Vincent Safuto’s Weblog

Notes and observations

Terry Gross interview made armed robber sound like a lovable rogue

I have long been a fan of Terry Gross and her interview show “Fresh Air” on National Public Radio.

Back when I was in college and working at the post office, I’d listen on my radio Walkman to 90.7-FM WXEL radio while I prepped metered mail. It was like clockwork, every single weekday. At 4 p.m. Terry Gross’ show would come on. Oh, how awesome it was to hear her say, “From WHYY in Philadelphia, I’m Terry Gross, with ‘Fresh Air,’” then the jazzy opening music followed by her teze for the upcoming hourlong show.

After the top-of-the-hour newsbreak at 5 p.m., the familiar fanfare would come on for “All Things Considered.”

So it hurts to have to be so critical of a recent “Fresh Air” segment, in which Terry Gross basically seemed to fall head-over-heels for a convicted felon and armed robber who claims to have read more than 1,000 books in prison.

Released from prison, ‘Apologetic Bandit’ writes about life inside” is the title of the episode, and it’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard.

Daniel Genis spent 10 years in prison for his armed robberies, which he said he committed to pay a “mean Ukrainian” to whom he owed $5,000. Genis used a knife, followed people into the vestibules of buildings and robbed them of their money. He said he needed to pay off his heroin debts, and he apologized for robbing his victims.

Oh, well, since he apologized he must be an OK guy.

Genis meets several of the criteria on NPR for being a really good person, as opposed to the losers like me who have never committed a crime and go to work every day:

  1. He was a heroin addict.
  2. He “won his battle” with heroin.
  3. He served time in prison.
  4. He is an immigrant. His father was a Soviet-era dissident and many of his parents’ friends served time in the gulag.
  5. He now writes for major publications. I have to beg and scratch and scrape for a chance. I should have just robbed people in New York City and shot heroin, and I’d be a rich writer, too.

Naturally, Genis insists that he didn’t belong in prison and that he did a lot of reading there. Nice. I have to work, so I don’t have all that much time for reading (though I do my share.) It’s always great to read about prisoners who get their college degrees for free. I only had to work for mine.

I loved the part where Terry Gross describes Genis’s robberies as “some bad choices.”

This story made me sick. I am growing tired of lame excuses from people who’ve turned to crime, then made a profit on turning away from crime.

Terry Gross needs to be more selective about her interview topics. Sure, she may miss a “hot” writer, but I think Genis was only picked because “Orange Is the New Black” is such a big deal right now.


March 20, 2015 - Posted by | Life lessons, The news business | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. My angry critic,

    I was surprised by the vitriol of this post, but you’re entitled to your opinion. Fortunately you have no powers of judgement regarding my work or person beyond not reading me. Can you tolerate some corrections if I stick to fact?
    1. While I do write for national media, I’m barely middle-class rather than rich.
    2. I do insist that I did a lot of reading, but emphatically deny claiming not to have deserved my sentence. I was guilty of the crimes I was convicted of.
    3. I received my BA from NYU in 1999, four years before prison loomed. I earned a merit scholarship, worked during my entire education, and graduated a semester early to save money. Remember, I’m an immigrant?
    4. I was born in New York City in 1978. My parents immigrated in 1977.

    I’ll abstain from posting my thoughts on yours, since everyone else has. I can only offer that you try reading some of my work before dismissing it. It’s all at If you’ll accept a word of advice, I suggest that if you criticize writers or writing, do so in correct grammar. Your text, in the hands of a meaner spirit, is excellent material to humiliate you with. Could this be a factor in your scraping, scratching and begging?

    No hard feelings,
    Daniel Genis

    Comment by Daniel Genis | August 5, 2015 | Reply

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