clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The New York Times’ The Daily podcast host Michael Barbaro talks with Kara Swisher

This episode of Recode Decode was recorded live at the 92nd Street Y.

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

New York Times the Daily podcast host Michael Barbaro New York Times

On this episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher, Michael Barbaro, who hosts the hit podcast The Daily for the New York Times, talks with Kara in front of a live audience at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Barbaro explains why he fell in love with newspapers at a young age, how he got into journalism and how he transitioned from being a political reporter to a podcast host.

You can read a writeup of the podcast here or listen to the whole thing in the audio player above. Below, we’ve also provided a lightly edited complete transcript of their conversation.

If you like this, be sure to subscribe to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, editor at large at Recode. You might know me as Michael Barbaro’s arch nemesis, but in my spare time I talk tech, and you’re listening to Recode Decode from the Vox Media podcast network. Today we’re going to play an interview I conducted at the 92nd Street Y in New York City called “The Age of Podcast Journalism” with Michael Barbaro, who is the host of the New York Times’ popular podcast, The Daily.

Michael Barbaro: Hello.

Hello. We’ve been gossiping backstage but we’re not going to talk about that. Let’s get started. I was just ...

Kara, thank you for having me.

No problem, any time. I’ve so many questions, Michael. Let’s begin with how you started this, because I think most people don’t realize your history and when you acquired those hip glasses and slow-moving voice. But let’s talk about before that when you started off. You were a reporter?

First of all, I acquired the glasses a long time ago and they’re kind of falling apart.

Right, okay. Anyway.

How did I ... One more time.

Okay, let’s talk about your history. You have been a reporter for most of your career.


Talk about that.

All of it.

How did you get to that? And you were in politics.

I mean, I’ve been a reporter since I was in high school. I’ve always wanted to work at a newspaper. I always have worked at a newspaper. I’ve had the most single-tracked career of anybody I know. That started because I delivered a newspaper when I was in middle school. I actually delivered a newspaper with my sister. It was the New Haven Register, a paper that’s fallen on pretty hard times. Every weekday at six a.m., we’d deliver this newspaper. It was the family project.

My parents had a Subaru station wagon, as people do in Connecticut. We’d put the paper together on Sunday’s and actually deliver it out of the hatchback, open door of the station wagon, kind of crawling along the streets. We’d get the paper and we’d deliver it. I became entranced by newspapers, even the New Haven Register, which is not an especially good newspaper. I just loved cracking open the newspaper.

Right, a physical ...

The smell. It was tactile. It was invigorating to literally deliver the news. I was hooked really early. A big moment in my life was the day my mother started subscribing to the New York Times. I say my mother, because my father still doesn’t really like the New York Times, sometimes. He’s a Fox News watcher and he really objects to the op-ed.

It’s fascinating, my mother’s a Fox News lover.

There’s nothing wrong with Fox News, I’m just saying that it’s a ...


I mean we can ... That’s a whole other discussion.

All right.

The point is, he calls me. He says, “Mike. I don’t understand what Krugman’s saying.” So that’s the kind ... He thinks that’s the New York Times, which is a whole other complicated issue of op-ed versus news. But anyway, the Times became really important to my career as just a young reader. I’m delivering the Register but I’m reading the Times, I’m cheating on the Register.

What did you like at the Time? What did you read? What inspired you?

I just loved everything about it. I loved the fonts, I loved the little lines. I even loved ... I got obsessed with the smallest elements of it. Remember the Christmas day “Remember the Neediest” banner across the top?

Not even slightly.

Not even slightly? When I got into high school, my best friend ...

Wait, so you’re talking about everything but the actual news, but go ahead.

I just loved the ... But I even loved all the ornamentation and the architecture of it. I was deep in. I take for granted I loved the way stories were being told. I loved the great features. I loved what my friends and I at the time jokingly called the “old suitcase leads,” where you have six clauses and 75 words. Everything you can stuff into a suitcase.


We learned how to think and write through reading these big New York Times sweeping assessments of the news. In high school I actually started an underground newspaper with my best friend at the time, Ross Douthat, who’s now a columnist. We went to high school together. We borrowed every single element of the Times in our little fake newspaper.

What was it called? Fake underground newspaper?

It was called La Verite.


The truth.

I know what it means.

Yes, good. Of course you do. You never know, Latin.

It was more like a, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me!”

We were very serious young men.

So La Verite, what truth did you bring to your high school? In French, en francais?

Yes. The funny thing about it is we didn’t always bring the truth. We didn’t really know what we were doing. There would be investigations that we would do that were not so investigative.

Like what?

So this sounds so goofy, but neither Ross or I were especially popular, attractive or physically ...

I literally can’t imagine why with running La Verite, but go ahead.

So one of the first big investigations we did was about athletes who were being recruited for the Hampden Hall Country Day School basketball team and soccer team, and were they meeting the standards of admissions.


Which is what two nerdy, concavely skinny guys investigate.

Wow, that’s like the plot of a Michael Lewis book, but go ahead.

We did things like, “La Verite has learned ...”

“Has learned,” right.

But we would borrow all the little lines and I was so obsessed with making sure the fonts and everything looked just liked the Times in our little eight and a half by 11 broadsheet, La Verite. It was very successful. I think we had 120 of copies ...

