First, Do No Harmhealth
From the 1930s to the 1950s a radical surgery – the Lobotomy – would forever change our understanding and treatment of the mentally ill.
Lies, Leaks and Consequenceslaw-society
Taking a page from Nixon, President Trump is waging his own battle against leaks, which threatens to damage Americans’ right to know.
Grilling Gorsuch: Why He Won’t Answerlaw-society
As the country prepares for the confirmation hearings of Judge Neil Gorsuch, Retro Report explores how the bitter hearings over Judge Robert Bork changed how nominees answer questions.
Trump and the Battle over Sanctuarylaw-society
As deportations begin to rise under President Trump, churches and cities are declaring themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants. It’s the latest chapter of a movement with a long history.
Guantanamo Bay has become a symbol of the war on terror, but its story actually begins a decade before, when it was first used to detain thousands of Haitians outside the reach of U.S. law. This story was created in collaboration with NPR and PBS, FRONTLINE.
Malaria and the Silent Springnature
Author Rachel Carson’s strike against the pesticide DDT turned her into both an environmental hero and a foil for those who believe regulation has gone too far. That fight is more relevant than ever.
Could You Patent the Sun?health
Decades after Dr. Jonas Salk opposed patenting the polio vaccine, the pharmaceutical industry has changed. What does that mean for the development of innovative drugs and for people whose lives depend on them?
The Fight to Save the Amazonnature
In 1988, the murder of Chico Mendes fueled a movement of activists, celebrities and indigenous peoples that helped to make the rainforest a household name. But what happens now?
Activating a Generationentertainment
Thirty years after “Live Aid” changed the face of charity fundraising, clicktivism has taken center stage. If you share, re-tweet and like, are you making the world a better place?
Defusing War’s Perfect Soldiersscience-technology
In 1997, Princess Diana brought public attention to land mine victims. But, almost two decades after her death, how much progress has been made in the worldwide fight against leftover munitions?
Prop 13: Mad As Helllaw-society
In 1978, voters passed Proposition 13, lowering taxes for millions of California homeowners. Decades later, what has it meant for California?
Unraveling Zero Tolerancelaw-society
Over the last 30 years, schools across the country have enacted tough new discipline policies. Some of those schools say they went too far.
The Great Debate: Style or Substance?law-society
The moments we remember from political debates are embedded in our political folklore, from the knockout lines to the losing gaffes. But does media coverage often miss the real lessons they offer?
Where Does the American Dream Live?law-society
How a little-known public housing program from the 1970s is changing housing policy today.
“On Account of Sex”law-society
When Phyllis Schlafly fought the Equal Rights Amendment, which called for equality of rights “on account of sex,” it kicked off a battle that continues to influence political debate today.
The Mommy Warslaw-society
The Mommy Wars were billed as the nastiest fight in American parenting, and actually fueled by a decades-old blunder. This story was produced in collaboration with Quartz.
The Outrage Machinelaw-society
In the digital age, where everyday people can suddenly become public enemy number one, how do we strike the balance between keeping free speech alive online and preventing a cyber mob from taking over?
The story of the veterans who witnessed secret atomic testing and how their decades-long struggle for recognition affects soldiers today. This story is a coproduction with our friends at Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
The Long, Strange Trip of LSDscience-technology
In the 1960s, mind-altering drugs like LSD helped fuel the counter-culture. Today, psychedelics are turning on a new generation – of scientists.
Welfare and the Politics of Povertylaw-society
Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform was supposed to move needy families off government handouts and onto a path out of poverty. Twenty years later, how has it turned out?
D&D: Lessons from a Media Panicentertainment
Dungeons and Dragons was once accused of leading children to Satanism, but today the game looks more like a solution to a problem plaguing modern parenting.
Carl Sagan and other Cold War scientists once feared that a nuclear war could plunge the world into a deadly ice age. Three decades later, does this theory still resonate?
A Change of Hearthealth
The artificial heart became a media sensation in the 1980s as it both raised hopes and spread controversy. Today its impact on medical science is still playing out in surprising ways.
The Terminator and the Washing Machinescience-technology
What the legendary match between a supercomputer and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov reveals about today’s artificial intelligence panic.
