Midday | WYPR


Monday-Friday from noon-1:00 pm, Tom Hall and his guests are talking about what’s on your mind, and what matters most to Marylanders:  the latest news, local and national politics, education and the environment, popular culture and the arts, sports and science, race and religion, movies and medicine.  We welcome your questions and comments. Email us at midday@wypr.org, tweet us: @MiddayWYPR, or call us at 410-662-8780.

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Conversations with the Candidates: 2020

Midday on Higher Education

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Meet the Midday team

Midday programs with Sheilah Kast as host ended on September 16, 2016

Archive prior to October 5, 2015


Originally broadcast September 17, 2020  

Tom's guest today is Robert B. Reich.  He’s a busy and distinguished guy.  He served in three administrations, including as Labor Secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency.  He’s a professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, a columnist for Newsweek and The Guardian, an award-winning filmmaker, the founder of the non-profit educational enterprise called Inequality Media, and a frequent presence on television and in the blogosphere.

He’s also the author of 18 books, the latest of which is called The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.  It's a kind of open letter to Jamie Dimon, the CEO of the largest bank on Wall Street, JP Morgan Chase.  Dimon is also the Chair of the Business Roundtable, a group of nearly 200 of the nation’s most powerful and influential CEOs.  Mr. Dimon and his fellow bankers were largely responsible for the economic catastrophe that gripped the US and the world in 2008, in which the total net worth of American households dropped by $11 trillion dollars...

The net worth of Mr. Dimon has not suffered at all, nor has his influence in the halls of Congress.   

Robert Reich asserts that Dimon and his fellow members of the Business Roundtable should use their outsized influence to create a society in which no group of people or corporation is as rich and powerful as they currently are.

The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, was published in March by Alfred A. Knopf.

Atria/One Signal Publishers/Simon and Schuster

(Originally broadcast Oct. 1, 2020)

Today, we revisit a conversation Tom had in October with Brian Stelter, the chief media correspondent for CNN, about his latest book, which explores the unholy alliance between President Donald Trump and Fox News.  It’s called Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.

That alliance has frayed after the election.  Tom's conversation with Brian Stelter took place four weeks before the election, two days after the first, chaotic debate between the President and then former Vice President Joe Biden.  Reaction to that debate fell along party lines to some extent, but as NPR’s Mara Liasson had noted when she was a guest on Midday the day before Tom spoke with Brian Stelter, some leading Republicans did criticize the president for not condemning white supremacy and for his impolite and crass behavior.  This was considered, at the time, progress...

Flickr/Owen Byrne

(Originally broadcast Oct. 22, 2020)

For the thousands of inmates released from prison every year, the transition out of jail and into society is often a transition to homelessness and unemployment.

Ex-offender status presents perpetual obstacles for returning citizens, who often lack access to critical resources and opportunities.

Penguin Random House

(Originally broadcast October 21, 2020)

Today, on this archive edition of Midday, a conversation Tom had two weeks before the November election with Gerald Seib, a journalist who's covered politics for The Wall Street Journal for morte than forty years, and now serves as the paper's Executive Washington Editor.

The election results showed us that the divisions in our country and within the Republican and Democratic parties themselves have never been this pronounced in modern times. 

Gerald Seib’s fascinating new book, We Should Have Seen it Coming: From Reagan to Trump-A Front Row Seat to a Political Revolution,  chronicles the transformation of the Republican party from the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 to the shocking elevation of Donald Trump to the highest office in the land in 2016. 

Rebroadcast: this program originally aired on Oct. 30, 2020. 

African American participation in COVID-19 vaccine trials is critically low despite the pandemic's disproportionate impact on Black communities. 

From the Tuskegee Study to Henrietta Lacks, centuries of anti-black racism and discrimination in American healthcare have led to chronic distrust of medical research among African Americans.

Tom’s guest is Dr. Freeman Hrabowski, president of University of Maryland Baltimore County, and a longtime civil rights activist.  He and his wife, Jacqueline, have enrolled in a Phase 3 COVID 19 clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and they are vocal proponents of more African American participation in the research process.

AP Photo/Matthew Mead

This Thanksgiving, as many Americans forego travel due to the pandemic, large gatherings of friends and families will give way to more intimate feasts.

Whether you're cooking for one, two, or ten - today, we're sharing recipes and tips to help make your Thanksgiving dinner a delicious and memorable affair. 

Chefs David Thomas and John Shields are with us once again to talk you through any questions you might have and to share their favorite dishes.