A week. So you worked on it all the time.

We also ran the regular newspaper.


So it was ridiculous. We ran the official school newspaper, and then we ran the underground newspaper too. And then of course, this is how egomaniacal we were, we would actually have spats created between the two newspapers and we would cover them in the newspapers, even though we were the two newspapers.

Did you have a different name?

No, we were anonymous in the underground paper.

Like Michelle Barbaro.

No. No names.

No names.

It was just anonymous, which was very responsible.

But everybody knew, right?

We were so far ahead of our times in terms of anonymous sources.

Okay, all right.

Looking back on it, it was reckless. We should have put our names on things ...

Oh my goodness, just relax.

... but we were kids. I know, I feel guilty about it.

Okay. Well, we’ve cracked that one wide open. You got to college?

I did get to college.

And you left behind La Verite and your high school newspaper.

Yeah, I picked up with the next newspaper which was the Yale Daily News. That was my college experience, was the college newspaper. And because I grew up in New Haven and my father was a firefighter in the city, my interest gravitated towards politics. I wanted to cover City Hall. The prestigious jobs you were meant to do when you went to Yale and you worked at the Yale News were covering Yale. I had no interest, I covered the city. That began a lifelong interest in politics.

In politics. How did you get to the New York Times then? Did you go through the typical washing machine? In our days, I think we’re around the same age ...

When we were kids, of internships.

Yeah, of internships and small newspapers and stuff.

Yes. Lots of internships. Every summer you had to fill out 25 applications and you heard from three newspapers. My favorite rejection letter was from the Wall Street Journal because I had misspelled a word. I actually always admired that.

Yeah. They shouldn’t have hired you.

So you get to the Times and you’re covering ...

How did you get to the Times, from?

From the Washington Post. The first job I got out of college was at the Washington Post as a business reporter. I covered the local biotechnology industry in Maryland. You may remember some of the names of the companies that have since gone bust.

Yes, I do. I worked as a business reporter for the Washington Post so I know. Yes.

I actually knew that. Washington was booming in that area, the biotechnology and the tech industry was blossoming. The business section was flush with advertising, until it wasn’t. I started working there and I stumbled into the local retail beat. This was my big breakthrough, I was covering the two big grocery chains in Washington.

Giant Food?

Giant Food and Safeway. I chronicled them aggressively. Walmart was coming into all these communities, and my ticket out of Washington and probably the most important job I’ve ever done was covering Walmart.


What was going on, I won’t bore you too much with details, but as I was covering the local groceries chains, they were fighting Walmart. I got interested in Walmart.

They came in?

What was going on in Washington at the time, and you had to be there covering the local grocery industry was that two major unions in the country started groups that existed purely to antagonize, and unionize Walmart. They started becoming the recipient of lots of leaked internal documents and intelligence about Walmart. I would just visit with them and got to know them, and I was there at the right moment. I chronicled all that.

We did the investigative pieces, like a memo written by the board directors of Walmart, which was sent to me, in which their board of directors suggested that they get their least healthy, overweight employees to push carts out in the parking lot, to lose weight. It was stories like that that were breaking through. One day the reporter from the New York Times, when I was in Bentonville, Arkansas, with her, whispered into my ear that she was leaving the Times and said, “You should apply for this job.”

Right, which you did. You got to the Times and you were covering retail and other things. But then you got into politics, which was covering different campaigns and everything.


How long did you do that for?

I covered politics for about eight years at the Times. First at City Hall, Bloomberg as mayor, and then Mitt Romney’s campaign for president. A lot of long investigative pieces about Governor Romney. Then Donald Trump in 2016.

And you covered Trump?

I wrote investigative pieces about his business life and his relationship with women, his personal interactions with women. In some ways we were ahead of our time on those pieces, but it’s brutal writing about that type of stuff with him because he gets on the phone and just screams. He screamed at us and told us everything ... He has a fascinating system, I don’t think it’s that well understood, he just archives everything. If you go into Trump Tower it just seems as if there’s a room ...

Of clips.

... where every letter that was written to him, or phone call or email. Because anytime we would bring forth a woman who had claims against him, they’d say, “Well, what about this email she wrote to me 25 years ago saying X.” I was fascinated by ... It’s much like how he handles media and stories now, very aggressively.

How hard was it to ...? I want to get to how you got to The Daily and how it’s put together.


You were in the area that’s in the hottest area right now. Essentially you’re covering what’s arguably the most important story of this era at least.

Why would you leave?

Why would you not do that? Yeah, why would you leave it?

It’s really interesting. A couple of things happened. The campaign was what it was, which is an outcome that completely surprised us. The night of the election I had no job that night. I was covering Trump and the people covering the Democrats, this was their night. They had pre-written a giant, amazing suitcase lead in the New York Times about Hillary Clinton winning. At around none p.m.

I saw the meter. We all saw the frigging meter.

You saw the meter, right. That night I was called in to write a Trump win story. It was very unexpected. I was really thrown, not only by the result, but by the sense that I had not really done my job very well and that I had missed something essential. How could I spend 18 months covering a campaign and not have understood what was going on?


That was a real wake up call for me. After that ...

