This American Life Episode 695: Everyone’s a Critic – Act Two – “Mr. Chen Goes to Wuhan”

This American Life is a podcast I have read about extensively in years past.

Recently, I listened to a 23-minute podcast entitled: “Mr. Chen Goes to Wuhan.”

An excerpt from the podcast reads: “Her message is short. Chen has gone missing.”

Podcasting and storytelling

I am impressed with how the “Mr. Chen Goes to Wuhan” is structured.

The research, narration, music, and editing all working together smoothly create a package of storytelling that is highly effective.

What I have found to be a useful resource regarding podcasting is entitled:

Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio (2015)

Of related interest is Longreads article (accessed March 7, 2020) entitled; “8 Longreads by Will Store on the Science of Storytelling.”

Story of Wuhan

The podcast brings the story of Wuhan alive for me in a way that a news report generally in not as capable of doing. By that I mean bringing it alive on a human level – at a level where I can get a glimpse, get a sense, of the experiences of individual citizens.

I wrote down some quotes from the podcast as I was listening:

“There’s a suffocating claustrophobia.”

“If measures had been taken earlier, my father would not have died.”

“… the sheer volume of dysfunction”

“The Ministry of Justice is after him.”

“I am scared.”

“In front of me is the virus.”

“Her message is short. Chen has gone missing.”

“Chen’s been silent ever since then.”

“No one’s heard from Chen. It’s been twenty-two days”

March 8, 2020 Guardian article

A March 8, 2020 Guardian article is entitled: “China is ill, but it goes much deeper than the coronavirus: The regime’s power relies on intimidation and censorship. Right now, mistrust is a contagion it is struggling to control.”

An excerpt reads:

The communist system, with its tight control of information and its accountability of officials only to their bureaucratic superiors, not to the people below, has been undermining social trust for decades. Citizens do not expect a volte-face in trust just because a deadly virus appears. But without trust, people’s immune system against lies breaks down. In the public sphere, all belief becomes ungrounded belief.

Statements float like clouds, beyond truth or falsity. Questions about a virus – what happened and why? – should be empirical questions that have determinable answers. But not in China, where the problem is not even lack of knowledge so much as lack of a system in which knowledge is possible. China’s officialdom does have a scale on which it measures the value of particular statements, but the criterion is not truth or falsity – it is how well the statement does something that authorities want to see done.


A March 12, 2020 New York Times article is entitled: “How the World’s Largest Coronavirus Outbreaks Are Growing.”

An excerpt reads:

“Today, the red zone is Italy,” Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, told The New York Times. But in 10 days, he warned, it will be Madrid, Paris and Berlin. If Italy cannot show how to stop the virus, he said, “the red zone will be Europe.”

Useful resource (New England Complex Systems Institute):

Stopping the Coronavirus Epidemic

Additional valuable resource (

Early Outbreak Response Guidelines

The above-noted site includes a PDF entitled:

COVID-19 Recommendations for Policy Makers

[End of updates]

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