Amid continuing controversy over a segment included in Radiolab’s Sept. 24 podcast that featured a contentious interview with an eyewitness to a Viet Cong attack on the Hmong people of Southeast Asia, the show’s producers released the list of questions they emailed to the interview subject’s translator prior to the interview.
The release comes three days after the translator, award-winning writer Kao Kalia Yang, accused Radiolab‘s producers of racism in a first-person account of the interview process that was published online Oct. 22. Blogosphere reactions to the controversy grew after Minnesota Public Radio’s Bob Collins reported on the dispute on his blog, News Cut.
Producing station WNYC in New York reacted to Collins’s story by releasing an email that segment producer Pat Walters sent to Yang May 10. The email provided a list of questions that Walters and program co-host Robert Krulwich intended to ask the interview subject, Eng Yang, a survivor of the attack. Walters and Krulwich were especially interested in hearing his account of the yellow rain that fell on villages in Laos during the Viet Cong attacks. Eng Yang is Kao Kalia Yang’s uncle.
Radiolab released the email because Collins had “repeated numerous inaccuracies” from Yang’s earlier online account, according to WNYC spokesperson Jennifer Houlihan. In her blog post for Hyphen magazine, Yang wrote that Walters sent her questions ahead of time, but, during the interview, “the questions took a turn.”
WNYC Chief Content Officer Dean Cappello also addressed the controversy in a letter to Collins, contesting Yang’s allegations that producers disregarded studies that contradicted their interpretation of the chemical properties of yellow rain.
“Pat had already spent several months reviewing nearly 20 years’ worth of academic papers and media reports on yellow rain,” Cappello wrote. “He declined [Yang's] offer not out of callousness but because he had already completed an in-depth examination of competing theories to the ‘bee feces’ hypothesis.”
News Cut has posted Cappello’s full response as well as Walters’ May 10 email to Kao Kalia Yang; Current‘s Oct. 24 report on the controversy includes reactions from Radiolab founder and co-host Jad Abumrad and Kelly McBride, senior faculty on ethics in reporting at the Poynter Institute.
Copyright 2012 American University