About the Program

About the program

Welcome to ThoughtCast, an online watering hole for ideas. Our focus is on conversations with authors, academics and intellectuals.  Guests include author Tom Perrotta, esteemed poetry critic Helen Vendler, the feisty historian Niall Ferguson and the theoretical particle physicist Lisa Randall. I’m Jenny Attiyeh, the host and producer, and I launched ThoughtCast after working as a reporter for public TV and for public radio in the U.S. and the U.K.

ThoughtCast has been broadcast on public radio, widely distributed by podcast, and webcast at www.thoughtcast.orgWGBH, an arts and culture public radio station in Boston, has broadcast many ThoughtCast programs, as has WGBH’s sister station WCAI, run by the public radio impresario Jay Allison. In partnership with Harvard University Extension School, I’ve also conducted an extensive series of on-camera interviews with Harvard academics called Faculty Insight.  These institutions share with ThoughtCast the goal of providing stimulating intellectual content for people eager to pursue the life of the mind.

ThoughtCast offers something that is glaringly absent from the media today: a bridge between the publications and pursuits of the intellectual world and a curious, informed, mainstream audience. By providing detailed, unhurried and personal conversation with current writers and thinkers, ThoughtCast is that rare hybrid – a synergy between mass media and the ivory tower. Think of it as “Terry Gross comes to Harvard.”

In addition to webcasting and podcasting ThoughtCast, my distribution mechanism is the Public Radio Exchange (PRX), which provides public radio stations throughout the country the means to broadcast my work. Of course ThoughtCast content is also available on facebook, iTunes, iTunes U, YouTube and other public media outlets.

I would appreciate your thoughts. So post a comment, or send some feedback (click on the “Get in Touch” link)!

How to participate

Readers, researchers, armchair philosophers — you are in demand! As I can’t put on ThoughtCast all by myself, I’m eager for your help. Well in advance of each taping, I ask volunteers to offer a synopsis of the work of each guest, and to suggest a piercing, breathlessly brilliant line of questions. Your input (admittedly edited for length and suitability) will be posted on this site, and credited appropriately.

I hope that it will also spark debate — perhaps wiki-like, we can come up with a truer sense of who these thinkers are, and where their strengths – and failings – lie. So give me a shout!  (Click on the “Get in Touch” link.)

About the host

My name is Jenny Attiyeh, and I began my career in 1987 in London as a freelance reporter on the arts for the BBC World Service Radio. I remember my first interview for “Meridian”, as the program I worked for was called. It was with Placido Domingo, and I’ve never been so nervous since.

After my work permit ran out, I returned to Los Angeles, my home city, and continued as an arts reporter for KCRW, an NPR station in Santa Monica. While there, I reported and produced an award-winning documentary on Japanese-American internment during World War II.

Shortly after, I was accepted to a National Public Radio residency, which brought me to Washington, D.C. and to WBUR, an NPR station in Boston, to report stories for NPR’s Performance Today. I later attended the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

After that, I remained in New York City for 9 years, during which time I worked primarily as a reporter for television and radio. I covered local politics and the arts for NY1 News, a cable television station, and then moved on to WNYC radio, where I worked in the news department, covering mayoral politics.

I next hosted and produced a weekly arts and culture segment for WNYC TV, a PBS station, until it went out of business. Before the lights went out, I managed to produce a mini-documentary on the making of a Philip Glass opera, “Les Enfants Terribles.”  I worked next as a correspondent for a nationally televised PBS program called “Freedom Speaks” which focused on the media, until it too was taken off the air. (I detect a pattern here…)

I then moved to Maine, where I lived by the harbor in Kittery, and worked as a reporter for New Hampshire Public Television. There, I covered the ’99/2000 New Hampshire presidential primary season, and interviewed the major presidential candidates. I also participated as a panelist in nationally televised presidential debates, hosted by Peter Jennings and Tim Russert.

Following the conclusion of the New Hampshire primary season, I moved to Boston, where I did freelance writing on academics, the 2004 presidential campaign and the single life, among other subjects. From this base, in early 2005, I launched ThoughtCast.