John Shields is a chef and the proprietor of Gertrude's Chesapeake Kitchen, his restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art. His latest book is called The New Chesapeake Kitchen.

Chef David Thomas is the Chef and co-founder with his wife Tonya of The Heirloom Food Group.  He’s the former Executive Chef and owner of Ida B's Table in downtown Baltimore.

Apprentice House Publishers

Today on Midday, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re going to take a break from news about the pandemic, or our recalcitrant president, or the intractable murder rate here in Baltimore City.  Instead, we are going to take some time to show Baltimore a little love. 

It is easy to complain about our town.  It takes only a mild dash of cynicism to point out what’s wrong with Baltimore.  But as veteran journalist Ron Cassie’s new book demonstrates, it’s also easy to celebrate our town, and the many characters who populate it, and the many places in it where sometimes downright magical stuff happens.

Ron Cassie is a senior editor at Baltimore Magazine.  These days, when you turn to the final page of BMag, you are treated to a column by Ron called “You Are Here: Life in Baltimore Observed.”  His new book is a collection of columns like these, which he began writing in 2008...

MD COVID Alert - MD Department of Health

A third pharmaceutical giant, AstraZeneca, announced this morning that late-stage clinical trials of a COVID 19 vaccine in the UK and Brazil show more promising results.  The London-based company joins the American companies Pfizer and Moderna in expressing confidence that an effective vaccine will be available soon.

But in the meantime, the coronavirus continues to surge here in Maryland and across the country.  The CDC is urging Americans NOT to travel and NOT to congregate with anyone outside their immediate households this Thanksgiving.

People are also being encouraged to get tested for COVID, and although the state of Maryland has expanded the number of testing centers, people have had to endure long lines in recent days.  At the Baltimore Convention Center, for example, they are testing three times the number of people every day that they were testing during the summer. 

Two weeks ago, the Maryland Department of Health launched MD COVID Alert, a smartphone-based notification system for people who have been exposed to the virus.  So far, more than a million Marylanders have subscribed to the system. 

HBO Productions

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with a look at a couple of new streaming-arts endeavors helping to entertain and inspire us as the raging COVID-19 pandemic keeps most of the nation's theaters and movie houses dark.

She leads off with a review of HBO's new all-star adaptation of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me, the testimonial he published in 2015 about the realities of being Black in America and growing up in Baltimore, written as a letter to his son.  Based on a 2018 adaptation and staging of the book at New York's Apollo Theater, the HBO special combines elements of the Apollo production and dramatic readings from Coates’ book, with documentary footage from the author's home life, archival footage, and animation. It premiered on HBO November 21st and is now streaming on demand. For more information on the HBO Special, click here...

AP Photo by Jacquelyn Martin

As the country falls deeper into the morass of a surging pandemic, President Trump has ignored the coronavirus and most of his other presidential duties, and instead -- through hundreds of Tweets -- has attempted to rile up his supporters around unfounded allegations of massive, Democrat-directed election fraud. 

He fired Christopher Krebs, a respected Department of Homeland Security professional who was in charge of cyber security in the election, in apparent retribution for telling the truth about the integrity of the election. 
And in a press conference yesterday, Rudy Guiliani and other members of the President’s legal team carried on for more than an hour and a half with claims that aren’t even close to true.  Even some of the personalities on Fox News attempted to distance themselves from the claims.  


Now, it's another edition of Smart Nutrition, with our good friend Monica Reinagel — a licensed nutritionist and host of the Nutrition Diva podcast, one of the most popular health and fitness podcasts on the Web.  Monica is the author of several books, including Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet. She's also the co-host of a new podcast launched in March called Change Academy, which focuses on the science of behavior change…  

We are also joined today by Dr. Jade Wu. She’s a sleep psychologist and researcher at Duke University, and the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast.  Today, Dr. Wu brings her expertise to a discussion of one of the challenges many people are facing during this pandemic: disruptions to their normal work, play and sleep schedules. As we hear, inadequate sleep can make it harder to maintain a healthful diet, and that can make it harder to keep the pounds off.

Dr. Jade Wu and Monica Reinagel join us today on Zoom.

Baltimore Police Department

Our Newsmaker guest today is Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.

The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled businesses across the city and forced many to close, but it has had no appreciable effect on the number of murders in our city this year, which stands at 294 as of today.

Wednesday, the Baltimore Police Department announced the arrests of 14 people who are believed to have been involved in several car-jackings in the Northwest District.