After Bush v. Gorelaw-society
The dramatic controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election led to sweeping voting reforms, but opened the door to a new set of problems that continue to impact elections today.
For decades the United States has been on a quest to perfect stealth technology, but development of the F-35 fighter jet shows just how complicated dreams can become.
Thirty-five years after the first dietary guidelines, how much do we really know about the science behind a healthy diet?
The Boy in the Bubblehealth
In the early 1970s, an unusual boy captivated the nation. Now, decades later, his story continues to unfold in remarkable ways.
Heroin and the War on Drugscrime
In the 1970s, frustration over heroin related, urban crime led to the War on Drugs. Today, heroin is back. But the users, and the response, are very different.
Blood and Sportsports
In 1982, boxing fans tuned in for a fight the sport wouldn’t soon forget. Today, with concerns about the toll of football on the rise, is America’s favorite game nearing its own inflection point?
Sex, Drugs and Goreentertainment
Offended by lyrics they deemed too sexual and violent, Tipper Gore and Susan Baker campaigned to put warning labels on albums in 1985. Years later, warning labels have ended up in some unexpected places.
Where is my Grandchild?law-society
Estela de Carlotto has spent nearly four decades searching for her grandson, one of the estimated 500 babies who disappeared after their mothers were taken by the military regime in Argentina in the 1970s.
Haunted by Columbinecrime
The killing of twelve students and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999 continues to shape how we view and understand school shootings today.
A Syndrome on Trialcrime
In 1997, a young British nanny charged with murder brought shaken baby syndrome into the national spotlight, and raised a scientific debate that continues to shape child abuse cases today.
SWAT: Mission Creepcrime
SWAT teams were created in the 1960’s to combat violent events. Since then, the specialized teams have morphed into a force increasingly used in routine policing, most often to serve drug warrants,sometimes with disastrous results. Which raises the question – are we too militarized?
Napster: Culture of FREEentertainment
In 1999, a file-sharing program created in a Boston dorm room sent shockwaves across the music industry and served notice that a major cultural shift was underway.
From Crack Babies to Oxytots: Lessons Not Learnedcrime
In the 1980s, many government officials, scientists, and journalists warned that the country would be plagued by a generation of “crack babies.” They were wrong. More than 25 years later, the media is sounding a similar alarm.
The Shadow of Wacolaw-society
22 years ago, federal agents raided the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, and generated a legacy that continues to shape antigovernment groups today.
Transgender issues today are rooted in a decades-long struggle for inclusion.
The Population Bomb?law-society
In the 1960s, fears of overpopulation sparked campaigns for population control. But whatever became of the population bomb?
Chasing Outbreaks: How Safe Is Our Food?health
A 1993 E. coli outbreak linked Jack in the Box hamburgers sickened 700 people and acted as a wake up call about the dangers of food-borne illness. More than 20 years later, how far have we come?
Safety on Firehealth
There are over 80,000 chemicals in use today. The story of TRIS, removed from children’s pajamas in the 1970s, illustrates just how hard it is to regulate chemicals, or to even know if they’re safe.
Anatomy of an Interrogationlaw-society
The story of the first and only interrogator connected to the CIA to be convicted in a torture-related case.
Pets Gone Wildnature
Burmese pythons, often released into the wild by well-meaning pet owners, have infested the Florida Everglades and created a reptilian nightmare in the ecosystem.
A Right to Die?health
Should doctors be allowed to help suffering patients die? Twenty-five years ago, with his homemade suicide machine, Dr. Jack Kevorkian raised that question. It’s an issue Americans still struggle with today.
The Ferry: A Civil Rights Storylaw-society
Weeks before Selma’s Bloody Sunday in 1965, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged residents of Gee’s Bend, Ala., to vote, and fed a continuing fight over a small ferry that would last for decades.
Vaccines: An Unhealthy Skepticismhealth
An outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland turned a spotlight on those who choose not to vaccinate their children. Watch this Emmy-nominated backstory on how vaccinations became one of our country’s most contentious topics.
Power Line Fearshealth
News media coverage in the 1980s and early 1990s fueled fears of a national cancer epidemic caused by power lines and generated a debate that still lingers today.