Not understood the feeling across the country or ...?

All of it. Misunderstanding the basic dynamics of the election, yeah, and not being journalistically on top of it as much as I wished to.

It was an interesting dynamic with the reporters. I remember being, when he first announced, I was at a dinner party in Washington, D.C., and a lot of campaign journalists were there. He had just announced and I was like, “God, he’s an interesting candidate, isn’t he?” They’re like, “He’s a clown.” The whole thing, this and that. What was interesting about him was I kind of find him interesting. I’m like, “I’m a lesbian from San Francisco and I find him interesting so I think you ...” Why? There’s something visceral ...

Because he’s extremely ...

Right, and some of his messaging was interesting to me, especially as I have a lot of relatives in the Midwest. They were just dismissing it and saying “The Republican party won’t let this happen.” I was like, “What are they going to do? Shoot him? What’s the plan? I don’t get it.” I remember them making me feel stupid for asking questions like that.

Yeah, and it was a dynamic like that. Why should you feel stupid for finding ... I mean, all those things were in the air and I felt like it was time for a change. It was really humbling and simultaneously ...

But you didn’t do a good job covering ... You missed the essential election and ...?

I think that’s fair.

That’s how you felt?

I did. And I want to be clear, this was about me. The Times, you can have lots of opinions about the way the Times covered the election. I think we did it with a lot of distinction. I’m proud of the work I did, and everybody else I work with did. Just myself, I felt this kind of deep sense of alienation from my own work and what should I be doing next.

It was during this period that I had been part-time hosting a podcast about the campaign called the Run-Up. That was my first taste of audio, and feedback on audio, and the power of audio, we’ll talk about this. That suddenly looked like something that was a deeper form of connection to the news.


It was a different way of seeing the story, of engaging it, that felt richer and more human and authentic and kind of realer. Less me as a journalist imposing a story, and the story being told more organically. The combination of that experience ...

And it was just an interview show? You just had ...

It was an interview show, it had seeds of what The Daily became. We’d often do narrative story-telling or we would have a single idea or theme that we would carry through multiple segments of an episode of the Run-Up.

We started to tap into this vast resource of the New York Times newsroom and found people like Maggie Haberman and Pat Healy, Nick Confassore and Glen Thrush. They were really compelling, that people wanted to hear from them. So that was ... There were lots of epiphanies along the way. The combination of feeling pretty unsettled and humbled by the election and finding that audio was really powerful.

And you had done no audio before?

I’d done no audio. No, and I don’t really listen to podcasts, other than ... I mean, I do now.

You listen to yours every day.

I really do listen to The Daily every day.

Oh, do you?

I do listen to other podcasts now but I get teased a lot by the people on The Daily team by how little ... In audio, everyone knows episodes of This American Life and Reply All, and they can talk about them in the way that I would talk about episodes of “The Sopranos” or “Seinfeld,” whatever, or “Mad Men.” And I couldn’t engage in that conversation with them.

But you find yourself fascinating?

Oh yeah.

Good. So you started ...


Oh there’s so many more to come. I just think of them right off the top of my head.

It comes so naturally.

It really does. So you started to do the Run Up, how did you shift to The Daily? Because this has been the most important for the New York Times, most innovative ...

Well thank you.

It certainly feels like it.

The Run-Up needed to end because you can’t be the run-up to something once it’s happened.

It ran.

It ran. It upped and it ran and it was out. Trump’s victory ... Without Donald Trump winning this election, I don’t know that you have The Daily because the world suddenly looked suddenly confusing and complicated and in need of a lot of explanation and a new forms of storytelling. Once he won, and we had this three-month period, because we decided the Run-Up needed to go away, the people behind the Run-Up and the executive producer of New York Times Audio Lisa Tobin decided that maybe we should have a daily show. We’re a daily newspaper, could we make a daily audio show?

No one had ever done ... or no one had ever made a daily short-form on-demand podcast show before.


There was, of course, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. There’s great podcasts out there. She proposed the question, could we do that every day? Because I’d been hosting the Run-Up.

Was that daily?

No, that was twice a week.

Twice a week.

She said, “Would you think about doing this?” I played coy and pretended I’m not sure, but I really wanted to do it.

You didn’t want to cover ... go into politics at all? You didn’t want to go to the White House or ...

I didn’t, and partly from that sense of alienation from the print storytelling I started to feel, I felt it was time to do something else.

We’re going to take a quick break now for a word from our sponsors. We’ll return to this live interview with The Daily’s Michael Barbaro from the New York Times after this.


So the transition from writing to doing this. How did you develop your audio skills and what was your thinking behind the original Daily? Because it really clicked immediately with people.


Why do you think that is? And talk about how you put it together.

Sure. I guess I should talk a little bit about what the idea of The Daily is because we spent a lot of time workshopping The Daily and figuring out what it should sound like and what it should be. We came up with this idea that there exists already a lot of great narrative storytelling, by that I mean This American Life. One hour, and amazing long story, something that feels like a documentary in audio form. And there exists lots of short-form news. Our idea was to just marry these things. Why can’t the news feel like narrative storytelling?

Right, but in a shorter ...

