Retro Report

Retro Report Retro Report is an independent nonprofit news organization critically examining major news coverage of the past to see how it impacts us today.

How often does a great story dominate the headlines, only to be dropped from the news cycle? How often do journalists tell us of a looming danger or important discovery – only to move quickly to the next new thing? What really happened? How did these events change us? And what are the lingering consequences that may affect our society to this day? These are the questions we are answering at Retro Report, an innovative documentary news organization launched in 2013 as a timely online counterweight to today's 24/7 news cycle. Combining documentary techniques with shoe-leather reporting, we peel back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media. Retro Report is founded on the conviction that without a smart, engaging and forward-looking review of these high-profile events – and the news coverage surrounding them – we have wasted an opportunity to understand the lessons of history. The accelerating information age makes reversing this trend only more crucial. With journalistic success increasingly measured in page views, retweets and Facebook likes, there is dwindling interest or ability among news organizations to follow up on the stories they cover. Complicating matters, the first draft of history can be wrong. When news organizations fail to invest the time and money required to correct the record or provide context around what really happened, myth can replace truth. The results are policy decisions and cultural trends built on error, misunderstanding or flat-out lies. Retro Report is there to pick up the story after everyone has moved on, connecting the dots from yesterday to today, correcting the record and providing a permanent living library where viewers can gain new insight into the events that shaped their lives.

Mission: Combining documentary techniques with shoe-leather reporting, we peel back the layers of some of the most perplexing news stories of our past with the goal of encouraging the public to think more critically about current events and the media.

05/17/2019
Women's Rights Protests & The Match That Sparked a Movement

In the 1970s, when #abortion was illegal in most states, a group of young women came together to share stories and break sexual taboos. Their revolutionary book, “Our Bodies, Ourselves” helped dispel myths and empower women to have agency over their own bodies. As Georgia, Alabama, and Missouri introduce strict anti-abortion legislation, the fight for women’s rights remains at the center of American politics, and troubling myths still exist worldwide.

We’re at the #webbys!
05/14/2019

We’re at the #webbys!

In the lab... #retroreport
05/09/2019

In the lab... #retroreport

04/25/2019
The NFL Draft 20 Years After Manning-Leaf: How Teams Try to Pick a Winner | Retro Report

With the #NFLDraft kicking off tonight, we're throwing it back to our story on the famous 1998 draft, in which the Indianapolis Colts selected Peyton Manning over Ryan Leaf. Scouts were 50/50 on the quarterbacks at the time, but the two would end up having wildly different careers—and cause NFL teams to start to rethink how they evaluated talent.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYtzhZhslk4&list=PLKB8zkQFlMyI4ByoEA7ttO8JH29qpjfl9

A look back at the 1998 NFL draft of Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning, two blue-chip quarterback prospects who produced wildly different results. Two decades lat...

BIG NEWS! Our collaboration with the The New Yorker won a Webby!!! "All In The Game: The Black Athlete In America" just ...
04/23/2019

BIG NEWS! Our collaboration with the The New Yorker won a Webby!!! "All In The Game: The Black Athlete In America" just picked up a People's Voice award. Thank you to everyone who voted for us :)

04/20/2019
Life After Columbine

Sean Graves was told he would never walk again after being shot during the attack at Columbine High School. This is the story of what happened next.

Perry Simon, PBS's new Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, recently spoke about his plans to to attract new...
04/12/2019
PBS program chief shares strategies for ‘building bridge’ to younger, more diverse audiences

Perry Simon, PBS's new Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, recently spoke about his plans to to attract new generations to PBS.

Retro Report is a big part of his strategy. “I love the idea of looking at today’s headlines through the prism of their past and historical roots,” Simon said. Read more below, and stay tuned for our premiere in the fall.

"This is one of the biggest challenges I’m facing with my colleagues at PBS," Perry Simon told TechCon attendees, "but we’re committed to it.”

We are incredibly excited to be nominated for four The Webby Awards, "All in the Game: Black Athlete in America" for Bes...
04/02/2019
The Webby Awards People's Voice needs YOU

We are incredibly excited to be nominated for four The Webby Awards, "All in the Game: Black Athlete in America" for Best Sports video, "Why We Can't Have a Civil Conversation About Guns" for best News & Politics video, Future of Gaming for best technology video -- AND Retro Report for Best News & Politics series!