And on October 29th, Judge James K. Bredar said in a quarterly hearing about the Consent Decree that, “there now is solid leadership in the Police Department, and there is beginning to flow real and substantial progress in achieving Consent Decree objectives.”... 

Joe Biden at Twitter.com

Yesterday, at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan gave a somber summary of the scope of the COVID 19 pandemic in the state.  Some hospitals in Western Maryland are at or near capacity.  For three of the past five days, the state has reported more than 2,000 new cases, as the country sees new infections surpass 140,000 every day.

Hogan announced that effective Friday, all bars and food establishments in the state will be required to close at 10:00 PM.  This decision is based on the fact that compliance with coronavirus protocols tends to diminish substantially after 10.  The Governor stressed, with no effort to hide his anger, that compliance must improve, and that local jurisdictions must do more to enforce the orders to wear masks and physically distance.  Hogan said that retail businesses, fitness centers, religious institutions and other establishments will revert back to Phase 2 capacity restrictions.

Mr. Hogan announced that tomorrow, he will take part in a Governor’s Call with President-elect Joe Biden and his transition team...

As administrators, teachers, and parents debate the safety of returning to in-person instruction, COVID infections are on the rise in virtually every community in the country.

Today, on Midday,  the complex decision facing school administrators in Maryland and across the country: when and how to reopen schools for in-person learning.

Dr. Darryl L. Williams, the Superintendent of the Baltimore County School System, and Dr. Sonja Santelises, the CEO of Baltimore City Schools, discuss who’s in school a building now, who’s being asked to stay at home, and why.

Simon and Schuster Publishers

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy implored Americans to “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” 

Twenty years later, Ronald Reagan won election by asking Americans, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”  Not if the country was better off; if you were better off.

In their fascinating, compelling and wholly original new book, The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, the political scientist Robert David Putnam and the social entrepreneur Shaylyn Romney Garrett assert that from the Gilded Age of the late 19th century to the present moment, America has oscillated between a society framed by colossal income inequality and political polarization to a more progressive era of concern for the common good and political cooperation. The authors observe that following the Gilded Age, a decades-long period began in which Americans acted collectively and cooperatively to confront the existential challenges of an economic catastrophe in the 1930s, a World War in the 1940s, and civil rights legislation and safety-net programs in the 1960s.

But then the tide shifted and a deep polarity returned, and it defines our politics to this day.  

Photo Courtesy / Baltimore City Community College


Today, another in our occasional series, Midday on Higher Education in which we sit down with the presidents of colleges and universities throughout the state. 


Tom's guest is Dr. Debra McCurdy, president of Baltimore City Community College.


Dr. McCurdy took the reigns at Baltimore Community College in May of 2019.  Before coming to BCCC, she served for 11 years as the Rhodes Stage College president in Lima, Ohio.  


During her more than 30 years in higher education, Dr. McCurdy has held administrative posts at Georgia Perimeter College, Clark Atlanta University, Paul Quinn College in Texas, and Brandeis University in Massachusetts.  


With initiatives like the Mayor's Scholars Program, BCCC offers the lowest tuition of any community college in the state, making it an attractive option for low-income students who need access to higher education and career training.  Dr. Debra McCurdy joins me to discuss how her institution is coping with the Coronavirus and her plans for the future of Baltimore City Community College. 


Simon and Schuster Publishers

President-elect Joe Biden has been declared the winner of the presidential election in Arizona, bringing his total in the Electoral College to 290 votes.  A hand recount ordered by state officials in Georgia will almost certainly confirm Biden’s win in that state as well.  

Ever since he burst onto the scene with an upset Senate victory in 1972, Joe Biden has been a power player in Washington and on the world stage, and it's widely agreed that he will bring an unparalleled depth of executive and legislative experience to the job of president.

In his nearly fifty-year career in public service, Joe Biden has played influential leadership roles in the US Senate and served eight years as vice-president in Barack Obama's White House.  Along the way, he has also endured deep personal losses and high-profile political disappointments, events that have given Mr. Biden a humility and an empathy for others in hardship uncommon in career politicians. 