But in a short form. When we say narrative and news, what we mean is that you’re not just going to give the news upfront and talk about it for 15 or 20 minutes. You’re going to treat the news ... because all great stories have a narrative arc to them, with the idea that there’s suspense. What are you going to tell people at the start of the story versus the end? Where’s the epiphany? Where’s the emotional moment in the piece? We spent a lot of time fleshing that out. The fact that Donald Trump was suddenly going to be our president meant that there were going to be lots of big, complicated stories to dissect.

Right. But off the news. Off the news was the critical element.

It had to be off the news.

Not a read-it-and-then-discuss-it kind of thing.

Yes. And not just taking a print story and making it an audio story.

Which often is done.

Which is often done. We called ourselves an audio first show. I didn’t understand what that meant, but now I do.

Sounds good.

Sounds great, yeah. Which is, journalists who come on The Daily don’t refer to a story. They don’t say, “As I said in my story.” Because it’s an audio show. So they’re telling a story in audio form. It took us a while to train our colleagues to tell stories on The Daily.

Right, because you use Times journalists, not always.

We almost exclusively use Times journalists, and real people.

You bring in the people that were in the stories.

Yeah, we bring in the characters in the story. And so it took us a while because guests would come on the show and we would have this great script that we had developed, and they would just vomit out the story in one answer.


We were like, we have to roll that back. We have to try that again. It took us a while to train both ourselves and the guests to tell stories.

The journalists from the Times?


As you’re doing this you also developed the style that people ... When I went out on Twitter, I said, “What questions do you have for Michael Barbaro?” They’re all like, “The voice. I need to understand what the hell he’s doing with that voice.” Some were nicer than others, but it’s Twitter.

Why is it, for example, why does it seem sometimes that there are gaps in the questions?

Yes. Exactly. Yes.


Did you work on that in front of the mirror? What was the deal? Are you trying to do an Ira Glass or an NPR ...

I’m formulating a question in my head, that’s how it sounds.

So you’re just slow?


When you actually ... come on.

Do what?

Just between us, the voice thing, you did it on purpose or not?

No. I just did that. There’s a lot of things going on in the middle of a Daily interview. One is, for example, we’re all working in a Google Doc. This show does not get made without Google Docs.

All right.

Working in a Google Doc. The show does not get me without Google Docs, like a deep shout out to Google for the Google Doc.

They need it, it’s a tough business.

They need it, they’re hurting. So, producers and I are in a document doing an interview, and we are revising things as we go. So there have been occasions, if there’s an especially long Michael Barbaro gap, it may be because the words aren’t there yet.

I see, so you’re just waiting for someone else ...

Or we’re formulating it together, and ... but that’s a thing.

That was your style when you were an actual reporter?

I knew this was going to happen. You were going to ...

I have to ask about the voice! Literally, there were no other questions.

I think the biggest reason why I talk the way I do is because of my grandfather, who, when I was young, would critique any of the words that lots of people use. “Um,” “like,” “you know,” and he just knocked it out of my vocabulary. So instead of doing those things when there’s a gap, which is a very natural ...

To say “like” or “um.”

I don’t say anything. And so there are gaps.


Because he somewhat traumatically would interject, any time, when we were kids and we ...

So, childhood trauma.



And I would say, “Like, you know, Kara, like.” He said, “Like what? Like what? What’s that?” And it just, it went away.


So I don’t use any of those-

That must make Christmas fun. He could have gone silent, but he didn’t. Right?

I could have just gone mute.

Mute, right, exactly. So you developed that and it’s your style. It’s your style. It really is an interesting style. I find it both intriguing, at the same time, every now and then I’m like, “Land it, Michael.”

“Say it.”

My grandmother used to say that, “Land it.”

Land it.

“Land it, Kara, right now.” Land it.

The only thing is, I’m sort of a cautious person. You are not.

No, I’m not.

And so, there’s a lot of anxiety in sometimes in what I’m asking. Am I asking it right? The James Comey interview was the scariest thing that I ever did, because we’re sitting there kind of psychoanalyzing him and saying, “Don’t you see what the rest of us see? You don’t?”

Right. Yeah.

But there’s a trick we do in the audio editing of The Daily. And sometimes I’ll listen to it myself, we’ll group edit the show, and I’ll say, “Jesus, Michael, finish the ...” And we’ll just cut out the gap.

Oh, okay.

In our Google Docs, there’s a word we use, when I’m going on ... tighten.


And so, some of the dead air just comes out and it speeds up.

All right, so listen. About selection, story selection. One of things you were talking backstage is that if Trump does a tweet, which seems to be every five seconds, you don’t do that story.

We don’t do the Trump tweet story because there’s no narrative tension. There’s just nothing to say for 25 minutes about a tweet that the president says.

And also, I’m really allergic to coverage of things that are deliberately provocative. If the president’s going to go on Twitter and write something that’s meant to provoke ...

Because he never does that.

Never does that. Then that’s like a great cable news segment. But for us, we want to tell a story with an idea and a character and an emotional journey, and tweets don’t have those.

Right. So what does? What, to you, are the most successful ones?

I mean, I’ll just give you a classic example from this week that we came up with that I loved. There’s, the Attorney General announced a decision that domestic abuse will no longer be a criteria for granting asylum. And what we could’ve done is had a reporter on, just talk about that policy, but instead, it occurred to me, let’s find someone who did successfully apply for asylum with ...

