Podcast host Michael Barbaro to speak at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism commencement

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism/Courtesy

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Michael Barbaro, a New York Times reporter and the host of the nationally renowned news podcast “The Daily,” will be the keynote speaker for the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, or J-School, spring commencement ceremony May 18.

The plans for Barbaro’s speech were arranged by a student leadership committee at the J-School and were announced in a tweet Monday. Responding to the invitation by the graduating class of 2019, Barbaro said over email that the commencement speech will be his first and that he looks forward to addressing the graduates.

“I would be honored to address the graduating class. Truly,” Barbaro said in the email. “I can’t think of a better place to do it.”

Delving into each day’s national conversations, “The Daily” is one of the podcasts at the forefront of national news coverage. Topping the chart of podcast industry rankings by Podtrac and a regular in iTunes’ “Top Episodes,” “The Daily” uses a narrative format to tackle both breaking news and long-term political developments in roughly 20-minute long episodes.

Barbaro previously visited campus in September, giving a behind-the-scenes look at the production of “The Daily” at the J-School. UC Berkeley continuing lecturer and radio expert Ben Manilla discussed the transformative role of podcasting with Barbaro at the event. Manilla, a veteran of broadcasting himself, pointed to the significance of podcasting as a platform for meaningful reportage.

“What the podcast represents is authentic, well-produced storytelling at its best,” Manilla said. “When it’s done well, as it is with ‘The Daily,’ it’s tapping into this primal urge we have to hear stories.”

The decision to host Barbaro signals another year in which the keynote speaker represents important developments in the field of journalism, with Jodi Kantor — a fellow New York Times reporter who worked toward uncovering the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal that helped catalyze the #MeToo movement — speaking last year. The rising prominence of podcasting, a trend embodied by Barbaro, has even led to the creation of a third audio-focused class at the J-School in 2018.

The ceremony will take place in the courtyard of the J-School and will seat approximately 350 people to celebrate the roughly 60 graduates receiving their master of journalism degrees, according to J-School Dean Edward Wasserman. As a self-described “huge fan” of “The Daily,” Wasserman said the choice of speaker for the ceremony “reflects our students’ fascination with the resurgence of audio.”

Second-year graduate student Kaitlin Benz coordinated Barbaro’s speech and is herself one of a handful of students studying podcasts at the J-School. Having drafted Barbaro’s invitation with a friend who interned at “The Daily,” Benz said that she received a positive response from her peers after announcing Barbaro as the speaker on a shared Slack channel.

“The power of spoken word in the age of the internet has really been affirmed by audio reporting,” Wasserman said. “We are aware that there is surge in interest and we want to prepare our students… to provide voices to give authenticity and texture to the stories they are assembling.”

Contact Brandon Yung at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @brandonyung1.