VOTE HERE: https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2019/video/video-series-channels/news-politics

https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2019/video/general-video/sports

https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2019/video/general-video/news-politics

https://vote.webbyawards.com/PublicVoting#/2019/video/general-video/technology

I just voted in The Webby Awards People’s Voice Awards. You should too.

Masud Olufani: Multi-disciplinary Artist
03/14/2019

Masud Olufani: Multi-disciplinary Artist

Day 2 on the Retro Report set is about handling business - wrapped around a whole lot of fun!!! Celeste Headlee is the real deal. Couldn’t ask for a better cohost. #MasudOlufani #Host #Art #Artist #Bahai #RetroReport #PBS

03/04/2019
Future of Work | What Happens Next | Retro Report

Last night on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (say that five times fast) John Oliver included a clip from our collaboration with Quartz on the Future of Work. You can watch the full clip here, along with the entirety of our What Happens Next series.

A remote Oregon mountainside offers a window into the workplace of the future. What Happens Next is a video exploration of the future from Quartz and Retro R...

02/21/2019
Migrant Children in Custody: The Long Battle for Protection

For our latest story, we went to a detention center for immigrant children to take a closer look at the issue of detaining migrant kinds. The number of immigrant children held in federally contracted shelters reached record levels last year, leading to lawsuits over the Trump
Administration’s treatment of minors. Those challenges have roots in the Flores settlement, a decades-old agreement reached in a federal lawsuit over the physical and emotional harm done to children held in jail-like settings, dating back to the 1980s.

02/21/2019
Migrant Children in Custody: The Long Battle for Protection

The number of immigrant children held in federally contracted shelters at the Southern border reached record levels last year, leading to lawsuits over the Trump Administration’s treatment of minors policy.

Those challenges have roots in the Flores settlement, a decades-old agreement reached in a federal lawsuit over the physical and emotional harm done to children held in jail-like settings.

Our latest story, on migrant children in custody and the long battle for protection.

02/14/2019
Retro Report

One year after the Parkland shooting, the House advanced a bill requiring background checks for gun sales. Student-led protests have galvanized gun control advocates in the past year, but revisiting a past fight over gun safety might help us understand how the conversation has progressed.

In the 1980s, the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan and the shooting of his press secretary, Jim Brady, sparked a call for gun control which led to the Brady Bill. Decades later, are there lessons from that fight for the students who survived the Parkland shooting?

Huge shoutout to Montclair Film for including us in Behind the Screen 2019, alongside Talking Eyes Media and NowThis!And...
02/14/2019

Huge shoutout to Montclair Film for including us in Behind the Screen 2019, alongside Talking Eyes Media and NowThis!

And much love to Emerson College School of Communication for screening out doc, Operation Ceasefire.

Thanks, friends!

#journalism

02/05/2019
Retro Report

On this day in 1997, Louise Woodward was arrested for allegedly causing a child to die from shaken baby syndrome. The “nanny murder trial” dominated the headlines and sparked a nationwide debate on child care and working parents.

Today, new scientific discoveries have forced medical experts to reassess shaken baby syndrome and how they diagnose child abuse and head trauma.

Shaken baby syndrome burst into the national spotlight in 1997, when a young British nanny was charged with murder. Twenty years later, the scientific debate about possible causes of the syndrome continue to shape child abuse cases.

We have a HUGE announcement! Coming this fall we are launching a weekly series on PBS that examines how today's top stor...
02/01/2019

We have a HUGE announcement! Coming this fall we are launching a weekly series on PBS that examines how today's top stories connect to the past.

"Retro Report on PBS" will be hosted by Celeste Headlee and Masud Olufani and feature segments from Andy Borowitz!!!

https://to.pbs.org/2D3VlGP

02/01/2019

Today the U.S. announced plans to suspend its compliance with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). The move was a response to an alleged violation by Moscow, and could lead to permanent U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.