And what happened?

As a domestic abused person, as a victim. And the producers searched far and wide for a great character from Burkina Faso, a woman who was horrifically abused by her husband there and got asylum, and the whole episode will be telling her story. And that’s what we did. And it was a remarkable interview, it was really emotional. She sang during the interview. I mean, we really like to do unexpected things. Unexpectedly human takes, or really ...

On the news?

On the news. I mean, that was, I think, the most human and compelling version of that story you were going to hear. It didn’t need to be partisan and it didn’t need to be full of conflict. It wasn’t about Jeff Sessions and it wasn’t about Donald Trump, it was about somebody who got in when the door was open.

But in using her, you are ...

Exactly, and a lot of it is about the subtlety of what you don’t say. We didn’t need to describe the policy in great depth. Why did they decide it? And who in the administration was for it and who’s against it?

Or what you thought of it.

And we are rigorously, rigorously apolitical. I mean, we ...

Well, except you picked this woman, which is ... Sorry, that is what you’re doing.

We picked this woman, but what I’m saying is we don’t let our guests, with very few exceptions, have opinions about the news.

Right. You’re just telling the story.

The occasional exception is when a columnist like Nick Kristof, who knows the story of North Korea so well, comes on. He’s a columnist, but we’re really sparing about that, and in fact, we did that episode and asked ourselves like, “Well, that was a break from what we normally do.” We can ask you guys what you think about it, but ...

But in that case, you interviewed her and not Jeff Sessions?

Yes, or a reporter, yeah.

Right. But that’s a different opinion, and you could have gotten opinion of things.

We could.


And we could have interviewed somebody who had fraudulently claimed that they had suffered domestic abuse, because that’s the argument on the other side. And actually, we’re going to revisit the subject because we want to better understand, is there a problem with people claiming causes for asylum that are ...?

Right. So, you consider yourself a news reporter, now? Or because you do take news, and then add to it, you add it. Do you consider yourself a breaking news person?

That’s a really great question. Sometimes I wonder, I ask myself that question. “Am I a reporter right now? What am I? Am I a host, am I a reporter?”

I don’t know. You must answer that yourself.

I actually don’t have a great answer to it.

What do you think you are? Besides being one of People’s most sexiest man alive.

Yeah, exactly, right. That tells you everything you need to know about how generous that list is.

Well, also Travis Kalanick from Uber was on it, but go ahead.

I see where you’re going. This sounds kind of like an inflated allegiance to the Times, but I think of The Daily and think of my role as kind of curating the best storytelling at the paper and bringing it to life in this new medium. And we didn’t talk a lot about this and we can talk about it in the Q and A, but Times reporters would come on The Daily and get such a higher volume of feedback and connect so much more richly to listeners than print stories. And that’s just the way it is.

I think absolutely, audio is the most powerful thing.

It’s just the most powerful thing.

Why do think that is? We did another event with Michael and the fan base is crazy.

One reason why they’re so special.

Mine is too, it’s strange, it’s a different relationship. People hug you, and want to ... And I’m sure you get it like all the time.


No. I mean, yes, you might. I get hugs. I don’t seek them out in any way. But how do you look at that connection? Because not just you, but the reporters that are on it.

Yeah, I think there’s something about hearing a voice, and having that voice be stripped of visual elements. I mean, when I see an image, I make lots of judgments about looks and you just, the bright shiny object stuff gets very distracting and it’s not as pure as just hearing someone tell their story. The human voice is frail and vulnerable and honest. And it is what it is. Think about why people are interested in my voice or your voice or anyone else’s voice, these totally distinctive voices. Donald Trump’s voice is incredibly distinctive, and people have strong reactions to it.

When you strip away everything else but the voice and you have the intimacy of these earbuds, or you’re in your car at five a.m. on a dark road listening. There’s just something pure about it.

Yeah. So where do you go from here with this? You don’t have a weekend show, are you going to have a weekend show?

We don’t have a weekend show. We might have a weekend show, or, right now ... The Daily started in February of 2017, so I guess it’s been a year and a half now. And the audience grew very quickly, and we can actually ...

What’s the number now?

Every day?


It’s about one, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but on any given day the number of downloads is about 1.1 million.

Right. So a lot. Yeah.

Something like that. [applause] Thank you.

The business is advertising on either side, right, correct?

Yes, there’s advertising in the middle of a show, there’s a single ad.

Which you do not read, which many people, I read ads. But you don’t.

There’s a big debate in our world of audio about whether hosts should read ads. And over at Vox is a wonderful show, for example, Today Explained, a rival daily show, and the host reads an ad about mattresses, which is actually very ... He found so many creative ways to talk about mattresses. And the Pod Save America guys ...

Yeah, they do it?

They talk about their products.

It’s an interesting debate. It’s a question ...

At the New York Times, there is no debate. I mean, it’s not considered ethical for me to read an ad about a product, and I understand why, because ...

They want you to do that, I mean the advertisers want it.

Advertisers like it because it’s a deeper bond. You and I have a relationship with a listener and we’re supposed to transfer that over to BMW or whatever, but if I talk about a car and then the next day there’s a recall, I mean, that gets pretty complicated.