Perpetual Surveillance Systems

Last May, an Ohio-based company called Persistent Surveillance Systems was granted permission to conduct a six-month trial program in Baltimore -- paid for by a foundation in Texas -- to determine if an Aerial Investigation Research (AIR) program was an effective way to help local police and prosecutors in their efforts to solve crimes.  The trial period ended on October 31st.  Final data from the trial program has not yet been released, but since it was first revealed in 2016 that planes were flying over the skies of Baltimore and recording the goings-on below during a previously unpublicized surveillance trial, the "eye in the sky" program has been controversial.  Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison was initially a skeptic about the efficacy of the AIR program, but after consulting with community members he agreed to the trial run...

Freda Payne/Keystone Korner

Tom's guest is singer Freda Payne.  Some might know Ms. Payne for the 1970 Holland-Dozier-Holland song she recorded called Band of Gold.  It was a huge, international top-40 hit single for the then-28 year-old singer.  Payne had a solid run in the R&B genre, with another gold-record hit two years later, an anti-Vietnam War song called Bring the Boys Home.

Despite her success in the 1970s with R&B, the Detroit-born singer’s first love, and the abiding thread in her diverse career, has always been jazz.  She grew up listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. In the early 60s, well before her pop hits, she began working in New York with artists like Quincy Jones. At the age of 22, her debut album – After the Lights Go Down Low and Much More! (a jazz recording including songs by Duke Ellington and other standards) -- was released on the prestigious Impulse label.  She has since recorded numerous jazz albums and toured the international jazz circuit.  Her most recent release was the 2014 CD, Come Back to Me LoveShe says another CD is in the works.

Freda Payne’s career has taken her from the concert stage to Broadway, to movies and TV, and this weekend, it is taking her to Baltimore’s Keystone Korner for a three-night gig, starting tonight at 7:30.  For ticketing and streaming information, click here.  Freda Payne joins us on Zoom…

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Today on Midday: another check on the economic impact of the pandemic. For retailers, it's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.  But this year, as cases of Coronavirus surge across the country, consumer spending may be a ghost of holiday's past.  

Bill Thorne, the Senior Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs at the National Retail Federation, explains the benefits of shopping early this holiday season. 

Melody Simmons of the Baltimore Business Journal talks about her reporting on the Black business owners in Baltimore fighting to survive the pandemic.

Plus, Hampden Village Merchants Association President Ben Ray discusses the importance of keeping cash in the community this Christmas.  


Early analysis of the results of the 2020 presidential election underscore the deep divisions in our country.  President Donald Trump garnered 8 million more votes this time than he received in 2016.  He won solid majorities among white males.  He was favored by both the wealthiest voters and those without a college degree.  President Elect Biden won more votes than any candidate in history, winning majorities of African Americans, women and first-time voters.

The President remains recalcitrant and defiant, refusing to concede and waging legal fights that claim fraud.  Senior Republican leaders are going to bat for him, as they gird for two Senate run-off elections in Georgia on January 5 that could end Republican control of the Senate.

The Biden-Harris ticket ran on a platform of uniting the country, a challenge that seems substantial, to say nothing of the challenges of arresting the Coronavirus, restoring the economy, addressing racial inequity and climate change, and rebuilding relationships with our allies.

Harper Collins Publishers

Tom's next guest is the acclaimed author Nicole Krauss.  She is the author of four novels, including the international bestsellers Forest Dark, Great House, The History of Love, and her debut novel, Man Walks Into a Room.  She’s been a finalist for the National Book Award and the Orange Prize, and she a winner of the Saroyan Prize and the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger in France.

Last week, on Election Day as it turns out, Harper Collins published Krauss's first collection of short stories.  It’s called To Be a Man: Stories.  In it, we are introduced to a dazzling array of characters in locales that span the globe from Israel, to Japan, Switzerland, and both coasts of the United States.

Nicole Krauss is doing a number of virtual events in which she’ll talk about her new short-story collection.  Tonight, she’ll be online with the Free Library of Philadelphia at 7:30.  Tomorrow, the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts, will host an event at 7:00.  And she’ll be at an event sponsored by the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, California, next Wednesday afternoon at 3:00.  [Ticketing fees for the online events cover the purchase of Ms. Krauss's new book.]

Nicole Krauss joins Tom on Zoom…

Photo Courtesy / Family Survivors Netowrk

The Family Survivor Network is a local non-profit organization in Sandtown Winchester that supports the hidden victims of gun violence - the survivors and witnesses of homicide who are left picking up the pieces after a traumatic death.  

Today on Midday, FSN Executive Director Dorian Walker explains how through individual counseling, peer support groups, and community-centered engagement, his organization supports families and communities in their recovery from trauma.  

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

As we head into the winter months, the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in Maryland and across the country. 