We covered the creation and significance of #INF, which was a response to the escalation of tensions before the end of the Cold War. @princeton’s Bruce Blair talked to Retro about negotiating with the Soviet Union to reduce the risk of war.

01/30/2019
Retro Report

With measles outbreaks hitting communities nationwide, it's worth asking: How did we get to a point where personal beliefs can triumph over science? And how much is the media to blame?

As the U.S. deals with a resurgence of measles, we examine how the safety of vaccines has been questioned by a few, which is compromising the health of all of us. And we also look at the role the media has played in perpetuating fears. Watch below and please share with your friends...

Congratulations to our friends American Experience | PBS for receiving a Writers Guild of America West award nomination ...
01/25/2019
Isolated Tribes

Congratulations to our friends American Experience | PBS for receiving a Writers Guild of America West award nomination for "Into the Amazon," which if you haven't seen it is a must watch.

We partnered with them to take a present day look at the issue of isolated tribes in the Amazon: https://www.retroreport.org/video/mini-doc/isolated-tribes/

Today, there are approximately 100 tribes in the Amazon rainforest that have not interacted with the modern world. A hundred years ago, there were many more. Co-produced with PBS, American Experience, we look at the delicate situation these tribes find themselves in.

01/22/2019
Retro Report

The confrontation in D.C. last Friday between indigenous rights activists, students, and Hebrew Israelites is still being dissected, and the heated discourse is yet another instance of the “mob mentality” culture that runs rampant online. We tackled the topic in "Outrage Machine."

Our latest! A look at internet shaming and what happened when the cybermob went after Jennifer Connell, dubbing her "the Auntie Christ."

01/10/2019
Retro Report

President Trump has threatened to cut FEMA aid to California, and blames forest management (without evidence) for the recent wildfires.

Here, we look back on the 1988 Yellowstone fire, which raged uncontrollably for three months, before being extinguished by a September snow. At the time, the national park service was criticized for their perceived mismanagement of the situation.

Increasingly, wildfires affect populated areas. But 30 years ago, it was a huge fire in Yellowstone National Park that stoked media attention and political controversy.

Yesterday rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared the essay Clyde Haberman wrote for us about private pris...
01/07/2019
For Private Prisons, Detaining Immigrants Is Big Business

Yesterday rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shared the essay Clyde Haberman wrote for us about private prisons. We released the video and the accompanying written piece in October, so it's nice to see it's still a relevant part of the public discussion.

Read and watch it here:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/01/us/prisons-immigration-detention.html

A surging inmate population in the 1980s led to a boom in for-profit prisons. Today, privately run prisons have become the government’s default detention centers for undocumented migrants.

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the start of the Baby M court case, the landmark dispute which brought the issue of su...
01/04/2019

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the start of the Baby M court case, the landmark dispute which brought the issue of surrogate parenting into the public discourse. Decades later, the number of ways families are formed has become greater and more complex — but have we even resolved the basic questions surrounding surrogacy?

https://youtu.be/O4CY3gEDeW8

Our Executive Producer, Kyra Darnton gives her journalism predictions for 2019: "To report, produce, and edit high-quali...
01/03/2019
A shift to depth in video

Our Executive Producer, Kyra Darnton gives her journalism predictions for 2019: "To report, produce, and edit high-quality video content is expensive. Organizations need to come up with ways to fund them beyond traditional advertising, and distribution platforms like YouTube need to help users find the best journalism amid the barrage of junk, preferably with human curation like we’re seeing from Apple News. All of which is to say it certainly won’t be an easy business model for news organizations. But by treating video less as a marketing tool and more as a public service, they will no longer be surrendering the digital space to subpar journalism. At least that’s a cause worth fighting for." Via Nieman Journalism Lab

"By treating video less as a marketing tool and more as a public service, they will no longer be surrendering the digital space to subpar journalism."

Last call for NewsMatch! Tomorrow is the final day that your donation will be matched. End #2018 by supporting independe...
12/30/2018
Support Retro Report

Last call for NewsMatch! Tomorrow is the final day that your donation will be matched. End #2018 by supporting independent + nonprofit journalism with a tax deductible donation.