Sybil: A Brilliant Hysteric?health
In the 1970s, the TV movie “Sybil” introduced much of the nation to multiple personality disorder and launched a controversy that continues to resonate.
‘A Dingo’s Got My Baby:’ Trial by Mediaentertainment
In 1982, an Australian mother was convicted of murdering her baby daughter. She was later exonerated, but soon fell victim to a joke that distracted the world from the real story.
A Search for Justicecrime
The murder of four American churchwomen focused attention on the United States’ involvement in El Salvador. Nearly 35 years later, the case continues to take surprising turns.
Wolves at the Doornature
In the 1990s, the federal government reintroduced the gray wolf to Yellowstone National Park. It was considered a big success. And that’s when the real fight began.
Ruby Ridge: American Standoffcrime
When armed suspects stand off against the law today, one event continues to cast a shadow on both sides of the police line: the 1992 siege at Ruby Ridge.
The Cost of Campaignslaw-society
The Watergate campaign finance scandals led to a landmark law designed to limit the influence of money in politics. Forty years later, some say the scandal isn’t what’s illegal, it’s what’s legal.
Curt Flood: Rebel Without a Clausesports
When baseball star Curt Flood rejected a trade in 1969, he challenged America’s pastime and helped spark a revolution that rippled beyond the game. This newly updated Retro Report documentary explores free agency in the age of LeBron James and DeAndre Jordan.
The Mystery of the Missing Beesnature
The mystery of Colony Collapse Disorder has pushed honeybees into the public eye. But the story of their plight – and its impact – is much more complicated.
Revolution in a Capsulehealth
When Prozac was introduced in 1988, the green-and-cream pill to treat depression launched a cultural revolution that continues to echo.
The Promise of the Air Bagscience-technology
How did cars become “computers on wheels,” so automated that some are about to start driving themselves? The story begins forty-five years ago with a quest to make cars safer and the battle over the air bag.
Go or no Go: The Challenger Legacyscience-technology
On January 28, 1986, seven astronauts slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God. America’s space program was never the same.
How DNA Changed the World of Forensicsscience-technology
Before DNA testing, prosecutors relied on less sophisticated forensic techniques, including microscopic hair analysis, to put criminals behind bars. But how reliable was hair analysis?
Agent Orange: Last Chapter of the Vietnam Warhealth
The use of the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War continues to cast a dark shadow over both American veterans and Vietnamese citizens.
Picking a Winner: The 1998 NFL Draftsports
After the 1998 NFL draft produced one of the greatest busts in history, what have we learned about the science of evaluating human talent – on and off the field?
Three Mile Island: Lessons from the Nuclear Dreamscience-technology
More than three decades after the accident at Three Mile Island cast a shadow on the atomic dream, is America again ready to give nuclear energy a chance?
The Enduring Legacy of Terri Schiavolaw-society
The controversy over Terri Schiavo’s case elevated a family matter into a political battle that continues to frame end-of-life issues today.
The 1989 earthquake that shook San Francisco sent out a wake up call that continues to echo across the country.
The Superpredator Scarecrime
In the mid-1990s, after a decade of soaring juvenile crime, some social scientists warned the violence would only get worse. Reality proved otherwise.
The Shame of the Churchlaw-society
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been making headlines for years. Some priests have been punished, but what about the bishops who shielded them?
Baby M and the Question of Surrogacylaw-society
The custody battle over Baby M was the first time a court considered surrogacy. Today’s families are created in many different ways. But have we resolved the question of surrogacy?
Fly Wars: Battling The Medflynature
In the summer of 1981, the Mediterranean fruit fly spread through California’s Santa Clara Valley, infesting backyard fruit trees and threatening the state’s $14 billion agricultural industry.
McMartin Preschool: Anatomy of a Paniccrime
The nightmare began in 1983 when a 39-year-old mother called the police department in Manhattan Beach, California and accused a teacher at the McMartin Preschool, Raymond Buckey, of molesting her two and a half-year old son.
When a Bridge Fallsscience-technology
At the height of rush hour on August 1, 2007 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a bridge carrying eight lanes of I-35W over the Mississippi River suddenly collapsed, sending cars trucks plunging into the water below.
