Melissa Harris-Perry: We're back with The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry.
How exactly do we distinguish truth from fiction? That's the question posed by the podcast, The Big Fib from Gen Z Media.
Deborah Goldstein: The Big Fib is a game show podcast for kids and families and educators too much to tell the truth. Where a kid contestant meets two people who claim to be an expert in a particular topic such as black holes or seaweed or cheese. Our contestant asks the experts a bunch of questions and they have to figure out who is our expert and who is our big fiber.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Let me tell you, these kids have all the questions.
Speaker 3: This is for both of you. What is something about the brain that most people probably don't know?
Speaker 4: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Speaker 5: Why are some pumpkins orange and others white?
Speaker 6: When was the first hiccup ever recorded?
Speaker 7: What are some reasons people lose their hair?
Speaker 8: What is the difference between a banjo and a guitar?
Melissa Harris-Perry: Elementary schoolers might be asking most of the questions, but the quizzical conversation is steered along by an adult, who also happens to be a dearly beloved former member of Team Takeaway.
Deborah Goldstein: I am Deborah Goldstein, host and executive producer of the Game Show podcast, The Big Fib.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Deborah's been hosting the Educational Game show since 2018, and she says one of the goals of the show is to teach kid contestants how to ask tough questions so they can learn how to tell fact from fiction. As she told me, when we sat down earlier this week, the kids are already pretty sharp.
Deborah Goldstein: I have been so delighted by the intelligence of our kids. It's actually really tough to fool them. Not that we're in the market of fooling them, but it's not always the worst thing when a kid gets it wrong because we are trying to prove a point that perhaps we have some biases or perhaps we believe people we shouldn't necessarily believe. These kids are really listening for facts. First and foremost. They do their homework. Most of them know what a reliable source is, which is pretty incredible these days. They are also listening for the way in which responses are given. Are people skirting around an answer-- not actually answering the question at hand?
Melissa Harris-Perry: I feel like you've already started to move us towards that second level that this is operating on, which is The Big Fib is also a demonstration show around this and misinformation, right?
Deborah Goldstein: Absolutely. We've been using the phrase fake news for a long time now, and we really wanted everyone, all of our listeners to understand that we are really all susceptible to fake news and we wanted to catch these kids at an early age so that they aren't as fooled as we have been. They really understand where their information is coming from and that they're doing their own homework and sometimes trusting their gut too.
Melissa Harris-Perry: There's also this discourse about protecting children from ideas and information through banning books, through banning certain curriculum even as we've talked about here on the show, like drag phobia, keeping kids from just seeing and encountering the world. The Big Fib also feels to me like it's saying, "Hey, trust kids a little bit. They're capable of taking in all kinds of information."
Deborah Goldstein: They absolutely are. Kids, they have access to everything. The world is available to them online, on the internet, and I think it's only right that we help them navigate the internet in a responsible way. Gone are the days when we could actually limit what they learn, what they have exposure to. That ship has sailed. We need to be their stewards in information.
Melissa Harris-Perry: You talked about editing. You worked here on The Takeaway. We miss you every day for so many reasons. Certainly, our Takeaway audience should know that Deborah Goldstein is the puniest of the pun stars [chuckles] It was always such a joy to have you discursively part of the show. Tell me how is it different producing The Big Fib podcast versus producing The Takeaway?
Deborah Goldstein: I still use puns. I have to get my puns in, so I do add a good amount of puns to the episodes that I write which is my pleasure to do, though not always so easy to pun about camels throughout the course of an episode. There's a lot of overlap because we, in both cases, whether it's news or in talking about topics where we're trying to be responsible about the information we're providing kids, we have to do our research. We have to know the information that we're getting is reliable. We have to seek out experts who are in fact, experts in their fields and can speak to the topic in a responsible and educated way.
We have to bring out the best in all of them. A pre-interview is really important, both with our experts and with our kids. Sometimes our kids have a lot to say when they're applying to be a contestant on the show, but by the time they get to the actual recording of the episode, they might become a little shy or they don't want to talk about everything that they mentioned when they auditioned for the show. I think in a lot of ways they're very similar.
Melissa Harris-Perry: All right. Tell me a great story about someone who won but maybe was really surprised when they won.
Deborah Goldstein: [chuckles] About someone who-- well, I'm going to say that oftentimes they are just torn and they just don't know which to choose, and they're just going with their gut a lot of times because the fibbers are pretty good at fibbing. That's why they get the big bucks here in the podcast world for doing this show [chuckles] They know what they're talking about. They're starting with a lot of facts sometimes, and then expanding to add fibs to things that are in fact facts. Sometimes the kids are really confused because people are complicated as well. They're not always going to be telling solely lies or solely truth.
Sometimes it's a mix of both. We encourage our fibbers to use facts as well, which is equally as confusing. Sometimes the kids are just surprised because they guessed right. I do encourage them to go with their gut a lot because I think that's really important. We learn over time to second-guess ourselves, which is unfortunate. Oftentimes they're correct just because they can tell there's something inside that tells them that somebody is not believable and nine times out of 10, they are correct.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Deborah Goldstein, is there one lesson that you've learned on The Big Fib that you think all of us kids and adults should take with us into our public spaces into our social world?
Deborah Goldstein: Don't believe everything you hear just because somebody speaks confidently or just because they use a lot of jargon or repeat the same things again and again, or interrupt people and disagree with them because they think they know better. Trust yourself, trust your gut. Do your homework.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Deborah Goldstein, Executive Producer and host of The Big Fib Podcast, thanks so much for joining us today.
Deborah Goldstein: Thank you so much for having me. It's been an absolute pleasure.
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