On Thursday, Governor Larry Hogan warned of difficult times ahead, urging residents to stay the course, comply with pandemic restrictions, and to "wear the damn mask." 

Baltimore Mayor, Jack Young has announced new restrictions for bars, movie theaters, and other public places.  

Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa joins Tom with the latest on the city's effort to combat the uptick in infections.  

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

As the 2020 election vote-counting continues in Arizona,  Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, Nevada and Alaska, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is inching closer to being declared President-elect.  Early this morning, Biden overtook President Trump’s early lead in Pennsylvania, as mail in-votes from the Philadelphia area are tallied.  Pennsylvania election officials expect to complete their canvassing of ballots by day's end. 

In Georgia, as mail-in votes from the Atlanta metro area are added to the totals, Mr. Biden has earned the lead in that traditionally red state.  Officials there announced an hour ago that they plan a recount.  In Arizona, a state that has already been called for Mr. Biden by Fox News and the Associated Press, Biden maintains a lead that has grown smaller in the last several hours. In Nevada, Biden’s lead is just over 11,000 votes...

Courtesy Showtime Networks

It's another edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly look at films and filmmaking.  As the world nervously awaits the results of vote-counting in multiple states that will determine who will be the next President of the United States, we spotlight some of the new films that have sought to capture the intense angst -- and hopefulness -- many Americans are feeling during this time of deep political, cultural  and racial divisions. 

Tom is joined once again by Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday, author of the popular filmgoers' guide, Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies; and Jed Dietz, founder and former director of the Maryland Film Festival and SNF Parkway Theater on North Avenue in Baltimore.

Ann Hornaday and Jed Dietz join us on Zoom.

Flickr / U.S. Navy photo by Ricardo J. Reyes

Wednesday, a record 104,000 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in a single day. As infections surge, health officials in many areas once again fear that their health systems will be overwhelmed. England and Europe are in a second national lockdown.

Dr. Leana Wen joins Tom for the hour to examine what's behind this new wave of infections.


AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

The status of the 2020 General Election is inconclusive, but we can conclude that the country remains sharply divided over the best way to navigate the serious challenges that lie ahead for America. In the early morning hours today, former Vice President Joe Biden encouraged his supporters to “keep the faith,” predicting confidently that he will prevail when all of the votes are counted.

Soon thereafter, President Donald Trump addressed his supporters in the White House, asserting that the election was a “fraud on the American public,” and “an embarrassment to our country." "We were getting ready to win this election,” he said. “Frankly, we did win this election.”

It is a predictable playbook for Mr. Trump that he presaged over the past several months, using his rallies to prepare the soil to plant the seed of distrust in the electoral process...

Margaret Sullivan/The Washington Post

As the final voters cast their ballots on this final day of this extraordinary and historic election, we want to turn our focus to one of the most crucial tenets of the political process: local journalism.  In the words of the iconic media tycoon William Randolph Hearst, “News is what someone, somewhere, doesn’t want reported.  All the rest is advertisement.”

As The Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan reports in her timely and important book, Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracythere are more and more communities around the country that no longer have locally based reporters, who know what’s important, who know who to talk to, and who know how to hold people accountable.  

Jon Schleuss

Of the 200 largest papers by circulation in the United States, 70% of them are owned by hedge funds.  A number of ideas are being considered to help restore local ownership of local papers, including legislation that would provide incentives for hedge funds to sell their newspapers to local buyers.

Tom's next guest today is Jon Schleuss, the national president of the NewsGuild, a division of the Communications Workers of America trade union. The NewsGuild represents more than 20,000 journalists and media professionals across the United States and Canada, including the newsroom employees of the Baltimore Sun.

Mr. Schleuss (pronounced "shloyce" ) got his start in journalism a decade ago as an online editor and manager of a staff of journalists at the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He later worked part time as a reporter and weekend host at the local NPR station.  In 2013 he joined the Los Angeles Times as a reporter, and five years later led the campaign to secure union representation at the Times, whose newsroom had been non-union for all of its 140 years.  

Mr. Schleuss's union has been closely involved in the Save Our Sun campaign to protect the Baltimore Sun from continued cuts by its current owner, Tribune Publishing and its controlling hedge-fund partner, Alden Global Capitaland to press the company to sell the paper to a journalism-centered coalition of local buyers.  The NewsGuild is also working with other newspapers and with digital newsrooms across the country facing similar corporate pressures.

Jon Schleuss joins Tom on Zoom.