So, but I mean, it’s a debate that I think will rage for a long time.

It’s interesting because I think ultimately you’ll be reading ads, eventually.

You think I will?

Yeah, I know that. But it’s an interesting time. And it’s ... it’s an interesting time. Let’s just say that, yeah. So what about the Weekend Daily? Yes? No?

No. We talked about this idea of a weekend show. The reality is that The Daily takes a lot out of everybody on the ...

Yeah, you guys work.

It’s a pressure. And we could talk a little bit about the actual schedule, but what we have decided the future of The Daily involves kind of curated mini-series shows like Caliphate, which is an extraordinary show about ISIS. I hope you guys listen to it.

These are short series, it’s really great. It’s by?

This is hosted by Rukmini Callimachi and a colleague of mine on The Daily, Andy Mills, and what happens is we’ve created a deep listenership, and why would we create a separate feed unrelated to The Daily and hope that people find it? We can use the platform of The Daily to launch these shows that feel like The Daily but are really different than The Daily.

But they’re shorter, too, they’re shorter in length?

They’re also short like The Daily, but they might come ...

Yeah. No, but I mean for length of time.

They might run for as long as they need to run, six or seven episodes.

Right. But not, they’re a smaller series, right?

That’s right, they’re not going to be year-long series.

Right. Everyday kind of thing. It’s a nice way to test things out, too.

It’s a great way to test things out. The original question about the New York Times audio world is, “Should we do a culture show? Should we do film show? Should we do a sports show?” And the reality is you can really quickly, you can just break your back trying to make all those shows, and they might not be that good. How much is there to say about every one of these subjects every day, or even once a week?

Right. What about video?

Should we bring video into The Daily?

Yeah. Or do a video show. I know you guys are talking about it.

Yeah, well, the Times has announced that they’re doing a weekly, documentary-style show.

Right. The video show, are you involved in that?

I’m not involved in that show.

Is it like The Daily or is it ...

Well, it’s called “The Weekly.”

Okay, that’s why I’m asking.

Which I thought was pretty clever.

Yeah, yeah. Why aren’t you involved in this? You’re marginally good-looking, it’s great.

Thank you. Because I don’t think the show is going to have a host. I think it’s going to be hostless.

Right, okay.

Also I don’t think I could possibly do any more than The Daily.

Right. Right. But the same ideas, telling these stories through reporters.


You talked about people, being in their ears, like certain characters. The reporters that people really like, would you bring back again like characters?

Yes. Well, we don’t have Maggie Haberman on enough for listeners, because they really love her.

Matt Apuzzo has become one of my ... I didn’t know a lot of my colleagues until I hosted The Daily, because they were in Washington. But Matt Apuzzo is just, he’s the most generous, amazing storyteller.

Why is he liked by listeners?

Because he has a huge energy and he’s really playful. And one of the things we decided to do very early on when we made the show was to keep some of these spontaneous moments between people on the show. There was one there was an episode where Maggie didn’t know we were recording her singing. She was singing, and we kept it.

I’m sure she’d love that. Did she like it?

I didn’t tell Maggie that we were going to keep that until about 11 at night.

Yeah, and then she’s texting you back.

Yeah, she texted madly just to say, “What are you doing?” And I said, “You’re just going to have to trust me, it’s really great.” There are reporters who just are more natural audio storytellers than others. But we are really patient and want to work with anyone who has a great story to tell. I feel guilt because we haven’t figured out how to cover entire swaths of the newsroom. We really struggle with culture, with sports, with New York City.

Is that kind of your interest, or ...?

It’s because we so quickly became a national show known for what was going on in Washington with the presidency and international affairs. And so it just gets tricky sometimes to take such a break from the big news and the national news and international news and burrow into something that seems weirdly off topic.

Off topic. Right. Right. So you haven’t gone into sports, then.

To the degree we’ve done sports, we have done it around things like Russian doping in the Olympics.

Doping, that’s a very good one, yeah.

We’re about to do a wonderful episode around the World Cup and how Russia got the World Cup.

Okay. All right. So before we’re done and we get to questions from the audience, talk about The Daily’s daily. What do you do? How does it go? Because you, planning in advance, there’s five of them a week. So you sort of have a sense of what stories you’re also covering at the New York Times.

We do. Yeah, well, because we’re a show inside the Times we know what big stories are coming up. We can plan in advance. There was a period of about six months at the beginning of the Trump administration where any time we tried to plan, he would blow it up. He would do something that would blow it up, and he would blow it up at late hours, and we would have to rush in and make the show all over again.

But what happens is, we come into the office around 9:30 and we attend the news meeting, and if we have a plan for that day that isn’t derailed by the news, when there’s not enough news, we make a documentary-style show, for example, interviewing this woman about her experience with asylum. If there’s big news, we just put everything aside that we have that we’re making that’s not news related. And we just make a news show, and we try to talk to our colleagues all day long about what’s coming, and they pitch us so we know that Thursday of last week was going to be the inspector general report. We knew that this day was going to be that.