Donate here: https://www.retroreport.org/donate/

Retro Report’s short documentaries focus on the vital history needed to better understand the biggest issues affecting your life today.

12/21/2018
Retro Report

As President Trump threatens a government shutdown over border funding, a GoFundMe is raising millions to fund construction for a wall. But Trump's immigration rhetoric resembles a debate in 1990s California—including talk of border fences and "America First." Watch...

Border fences, deportations, and putting “America First.” It all happened in the 1990s, and it started in California.

12/18/2018
Retro Report

Thinking of buying a genetic testing kit like 23andMe for a loved one during the holiday season? Here's what they can, and can't, predict.

Lifesaving genetic tests were among the goals for scientists who sequenced the human genome back in the 1990s. Today, companies market genetic tests for everything from cancer to diet and exercise. But how much can tests like 23andme really predict?

Jane Eisenhower is one of the many aging Americans for whom traditional retirement is no longer an option. Our newest co...
12/12/2018

Jane Eisenhower is one of the many aging Americans for whom traditional retirement is no longer an option. Our newest collaboration with Quartz looks how rising life expectancy and an increasingly volatile economy are changing the way people Americans plan for life after age 60.

An important article in Mother Jones explains why FB's new algorithm, which cuts back on ALL news, is so dangerous. (And...
12/07/2018
It's the end of news as we know it (and Facebook is feeling fine)

An important article in Mother Jones explains why FB's new algorithm, which cuts back on ALL news, is so dangerous. (And explains why you may not even see this post.)

"Today, you are far less likely to see posts from Mother Jones or any other publisher than you were two years ago, even when you’ve specifically followed that page.

Facebook’s actions mean that people are now getting less news, right at a time when a clear-eyed accounting of what the powerful are doing is more important than ever. And because of the lost revenue associated with that traffic, newsrooms can do less of that accountability work." Read the rest here: https://www.motherjones.com/media/2018/12/facebook-propaganda-trump/

Right-wing propaganda is still doing great. Journalism, not so much.

12/06/2018
Retro Report

Donald Trump is being criticized for not saying the Apostles' Creed, one of Christianity's core prayers, during George H.W. Bush's funeral. Here, we trace how evangelicals became a powerful political group, and ardent supporters of President Trump.

White evangelical Christians are among President Trump’s most ardent and important supporters. 40 years ago, they were on the margins of American politics. How did they transform into the powerhouse political bloc they are today?

11/28/2018
The Future of College

Increasing student loan debt and online classrooms are disrupting college as we know it. But, surprisingly, the future might be filled with the need for lifelong learning, meaning more college, not less, as automation changes the workplace.

The latest installment of our What Happens Next series with Quartz examining the future of society.

11/28/2018
Kiah Morris

Kiah Morris

I believe that every person deserves equal access to equal opportunities. The pains of poverty destroy the soul. Watch this video by Retro Report on my family's journey to where we are today. Our story is not about an elusive exceptionalism but opportunity. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INZo1eX0BPU

11/26/2018
Retro Report

A researcher in China says he's helped make the world's first genetically edited babies, but the claim has not been confirmed by medical experts. Check our short film on genetic screening and the initial panic that was felt when IVF was first introduced.

Genetic technology is advancing, and critics are warning of a slippery slope. We spoke with the scientists working at the forefront of the research, families who have benefited from the advancements and the first-ever "test-tube" baby to understand the debate.

11/19/2018
Victor Jara was a legendary Chilean folk singer and political activist, whose brutal killing during a military coup in 1973 went unsolved for decades. Now, a quest for his killers has led to a Florida courtroom and his family may finally get justice.

Check out our latest -- Victor Jara was a legendary Chilean folk singer and political activist, whose brutal killing during a military coup in 1973 went unsolved for decades. Now, a quest for his killers has led to a Florida courtroom and his family may finally get justice.

11/15/2018
Suicide, Veterans and How a Simple Idea Is Trying to Combat a Crisis

For our latest video, we've partnered with HuffPost Highline. As the nation continues to confront an epidemic of suicide, we explore the promising work of Dr. Jerry Motto, who in the 1960s, pioneered a simple, yet surprisingly successful method of treatment that is being implemented today.

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