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The Assignment with Audie Cornish

Fiery Twitter threads and endless news notifications never capture the full story. Each week on The Assignment, host Audie Cornish pulls listeners out of their digital echo chambers to hear from the people who live the headlines. From the sex work economy to the battle over what’s taught in classrooms, no topic is off the table. Listen to The Assignment every Thursday. 

The Free Speech Wars on Campus The Assignment with Audie Cornish
Between student protests, controversial speakers, and debates over “safe spaces,” complaints about free speech on campus are louder than ever. How do school leaders respond to these gripes? And how do they balance freedom of expression – and the idea that speech can be violence? 
We have two college presidents from the front lines of this debate: Roslyn Clark Artis of Benedict College and Michael Roth of Wesleyan University. Both schools are part of the so-called “Campus Call for Free Expression.”
Leave us an Assignment: or call (202) 854-8802‬.
Sep 21, 2023
Greek Life Gone Viral The Assignment with Audie Cornish
In recent years, Greek life faced a crisis as the pandemic cast a shadow on recruitment, and the “abolish Greek life” movement grew across campuses. But then came #RushTok —  a flurry of TikToks documenting the sorority recruitment process among university campuses, especially in the South. One tag, in particular, soared to remarkable heights: #BamaRush. It chronicled the rush process at the University of Alabama and has garnered an astonishing 3 billion TikTok views (and counting).  
This week...Show more we speak to writer, journalist, and former sorority sister Anne Helen Petersen, who  has been documenting the phenomenon. Why are the videos dominating our feeds? And what does RushTok’s popularity say about its stars... and its biggest stans? 
Anne Helen Petersen is a writer and journalist whose writing has appeared in BuzzFeed News, The New York Times, Vox, The Atlantic, and more. Her books include Out of the Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home and Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation. She writes a Substack newsletter called Culture Study.
Sep 14, 2023
We’re Taking Your Assignments: Money, Marijuana, and Montana The Assignment with Audie Cornish
Is there a coin shortage in the U.S.? Is there an increase in kids smoking weed at school? And: what’s the deal with Montana politics?  
All of these questions were asked by you, our listeners. Throughout the life of this podcast, we’ve asked you to pick up the phone and leave us Assignments – and you have delivered. We love getting these messages. We took these three Assignments and called up three reporters who could give us some answers. Joining us this week, CNN Business reporter Clare Duff...Show morey @claresduffy, CNN Health reporter Jacqueline Howard @JacqEHoward, and Montana Free Press editor, Brad Tyer. 
Read the Montana Free Press at and follow them at @mtfreepress. 
We're only getting started with your Assignments, so if you want to leave us one, please do! You can send an email to or leave us a voicemail: 202-854-8802
Sep 7, 2023
Hollywood’s Hot Strike Summer The Assignment with Audie Cornish
For Labor Day — the unofficial end of summer and the official holiday celebrating the American worker — we are checking in on the state of the striking actors and writers demanding more from the studios they work for. When the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) went on strike earlier this year, no one was sure how long the first dual strike in over 60 years would last. Six weeks later both unions are sti...Show morell on the picket line. This week we speak to industry insider, Franklin Leonard, about the state of the strikes and how this could change the way Hollywood works, and how we watch movies and TV. 
Franklin Leonard is a film and television producer and the founder of The Black List, a platform for film and television writers to showcase their work to industry professionals.
Aug 31, 2023
The Fight Against Digital Hate The Assignment with Audie Cornish
Imran Ahmed is a man in the middle of the disinformation wars. He is the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), an organization dedicated to researching online hate speech and disinformation. Audie talks with him about how he came to the work, the lawsuit filed against him by Elon Musk’s X Corp. (formerly Twitter), and what it all means for the debate over “free speech” versus “hate speech” online. 
For more context on today’s conversation, read CNN’s reporting here. And read X Corp’s response to CCDH here.
