Jesse Nighswonger

Jesse Nighswonger works with On Second Thought and Political Rewind as an engineer and audio editor. 


He has a degree in audio production from The Art Institute of Atlanta and a background in freelance sound design and composing. He's worked with clients such as the Atlanta Falcons, Adobe, and Bounce TV. Outside of work, Jesse enjoys making music, biking, and watching beautiful, sad movies.

Courtesy of I Run With Maud

The last 35 seconds of Ahmaud Arbery’s life have been viewed, studied, dissected and discussed all over the world. That’s because of a video that went viral, showing his final moments before he was shot on a shady street in Satilla Shores, Georgia on February 23.

And while his death has made international headlines, the people of his community remember Arbery for how he lived.


Eduardo Montes-Bradley / Cover Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

James Madison was the fourth president of the United States, one of the founders of our country and author of the first drafts of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Dr. Bettye Kearse grew up being told that he was her great-great-great-great-grandfather.

“Always remember, you’re a Madison,” her mother often told her.

While segments of Georgia’s economy have re-opened, last week Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton extended the judicial emergency for the state’s courts until June 12. Some court procedures have been held on Zoom since shelter-in-place orders began in mid-March.

On Second Thought explored the impact of coronavirus on the courts — as well as the implications for the pending case on the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Tony Pearce / Cover Courtesy of Penguin Random House

Author Sue Monk Kidd was raised in a conventionally Baptist family in Sylvester, Georgia. Her memoir, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, follows her turn from fundamentalism into sacred feminine traditions.

While best known for The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd has written three bestselling novels. Her newest novel, The Book of Longings, imagines the life of a first century woman named Ana, who becomes the wife of Jesus of Nazareth.

Compared to the lockdowns and shuttered businesses in countries across the world, Sweden is an outlier. Swedish officials have advised citizens to work from home and avoid travel, but most schools and businesses have remained open. This relaxed approach aims to minimize impact on the economy, and slow the spread of the virus through what is known as “herd immunity.”

Now, as the U.S. weighs further spreading the disease against the impact of a tanked economy, some Americans — particularly conservatives — are looking toward Sweden’s model as an option. On Second Thought unpacks the merits, risks and strategy behind Sweden’s approach, and what has become a political talking point here in the U.S.

Artists and arts organizations were quick to adapt to coronavirus. Museum tours, operas, Broadway shows, author talks, home concerts and classes for kids sprung up online shortly after closures were announced.

But as the dust begins to settle on our new normal, many worry about the long-term economic impact and outlook for the artists, performers and independent organizations essential to the cultural ecosystem.  Doug Shipman, president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, joined On Second Thought to talk about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the arts world now – economically, culturally, and artistically – and how that might change as things open back up.

Courtesy of Helping Mamas

Another cog in the supply chain disrupted by the pandemic: diapers. And as struggling families with young children face more challenges to making ends meet, one local group has stepped up to help.

Just over five years ago, Jamie Lackey was a social worker, nonprofit professional and mother, when she noticed gaps in services for families in need, particularly when it came to baby supplies. Financial assistance programs like SNAP, for example, don’t allow for purchasing diapers and other essentials.

Sean Powers/GPB

The closure of schools, restaurants and hotels has wreaked havoc on the nation’s food supply. Dairy farmers are pouring out milk, hog prices are plummeting, and unhatched eggs are being crushed.

Jon Jackson is executive director of StagVets and founder of Comfort Farms in Milledgeville. He relies on veterans to help raise heritage breeds of animals and produce — specialty items that were once in big demand from some of Georgia’s top restaurants. Now, Jackson is making them available to hungry families through a virtual farmers market.

For many lucky enough to still have a job, getting dressed and made-up is a vestige of normalcy in a world that feels upended. For others, gray roots, shaggy beards and chipped nails are the last thing to worry about. But what has this unprecedented period behind closed doors revealed about our self-care and priorities? And what will happen to the beauty market when it’s all over?

On Second Thought explores these questions, which are particularly pertinent now that Gov. Brian Kemp has given the green light for barbershops and hair and nail salons to re-open.

The closure of schools, restaurants and hotels has wreaked havoc on the nation’s food culture, from one end of the supply chain to the other. Jon Jackson, founder of Comfort Farms in Milledgeville, joined On Second Thought to share what they’re dealing with, as well as how he got into farming in the first place. We also learn about StagVets, of which he’s executive director, and how it helps veterans dealing with PTSD.