And sometimes we get lucky. A week and a half ago, last week, we ran a five-part documentary series about Baltimore called Charm City, which we’re really, really proud of, and ... Thank you, and we prayed that there would be no news. The secret was I was on vacation. And I don’t know why we didn’t tell people that, but I was away. And every night, because I was in Europe, I would track the beginning of the show and the end of the show. And we were lucky that there was no news.

Anyway, so back to the day. So we decided we’re going to do, and we have to make that decision by around 11 or noon hopefully, and then we start to go and do a Google Doc together and draft questions and a script. Sometimes we’ll do a conference call with a reporter just to brainstorm, to figure out what the story is, so we don’t sit down, do an interview and then be like, “What the hell?” This is not ... this makes no sense. And we do this very quickly because reporters are on a deadline, and our colleagues have been so generous.

A couple of days ago — I know I’m bouncing around — but Mark Landler was on two days in a row. We were interviewing him at three in the morning in Singapore and he couldn’t have been more delightful. And I just ... it blows my mind how willing reporters are to accommodate us. Peter Baker is our White House correspondent, he was on vacation in California when we needed him, and he just made time in the hotel room to talk to us. Which was extraordinary.

We try to record by two or three in the afternoon, and then ...

And then it’s done?

And then, that’s the, in some sense, the easy part. The hard part is that then the producers start building the show. They’re getting tape, music, sound, cutting it and then introducing all that tape, and then the show’s being edited anywhere ... The final editing of the show is being done anywhere between 10 and two in the morning.

By someone who’s working ...

By an editor.

Do you get to hear the last one?

I don’t hear the end of the show. In the beginning we did. In the beginning there were just four of us on this team. Now we’re 10. We all listened every night to every episode, because we didn’t know what we were making. We were trying to figure it out, so we’d all be in the office till two or three in the morning.

And is there any thoughts for another host? Sorry, I’m not try to shove you out of your job.

So the central flaw of The Daily ...

Is “Michael goes to Europe.”

From my perspective, it’s that there’s one host, and I don’t know how that has sustained itself, except that it has, that it’s the last problem we have to solve. We need to ramp up our staffing, we need to get bigger so that we can sustainably make the show five days a week. And the last thing we have to solve is the kind of second host, guest host issue.

Right, yeah.

Yeah, I think that will be a great thing.

You’re not scalable, as they say in Silicon Valley.

Yeah, I mean, I’m one person.


[reading] All right let’s get some questions. For both of you: Which do you prefer, hosting your podcast or reporting and writing?

I say these days, the podcast.

I think that audio is the most powerful storytelling medium.

It is. You can actually almost break a story doing it, like in doing an interview in a lot of ways. And you can ...

I miss print reporting in the sense that I miss having three or four weeks to tell one story, and that’s about it.

Yeah, it’s interesting. I think, for me, it’s the podcast.

The thing of making a daily show, it’s just ... if I’m in a really bad mood, you’re going to hear it. And I just, I missed having ... The thing I really miss?


Is just having a little bit of ...

Are you gonna talk about font again?

No. No, no, no, no. I miss the days that, when you’re a print journalism, I don’t know you all feel this way about your career, but in print journalism, if we’re being honest, there’s the day after a big story where you kind of get to prance around.

That is so gone now.

Yeah, it’s gone.

With the way the story news cycle is now.

True. But I miss the day after the big story where you kind of got to just be a little checked out in the newsroom.

That was 25 years ago, and I’ve been in digital forever so I can’t take a shower, essentially.

[reading] What celebrities have you been told that they listen to The Daily, which have you been most excited about? What celebrities listen?

Ooh, that’s a great question. A number of them, and it’s really dopily exciting when we find out who listens to the show. I mean, Judd Apatow listens to the show, a lot of politicians listen to the show. I’m actually really bad at celebrities. But we have a little Google Doc of the celebrities we’ve heard have listened to the show.

Because it’s not like you’re paying attention.

No, we don’t pay attention at all.

Is there one you would love to listen to the show?

Is there one that I would like to be listening to the show?


We had a bet about whether Barack Obama ever listened to The Daily. We just think it’s like his kind of show. In terms of it being like a thoughtful ...

He’s sitting there playing basketball and doing some cool jam thing, and then going, “Michael’s voice is really slow.”

His voice is really slow.

Oh my god, I know. I interviewed him, it was exhausting.

It’s kind of the same thing.


I’m not comparing myself to Barack Obama.

I leaned in before the interview, because I had a shorter amount of time, and I said, “You talk in paragraphs, it’s not going to work for me.”

You told the president how to talk?

Right before the interview, to unsettle him. And he said, “I heard you were obnoxious.” I’m like, “Yeah, that doesn’t bother me.” It worked.

Obnoxious is kind of your brand.

It is, and it’s worked for me, and I’ve done rather well. So, but any other celebrities? So Barack Obama is your ...

I really, I’m embarrassed to say I don’t ... I’m being put on the spot and it’s not coming to me.

I’m going to see if I find out if he listens to it, okay? Gonna try to find out for you.

That would be great.

I just recently got a note that Warren Buffett likes mine, so I’m very excited. He’s now interested in tech.

Well, how do you like that?

I do, I’m going to go have lunch with him, I think, about it, because he’s into tech these days.

[reading] How do you decide what to include in the show when there’s so much news every day?