Aug 24, 2023
Fighting Fires on the Frontlines of Climate Change The Assignment with Audie Cornish
Devastating wildfires like the ones in Maui could become more common in our future due to a host of several factors, including climate change. But what about the folks who are already grappling with the fact that climate change is here? This week, we break down the connection between climate change and wildfires with climate scientist Dr. Daniel Swain. Then, Audie talks with former wildland firefighters Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan and Riva Duncan about how climate change is shifting the way fires a...Show morere fought, and how the work is getting more demanding, more difficult, and more dangerous.  
Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan is currently a Program Manager at Firewise USA, which teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together and take action now to prevent losses. She is a former wildland firefighter. 
Riva Duncan is the vice president of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters, a nonprofit advocacy group fighting for reforms for federal wildland firefighters. She retired from wildland firefighting in 2020 after more than 30 years. 
Dr. Daniel Swain is a climate scientist focused on the dynamics and impacts of extreme events—including droughts, floods, storms, and wildfires—on a warming planet. He blogs at Weather West, which provides real-time perspectives on California and western North American weather and climate.
Aug 17, 2023
Sex and Sensibilities: Let’s Talk About Puriteens The Assignment with Audie Cornish
Have you heard about the “puriteens”? That’s the nickname for Gen Z’ers who are uncomfortable with sex and sexuality, and discuss that discomfort, largely online. Well, the media is obsessed with them and what their #thoughts mean for the state of their sex lives. But how accurate is that label? Is this a real thing? Our Assignment this week: unpacking the “puriteen” label. 
We called up  Constance Grady, who is both a millennial and the Vox senior correspondent behind The Purity Chronicles, and Izzy Ampil, the Gen Z writer who reported “People Think Gen Z Is Sex Negative, But The Truth Is More Complicated” for Buzzfeed News.
Aug 10, 2023
The Assignment presents The Axe Files with David Axelrod The Assignment with Audie Cornish
When Audie Cornish first crossed paths with David Axelrod, she was a young radio reporter with no clout and he was the big-shot campaign manager of then-candidate Barack Obama. No wonder she couldn't get an interview. Today as colleagues at CNN, they can finally sit down and compare a few notes on that historic time in American politics. This conversation leads us into a special episode of The Axe Files featuring an interview with former president Barack Obama, presented in full. We'll be back with new episodes of The Assignment soon.
Subscribe to The Axe Files
Aug 3, 2023
The Assignment presents Chasing Life with Sanjay Gupta The Assignment with Audie Cornish
Why is there such stigma attached to getting older? How can we prepare to transition through the different stages of life? Those are some of the questions CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is exploring on the latest season of his podcast Chasing Life. Audie sits down with Sanjay to talk about his approach to this season, and we’ll hear the first episode which features a lovely interview with Sanjay and his parents. The team at The Assignment is taking a short break to do more reporting, we’ll be back soon with more episodes. Thanks for listening!
Jul 27, 2023
TikTok Is Changing Music, One Song at a Time The Assignment with Audie Cornish
TikTok has turned the traditional music industry on its head. Users on the platform are dictating hits before they reach the charts and revolutionizing the way artists are discovered. But what happens to the creative process when "going viral” takes center stage? This week, Audie talks with songwriter Kaydence and Hip-hop artist Armani White about the TikTok-ification of music, hooking listeners, and what works — and doesn’t — in the never-ending quest to make a good song. Plus, how is TikTok ch...Show moreanging the way we listen to music? Music industry expert and consultant Tatiana Cirisano weighs in.  
Kaydence is a two-time Grammy-Award winning songwriter and artist who has written songs for Ariana Grande, Brandy, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez and ZAYN, among others.  
Armani White is a rapper known for his N.O.R.E.-sampling viral hit, “Billie Eilish.” which first made waves on TikTok in 2022. Since then, he has signed with Def Jam Records and released his second EP, Road to CASABLANCO. in May. 
Tatiana Cirisano is a senior music industry analyst and consultant at MIDiA, where she specializes in emerging consumer trends and the intersection of music and technology.
Jul 20, 2023
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