Story feed: Politics, relationships and our strained social fabric

Jeff Jones
Engagement Editor
Public Insight Network
Samara Freemark
Public Insight Network
Anna Weggel
Public Insight Network

Election years don’t always bring out the best in us. Every two years — and especially every four — Americans are confronted with a red-blue divide that polarizes the candidates and the public. Radio and television have long provided echo chambers for the best and worst of political rhetoric, but the Internet and social media have allowed regular people to state and share their opinions to a wide audience of friends, family and neighbors.

The Public Insight Network is collaborating with This American Life to find out how political divisions affect not our government, but Americans’ everyday lives. More than 500 people have shared their stories of strained relationships with us so far — and you might hear some of those stories on the radio later this month.

We invite public radio stations to build on that collaboration to discover the human side of this national story within your local audience.

First, on the weekend of Oct. 26, This American Life is scheduled to air an hour of stories about the real-life effects of the red-blue divide — informed, in part, by sources in the Public Insight Network.

Then, in the week that follows, we can help you capture the energy around this topic with your own audience by using any of the elements below to create a local talk-show that will be especially relevant in the week before Election Day.


THE STORY: We’re red and blue all over

AUDIO FEATURE | Divided, in life, by red and blue (Embargoed until Monday, Oct. 29)
In just a few weeks, Americans will go to the polls and vote for president. This election season has been brutal. Hot-button cultural issues have become more important in modern politics over the past decade. And social media arguably makes us more willing to say harsher things in public forums. But what is clear is that in families and among friends, at work and at home, political polarization is causing painful rifts.
Reporter: Samara Freemark
Audio files, transcripts and cues available at Dropbox (preview the audio above)
(Note: This audio story is embargoed until Monday, Oct. 29 in order to honor our collaboration with This American Life.)

ONLINE FEATURES | Story map & video: Families, friends and communities strained by politics
Click around the stories or explore them by category (at the bottom of the map). Some include audio and photos. See a video below.
Producer: Jeff Jones, with assistance from Anna Weggel and Meg Martin
LinkYou can find the map here. | For embed code, visit DropBox

We’ve contacted experts who might help lend context to the insights from your audience. Find them at Dropbox.
Editor: Samara Freemark
(Note: We ask that you air your program in the week of October 28 or later.)




– Please share a personal story of how political divisions have affected your life and relationships.
–  Is there a close friend or family member who you can no longer talk to because of politics? Or more generally, has one of your relationships changed in some way because of politics? Please describe.
–  Would you be willing try to talk to this person again as part of an experiment in how to improve political dialogue?
– Think of a close friend or family member whose liberal or conservative beliefs are the opposite of yours. If you could have a totally honest conversation about politics (without any negative consequences), what would you most want to say to them, and what questions would you want them to answer?
– Is there something you wish people you know would understand about your beliefs that they don’t?


Please credit American Public Media’s Public Insight Network ( when using elements of this feed.

Additional crediting materials (links, images and an Insight button) are available in our Dropbox folder.


This package was produced by these members of the Public Insight Network’s national editorial team:

Samara Freemark – reporter/producer (, 651-290-1289)
Anna Weggel –  PIN analyst (, 651-290-1057)
Jeff Jones –  engagement editor (, 651-290-1274)
Meg Martin –  associate editor (, 651-290-1055)
Kate Moos – executive producer (, 651-290-1318)


Jeff Jones Engagement Editor
Public Insight Network

Jeff Jones is the Engagement Editor for the Public Insight Network. He’s worked for Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media since 2003, including producing and directing MPR’s “All Things Considered” with host Tom Crann from 2006 to 2010. He has edited hundreds of broadcast interviews, but the most memorable ones feature “regular folks” with surprising stories to tell.

Jeff strongly believes that places have stories, too. So he created MPR Sound Point, a mobile phone-based audio tour of interesting places in Minneapolis and Duluth that gives listeners a chance to “talk back” via the PIN.

Samara Freemark Reporter
Public Insight Network

Reporter/producer Samara Freemark joined the Public Insight Network after four years at Radio Diaries in New York City, where she spent her time helping ordinary people tell their extraordinary stories for NPR. In the process, she developed an unshakeable belief in the beauty and power of personal narrative.

Before Radio Diaries Samara worked as an environmental reporter, a posting that took her to sinking islands, Superfund sites, and literal snakepits – Burmese pythons, to be exact. She also churned out copy and tape in the newsroom of WUOM Ann Arbor. Before settling on a career in radio she tried out policy research, community organizing, and urban planning before deciding she preferred soundwaves to spreadsheets.

Anna Weggel Analyst
Public Insight Network

Anna Weggel is a Public Insight Analyst, which means she spends her time crafting questions about upcoming story topics to send to sources in the Public Insight Network and then produces web, audio and video content featuring those sources.

Before finding her home at APM in 2008, Anna received her B.A. in journalism, was the editor in chief of The Minnesota Daily, and internship hopped through Mother Jones, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, and the Downtown Journal. Anna's non-work life is held hostage by the stage -- where she performs improv comedy and shows with her lady bluegrass band.