Consistently in Apple’s top 10 most played podcasts and with over 23,000 positive listener reviews, The New York Times’ “The Daily” is becoming one of the most listened to and recognizable podcasts out there. Started in February of 2017, this podcast, which comes out every weekday, covers current news and events within a narrative storytelling format.
The host, New York Times veteran writer, Michael Barbaro, visited UC Berkeley on Friday to talk about transforming journalism into the audio format, the impact that has had and how podcasts differ from written news. In conversation with Ben Manilla, a continuing lecturer of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, they discussed a range of topics from how “The Daily” was constructed to how Barbaro found his “host voice.”
“The Daily” is actually a follow up to a previous podcast of The New York Times called “The Run-Up,” which covered the lead up to the 2016 election. At that time, the use of podcasts was relatively new to The New York Times, and Barbaro, new to audio journalism himself, instantly recognized the power that audio storytelling can have.
“We all want to make an impact,” Barbaro said during his talk. “I’ve never experienced something so immediate than with ‘The Run-Up.’ ”
At the end of the election, when President Trump won — despite The New York Times’ prediction otherwise — Barbaro and the producers of “The Run-Up” felt the need to continue talking about political and current issues, which led to the creation of “The Daily.”
“I don’t know if ‘The Daily’ would have existed if Donald Trump hadn’t won,” Barbaro said.
After discussing the origins of the podcast, Barbaro and Manilla dove into the narrative storytelling approach that “The Daily” is now known for. Barbaro explained the vision the producers had for the show in which the traditional inverted pyramid of journalism — telling the most important information first — is scrapped in favor of stretching the news out into a story that makes audience members “earn the news.”
“This idea of narrative news, it’s about pacing. Where it starts, how it unfolds, it’s about suspense,” Barbaro said. “We never want to just tell you what happened; we want to step back.”
In the process of giving listeners a broader narrative, “The Daily” relies on certain tactics to produce the most powerful story. “The Daily” uses a format of question and answer, planning their questioning around unpredictability in order to gain the most candor out of their guests. Barbaro discussed the episode, “The Power of the N.R.A.” in which they had a very forthright conversation with a gun owner in the wake of the continuous mass shootings around the country.
“He told us things he wouldn’t have otherwise, if we had started with questions that every other article starts with,” Barbaro said. “That’s the magic to the approach of telling these stories.”
Overall, Barbaro and the producers of “The Daily” are proud to have changed up the way that news is given and consumed, having established a new, yet still reliable, way of reporting. By turning to audio journalism, they have touched upon a connection with news consumers that couldn’t be reached otherwise — not even through television.
“There’s nothing as powerful as the image you invoke in your mind, as opposed to on a screen,” Barbaro said. “Nothing like just you and your own mind.”
Nikki Munoz covers theater. Contact her at [email protected].