In medical situations, it weighs heavily on doctors and nurses when they are unable to save a life. So, what happens when the decision is not what treatment to give, but who gets treatment at all?


Associate Director of the Emory University Center for Ethics and Director of the Center's Program in Health Sciences and Ethics Kathy Kinlaw and Assistant Professor of Bioethics at New York University’s Langone Health Brendan Parent explain the ethical considerations of triage decisions — and the emotional impact they can have on medical staff.



On Second Thought is checking in with folks around Georgia to see what they're doing, watching and reading while shut in at home.

Jessica Handler is author of two memoirs and the novel The Magnetic Girl, which recently won the 2020 Southern Book Prize. She joined the program to tell us what she is discovering — and rediscovering — while staying home.

One of the ways that people are coping with coronavirus anxiety is by baking. That’s not a surprise to resident chef for NPR’s Here & Now Kathy Gunst, perhaps because she and former Food Network executive Katherine Alford wrote about the power of baking to process emotions in their new cookbook, Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury and Women’s Voices. On Second Thought spoke with Gunst to talk about the resurgence of baking in a world that is now so dramatically different.

The uncertainties surrounding the coronavirus pandemic can be even more complex, or downright dangerous, for both victims and survivors of domestic abuse. We’ll learn about the specific challenges for this vulnerable population — and how these victims and survivors may even struggle to get their piece of the stimulus bill.

Georgia band Indigo Girls have built a diehard community of listeners through decades of songs that touch on the joys and pains of living in the world. They were among the first to stream a live concert when social distancing restrictions were first announced. On Second Thought checks in with this pair of Georgia music legends to hear about how they're experiencing this unprecedented moment.

Dani Andujo, Love Beyond Walls

As the coronavirus pandemic has hit Georgia, many nonprofits and community organizations have had to reevaluate how to best support vulnerable populations through the outbreak.

One such organization is Love Beyond Walls, which focuses on supporting the homeless population in metro Atlanta throughout the year. But with the growing threat of coronavirus, Terrence Lester, founder and executive director of the nonprofit, had to quickly pull together a plan to address new and critical needs in the communities they serve. 

Photo by Glenny Brown

Chase and Ellen Brown were set to get married Saturday, March 28 in Savannah. But then, the rapid spread of the coronavirus across Georgia and the nation threatened to jeopardize their nuptials. 

The big day they had been planning since last April was quickly looking less likely to happen.

While online scams are always a danger, malware attacks and phishing schemes have found a new opportunity with coronavirus. Millions of Americans are now working and learning from home, without the protections — or IT help — found in most offices and schools. And in some countries, the virus has upped the ante on government surveillance of online activity. Alfred Ng, senior reporter at CNET News, and Brendan Saltaformaggio, assistant professor at Georgia Tech, talk about the concerns around data privacy and security that have developed alongside the coronavirus pandemic. 



As the United States tries to slow the spread of coronavirus, social distancing has become the new normal. Millions of Americans are shuttering indoors and spending more time behind screens — and the memes have flourished. Tweets, TikToks, and more viral content have picked up on major themes of the coronavirus pandemic, like the importance of washing your hands, the scarcity of hand sanitizer and toilet paper, and how boring quarantine can be. Dr. Andre Brock, Associate Professor at Georgia Tech studying digital culture, and Emma Grey Ellis, staff writer at Wired magazine who specializes in internet culture and propaganda, joined On Second Thought to talk about what online meme culture reveals about how we're processing anxiety during this unprecedented pandemic.



Courtesy of Yale University Press

Richard Hasen was worried about voting long before the Iowa caucuses — and before fears of coronavirus threatened to keep people away from primaries. 

As professor of election law at the University of California, Irvine, his concern is what undermines public trust in the fairness and accuracy of American elections. Hasen joined On Second Thought to discuss his new book, Election Meltdown, which digs into the factors that corrode public trust in elections. 


Response to the coronavirus pandemic has led to travel restrictions, canceled music festivals, school closures, consumer panic for basic needs like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and mayhem in stock markets across the world. The spiraling fears and slow access to tests for the virus in the U.S. have exposed weak points in government and healthcare systems, as well as the social fabric upon which we rely — especially for those most vulnerable. Dr. Keren Landman, a doctor, epidemiologist, and journalist, and Dr. Carlos del Rio, Chair of the Department of Global Health at Emory University, discuss how inequities in these systems play into the risks and outcomes of a global pandemic.



On May 10, 1940, Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium, and Winston Churchill was named Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He addressed the House of Commons three days later, saying, “We have nothing to give but blood and sweat and tears and toil.”

