Robert Harrison’s radio show, Entitled Opinions, gets a new look

Robert Harrison
Robert Harrison

ROBERT HARRISON’s radio show Entitled Opinions has devoted fans all over the world – from Australia to China, Mexico to Russia. One blogger called the intellectually powered interviews, broadcast from KZSU (90.1 FM) and available for free download on iTunes, “one of the most fascinating, engaging podcasts in any possible universe.”

Harrison, the Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature and an acclaimed author and regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, has recorded more than 200 conversations since 2005. His show has featured some of our era’s leading figures in literature, philosophy, science and cultural history, including the late RICHARD RORTY, the late RENÉ GIRARD, Peter Sloterdijk, Shirley Hazzard, Orhan Pamuk, Colm Tóibin, Marilynne Robinson, PAUL EHRLICH, Michel Serres, Hayden White and ABRAHAM VERGHESE.

But until very recently, the website still used the ancient html format created for the French & Italian Department website, with its long, unmemorable URL. Searching for past shows was clumsy and often impossible. Visitors had to scroll down through a seemingly endless chronological list of past episodes to find what they were looking for.

Harrison was beginning to worry about how to ensure that the program remain available in the future – it’s a gold mine for scholars, as well as average listeners who “don’t consider themselves observers or listeners, but full-blown participants in the conversation.”

Meanwhile, journalist CYNTHIA HAVEN, who works with Harrison on the Another Look book club, was trying to make the broadcasts available to an even wider audience. Together, they found solutions.

A generous donation from former Stanford President JOHN HENNESSY helped fund a redesign for the website, making it more searchable and up-to-date, with a new URL anyone can remember: Moreover, the show has forged a new alliance with the Los Angeles Review of Books. The Entitled Opinions channel on the journal’s website is boosting each featured episode by thousands of viewers. The channel also offers summaries of the conversations – another first for the show.

“Robert Harrison’s interviews are always incisive, smart, interesting. We are so excited to have Entitled Opinions as a new channel at the Los Angeles Review of Books,” said Managing Editor Medaya Ocher. “He has a devoted following around the world, but we wanted to make sure that these conversations reached an even broader public. We’ve loved listening to his show over years, and it’s a privilege to host these exceptional interviews on our site.”

In another move to preserve Entitled Opinions, the university archivist is now archiving Entitled Opinions as an important part of Stanford’s cultural legacy and history, even as more episodes are being added.

What keeps Harrison going? His fans, he said. Over the summer, a Stanford student commented, “Just to know that there are such erudite, thoughtful and passionate intellectuals like you and your guests give me some kind of hope in the world.”

The hope is much needed on the international scene as well. A young woman wrote, “I am finally getting my oxygen in the barren and orthodox land of Pakistan where lunacy rules and religious fundamentalism along with brutal patriarchy destroys all the critical and creative potential in every thinking person.”

Another listener noted, “Your show accompanied me through pretty stressful times of intense military and political conflicts in Israel, when heavy objects were falling from the sky on both sides of the border and people were saying pretty dreadful things about other people. … The shows certainly helped me remain sane.”

Harrison added, “When you look at the whole archive, it’s a lifeline to a world of intellectual ideas.”