical dilemmas: from patient care to vaccine distribution nationwide. We discuss how to think through the ethical implications of COVID-19.

President-elect Joe Biden announced his health care team this week. We’ll check out their credentials and ask if they’re up to the task of pushing back the pandemic and pushing forward health care in America.  

What would the Biden team need to do, in concrete terms, to help specific communities? For example – the Navajo Nation. Navajo leaders say the coronavirus is spreading virtually uncontrolled across 75 communities. And this week, the Navajo Nation expanded its current lockdown by an additional three weeks, until at least Dec. 28.

In Kentucky, a high school newspaper uncovered a disturbing story. For years, the State Police had used a training manual with quotations from Adolf Hitler. On today’s show, we spoke with the student journalists who discovered the story.

Section 230 protects internet companies from liability for publishing offensive material. Now, there’s a move to do something to change section 230. How would it change the internet?  

There’s energy and pushback over a big Democratic policy proposal: forgiving student loan debt. We discuss the debate over student loan forgiveness.

President-Elect Joe Biden has named his new economic team. What do they need to do to help Americans, and are they the team to accomplish it?

Radio Diary: On The Frontlines

Dec 1, 2020

This radio diary is a part of our hour that checks in with nurses around the country. Listen here.


The U.S. health care system relies on tens of thousands of workers — nurses, doctors, lab technicians, porters, food service workers, sanitation workers and many more.

The dawn of 2020 saw a record number of American children experiencing homelessness. For many of those million-plus children, school was the most reliable place in their life. So what happens when education goes remote?  

Guests

Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a non-profit focused on homeless youth and education. (@DuffieldBarbara)

A conversation with journalist Chris Whipple about the challenging road ahead for President-elect Joe Biden, restoring the CIA and his new book “The Spymasters.”

Guests

Chris Whipple, journalist and documentary filmmaker. Author of “The Spymasters” and “The Gatekeepers.” (@ccwhip)

This program originally broadcast on September 17, 2020.


What we learn from Dwight Eisenhower’s life and leadership.

Election 2020 again proved there’s a problem with polling. But when it comes to understanding the electorate, are there any better options? We discuss the problems with polling, and how to fix it.  

Guests

Natalie Jackson, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). (@nataliemj10)

President Trump has fired several top level members of his administration in the past couple of weeks. So what else can we expect from the president in his remaining days in office?  

Guests

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. (@JackBeattyNPR)

Why Voters Are Rejecting The War On Drugs

Nov 17, 2020

Wherever the war on drugs was on the ballot this year, the war on drugs lost. In Oregon, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and Mississippi, too, voters approved measures to legalize recreational or medical marijuana. We discuss the drug-related ballot measures that passed on Election Day and the shift in American drug policy.

South Dakota family doctor Tom Dean knows his community well — he’s been in practice there for 42 years. And he’s seen a lot in that time. But nothing like COVID. We get a South Dakota family physician’s message for his patients, his community and his state.  

Guests

Dr. Tom Dean, family physician in Wessington Springs, South Dakota.

Much of the GOP in Washington won’t acknowledge Joe Biden as president-elect. What about the consequences for the country? We look at a week of presidential transition and Republican intransigence.

Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat studies authoritarian regimes, like Italy under Mussolini. Can a democracy pry itself out of a strongman’s grip?

Guest

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history and Italian studies at New York University. Author of “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.” (@ruthbenghiat)

Elizabeth Saunders served five years in the U.S. Navy. And last Tuesday, she served her country again, by being a poll worker in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Specifically, at precinct 24 in North Tulsa.

“As a veteran, I don’t really care who you vote for, just that you are there showing up to actually engage in your civic duty to have your say in how this country is run,” Elizabeth says.

This was Elizabeth’s second stint as a poll worker. When she walked into the Sheridan Avenue United Methodist Church at 6:30 a.m. on Election Day, she’s the first to admit … she was pretty nervous.

The race for the presidency presses on, as Trump doubles down on baseless claims about election fraud. We sort through this historic week, and look ahead at what’s to come.

Guests

Ron Suskind, investigative journalist and author. (@RonSuskind)

Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. (@JackBeattyNPR)

On Sunday, President Donald Trump made clear what he planned to do following the end of voting. Court battles have marked this entire election season. We look at the latest litigation around the 2020 presidential election.

Guests

Bertrall Ross, chancellor’s professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. (@Bertrall_Ross)

What We Know About Election 2020 Results

Nov 4, 2020

The day after election day. What tallies are known? Where are votes still being counted? We discuss the latest in the race for the White House and Senate and what’s next in this historic moment for the United States.  

Guests

Luis Carrasco, editorial writer and member of the Houston Chronicle’s Editorial Board. (@lfcarrasco)

We talked today about the mismanagement of coronavirus—the ways citizens and leadership have failed to take steps necessary to curb the spread. But in San Francisco, California, it is a different story.

San Francisco is the second densest city in the country. It also has the lowest coronavirus death rate compared to any other major city in the United States, according to San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Regardless of election outcomes, one thing is certain: the coronavirus pandemic is surging. We talk about what to expect in the pandemic’s next phase.  

Guests

Ed Yong, science writer at The Atlantic. Author of “I Contain Multitudes.” (@edyong209)

Catherine Hill, epidemiologist.

Tomorrow is it. The end of voting. Up for grabs: the White House, and also the Senate. Republicans currently hold the Senate with a 53-47 majority. But with 35 seats on the ballot, the race is heating up.

On today’s show, we took a look at some of the close races, and why the balance of power in the chamber will determine the direction of governance for the next four years.

The White House isn’t the only thing on the ballot. Also at stake: control of the United States Senate, from Georgia to Maine. We discuss close Senate races and the impact they’ll have on national governance.

Guests

Anthony Brooks, On Point 2020 correspondent. WBUR senior political reporter.  (@anthonygbrooks)

For many health care workers, a new coronavirus spike means they’ve barely had a moment to step back from the first wave of cases this spring.

Those memories of that “first wave” are still fresh and raw. Emma Rome remembers watching evidence of the coronavirus’s deadliness literally walking into her hospital.

Campaigns make their last stand. The Supreme Court weighs in on ballot deadlines. Coronavirus numbers skyrocket. We make sense of the week’s news.

Guests

Molly Ball, national political correspondent for TIME. Author of “Pelosi.” (@mollyesque)

America's Authoritarian Threat

Oct 29, 2020

The United States has fought against authoritarian governments. Does that mean it can’t happen here?  

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