Six weeks later, France fell. In a broadcast to the nation, Churchill warned the British of a likely Nazi invasion. From early September to the following May, German planes pummeled London and other cities from the air, almost nightly. Landmarks were pulverized, and some 29,000 died in London alone.

With his books The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake, best-selling author Erik Larson established a gift for bringing historic events to life, in almost cinematic detail. And his latest book, The Splendid and the Vile, continues in that tradition. From early September of 1940 until the following May, German planes bombed London and other British cities almost nightly to devastating effect. The book adds dimension and behind-the-scenes details to how newly-named Prime Minister Winston Churchill modeled courage and leadership during the London Blitz. At the end of February, On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott interviewed Larson onstage at The Carter Presidential Library. We hear that conversation and learn how Churchill guided the U.K. through the conflict — and stirred Britons through proud resistance and resilience.


While few operas were written in English, Gershwin's Porgy and Bess is one of the most celebrated — and perhaps the most controversial. Criticism of the opera's representation of black culture and dialect have followed the 1935 libretto for decades. As the Atlanta Opera prepares to present a production of Gershwin’s famous opera in early March, On Second Thought caught up with Morris Robinson, the singer playing Porgy in the upcoming production, and Dr. Naomi André, professor at the University of Michigan, to learn more about the classic music, story, and dilemmas presented by the Porgy and Bess.

“All I have are my words,” shares Nikki Giovanni, a 77-year-old poet and professor at Virginia Tech. She has published nearly 30 collections of poetry, anthologies, children’s books and essays. During the 60s and 70s, she helped pioneer the Black Arts movement and she has been credited as an influence by hip-hop artists. On Saturday at 4 p.m., she is giving a free reading at Emory University’s Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. Before her reading, she reflects on how she views her many accomplishments at her age. 


The documentary Always In Season gives an honest look into the history of racism and lynching in the United States and connects it to the racial climate and justice of the present. The film makes its television premiere on PBS’ Independent Lens on Monday, Feb. 24. Director Jacqueline Olive talks about her documentary and her engagement with the film — and discussions across racial lines — with viewers in communities across the country. 

For one couple living in Alpharetta, Valentine's Day roughly coincides with their wedding anniversary — and a marriage arranged by their parents. Some might hear a story of arranged marriage and assume that love plays a secondary role, but Anitha and Subbu would disagree.

The couple agreed to pull back the curtain on their union and share what their contemporary arranged marriage looks like for On Second Thought.

Visiting a cemetery on Valentine’s Day may seem like an unconventional way to share your love with your sweetheart. But with over 70,000 residents at Oakland Cemetery, there are a lot of love tales to unearth — which are the subject of a walking tour this weekend. Education Manager Marcy Breffle shared some of the most heartwarming love tales. 

Historic Oakland Foundation

One place where love is truly eternal: a cemetery. And this Valentine’s Day weekend, the Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta is hosting walking tours for people who want to dig up some love stories from the past.


And with over 70,000 residents in this landmark cemetery, there is a plethora of romantic historical tales.


The Washington Post / Getty Images

Racial terrorism was shockingly common in the years between Reconstruction and the civil rights movement. Researchers count some 4,400 African-Americans brutally killed in those years. 


The film Always in Season explores that historical context, while following the investigation of a young black man’s death in 2014.

Carol Chu

The Oscars nominations were announced this year with no women nominated for Best Director, the hashtag #OscarsSoMale began trending online. In the past 92 years, only five women have ever been nominated in the category.

For some, this outrage is nothing new. In a TED Talk that went viral, Atlanta-based actress, writer and producer Naomi McDougall Jones proposed that nothing short of a revolution would break the predominantly male hold on power in the film industry.

With news of the new coronavirus circulating around the world, there’s also been another viral threat: misinformation. TIME reporter Jasmine Aguilera and Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor at the Division for Infectious Diseases at Emory University, discuss the rumors and misconceptions behind this new health epidemic.


Photo by James Patterson / Book Cover Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

On June 12, 1963, President John Kennedy delivered his report to the American people on civil rights. Hours after his nationally televised speech, NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers was shot in the driveway of his Jackson, Mississippi home. He was pronounced dead an hour later.

Accused killer Byron De La Beckwith was twice tried by all-white juries, which deadlocked. Nearly 30 years later, a reporter for Jackson's Clarion-Ledger newspaper unearthed documents and holes in the defense that led to re-trying and convicting the white supremacist behind Evers' killing.