Stealing J. Edgar Hoover’s Secretslaw-society
On March 8, 1971, a group of eight Vietnam War protestors broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation field office in Media, Pennsylvania and stole hundreds of government documents that shocked a nation.
Exxon Valdez: In the Wake of Disasterscience-technology
On a cold March night in 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Southern Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the waters of Prince William Sound and creating one of the worst oil spills in American history.
Crime and Punishment: Three Strikes and You’re Outcrime
After the 1993 murder of a California child, many states passed laws to lock up repeat offenders for life, but today those laws are raising new questions about how crime is handled in America.
Love Canal: A Legacy of Doubtlaw-society
In 1978, toxic chemicals leaking from an old landfill thrust an upstate New York community called “Love Canal” into the national headlines, and made it synonymous with “environmental disaster.”
The Sleeper Cell That Wasn’tcrime
Six days after 9/11, the FBI’s raid on a Detroit sleeper cell signaled America’s resolve to fight terrorism. But, despite a celebrated conviction, there was one problem — they’d gotten it wrong.
The Day the Lights Went Outscience-technology
In 2003, a blackout crippled areas of the U.S. and Canada, leaving some 50 million people in the dark. Ten years later, we are still grappling with concerns over the vulnerability of our power grid.
The Long War on Cancerhealth
Forty-two years ago when President Richard Nixon vowed to make curing cancer a national crusade, many anticipated quick results.
In the Shadow of Katrinalaw-society
Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005, and Louisiana’s troubled housing recovery has shaped the response to every major disaster since, including Hurricane Sandy.
Taking the Lid Off the McDonald’s Coffee Caselaw-society
In 1992, Stella Liebeck spilled scalding McDonald’s coffee in her lap and later sued the company, attracting a flood of negative attention. It turns out, there’s more to the story.
Dolly the Sheepscience-technology
In 1997, Scottish scientists announced they had cloned a sheep and named her Dolly, and sent waves of future shock around the world that continue to shape frontiers of science today.
Richard Jewell: The Wrong Mancrime
The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta were rocked by a bomb that killed one and injured more than 100. In the rush to find the perpetrator, one man became a target. There was only one problem. He was innocent.
Walter Reed: The Battle for Recoveryhealth
In 2007, the scandalous treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center shocked the nation. Today, after major reforms, what’s changed for America’s injured soldiers?
The Shadow of Thalidomidehealth
In the 1950s, thalidomide cut a wide swath of destruction across the world, leaving behind thousands of deformed infants, but that was only the beginning of the story.
In the wake of the 1993 hit movie Free Willy, activists and fans campaigned to release the movie’s star – a captive killer whale named Keiko – and launched a story Hollywood couldn’t invent.
The Battle For Businglaw-society
A story of America’s school integration and what happened when the buses stopped rolling.
Summer of Firenature
The lessons learned from the summer of 1988 when fires burned nearly one third of Yellowstone National Park continue to shape the way we fight wildfires raging across the West today.
Test Tube Tomatoscience-technology
In the 1990s, a bunch of gene jockeys brought the first genetically engineered food to market. The business crashed but biotech science has flourished far beyond the produce aisle.
Wild Horse Warsnature
The decades-long quest to save wild horses has run amok, creating a problem that even swooping helicopters, aging cowboys, camera-savvy activists, and millions of dollars can’t solve.
Biosphere 2: An American Space Odysseyscience-technology
With dreams of one day colonizing space, eight people sealed themselves inside a giant glass biosphere in the Arizona desert in 1991. By the time they emerged two years later, they had suffocated, starved and went mad.
The Tawana Brawley Storycrime
In 1988, the nation learned the truth about the alleged crimes against Tawana Brawley, but the shocking story was far from over.
Y2K: Much Ado About Nothing?science-technology
The Y2K bug threatened to wipe out computers and disrupt modern society at the end of the 20th century. We all remember the doomsday hype, but what really happened?
The Legacy of Tailhookcrime
Military sexual assault is not a new phenomenon. A second look at the Tailhook scandal in 1991 reveals what happened then. And what it all means now.
Voyage of the Mobro 4000law-society
The 1987 voyage of a barge loaded with New York garbage became a sensational fiasco, but it ended up fueling the modern recycling movement.