We just talked about that.

We just did talk about that. I mean, a story ...

There’s stories, like DACA today, you have a million stories today.

Yeah. Well, today is a Thursday, today’s Friday, so we luckily don’t have to make a show.


Actually the hardest days are Mondays, because there’s been three days and a lot of news has transpired. And oftentimes it feels stale. And also Monday is a day we like to put out a show that’s a little more of a documentary feature show, because we’ve had a whole week to think about what to make. So, we have a wonderful show coming up for Monday.

So if you have like DACA and Korea, how do you pick?

Sometimes it’s, “Can we get a great guest?” and, “Is there sound?”

Right, that’s true.

We are a show, we’re showing audio, so if there’s a competition, the victorious episode will be an episode whose subject involves a ton of sound. I mean, we’re such geeks at The Daily, we love Senate hearings. We love Congressional hearings, because you can ... There’s a beginning and an end and there’s tons of sound, and you can have somebody, one of our colleagues come in and kind of narrate, right? And up will come the sound and the sound will come down and characters will come in and out. We did two episodes around Mark Zuckerberg’s ...

Yeah you did, with Kevin Rouse.

With Kevin Rouse, around his testimony in front of the Senate and the House because it was just such great sound, I mean ... You don’t think so?

“Senator we did not do ... we did not sell your information,” that they let him keep saying that and didn’t question him. I love that. He’s selling your information, just so you know, in a different way. I did like that. I like ... I thought it was a really good explainer of what was going on. I think he ... a lot of people thought he did well, you know, everyone’s like, “Oh, we did okay.”


Because he didn’t melt, apparently. And I’m the one who made him melt the first time so it was I was sort of ...

You’ve seen the melt?

I’ve seen the melt, but I thought it was because the bar is so low. They were just terrible. Our elected officials know nothing about anything — about that, at least, for sure.

[reading] What is your typical day? We talked about that. But what time do you wake up, what time do you go to bed? That’s a little personal.

People think we make the show overnight, we really don’t. We finish the show in the early evening unless it’s really late-breaking news, very rare exceptions. I go to bed at midnight or one in the morning these days, and I get up at seven or eight in the morning. An example where that wasn’t true and kind of sucked was earlier this week because of the time difference with Trump and Singapore. I was up at four a.m. because that’s when President Trump was talking and we needed to update the show.

This is a good one. [reading] Do you find that print journalist looks down on you now? No way, print journalists are at the bottom now. Sorry, go ahead, you answer.

I don’t know how to top that answer.

No, they want to be on your show, right?

Print journalists at the Times, yes, they want to be on. They want their story to be on The Daily because they want a new way to tell the story. A lot of them love the challenge. One of the highest compliments my colleagues pay to The Daily is, “I feel like I understand my story better now because I’ve been on the show. I’ve thought about it differently. And I’m, you know, and actually, I’m going to tell it better in the paper now.”

Right, and everybody wants a podcast. Everybody wants a podcast.

And there are a lot of podcasts.

There are, but there’s ... not a lot of it is good. You know, there’s a lot, but there’s still the ones that really do stand out in a lot of ways, but everyone does. It’s like everyone has a Netflix show. So how do you decide what else you ...?

Do you have a Netflix show?

Not yet. I’m in discussions. I could be. Everyone has a Netflix show. It wouldn’t be that hard. I think Oprah just got one. No, an Apple show, she got an Apple show today, I think. Yeah. Oprah.

Oprah has ... by the way, any given day, I do look at the charts, the podcast charts, once in a while. And I love when Oprah just does something, it just flies to the top. Yeah, she’s got ...

She’s got some attributes. Yeah, for sure. She’s fantastic. What are you talking about? She’s the best thing ever. She probably has a podcast, I don’t know.

[reading] How do you decide what else we need to know today? You kind of answered that one.

Oh that’s the headline, how do we decide “here’s what else you need to know today.” It’s the great stories of the day that we didn’t have time to tell. And also, is there sound? If there’s no sound then ...

You just say, “Forget it.”

No, we’ll do it, but it’s really annoying. We spend ... I actually love the headlines at the end of the show as much as anything we do, I just really love them and I will spend a huge amount of time searching for the audio required to do it and I write them and I find the audio and I listen and I log it and I love it and we ... yeah, I think it’s a quirky little thing we do at the end of the show and I love hunting around for the great tape that we use.


[reading] What issue do you believe deserves more airtime from the media but is going largely ignored with Trump talk?

Cause he sucks up a lot of oxygen? International affairs.

And carbon monoxide.

The Daily wishes we could be more internationally focused. But it’s hard, because there’s so much domestic news and it’s so compelling. So I would like us to do ... I think we’re going to eventually do a long series of stories about China and China’s place in the world. You know, what is China up to, what is its regional influence. It has an infrastructure program that’s all about essentially creating the kind of dependency on China and over the long term, and that used to be the role of the United States, now it’s being adopted by China. So I think we’d like to do a special series of stories about that.

Would you do it from there?

I think we would work with our colleagues there and we’d find stories there, but we’d probably do it from the States.

But not take Michael on the road?

That’s an interesting question. Should I travel?


It’s just hard logistically to make The Daily from the road, although we literally just made an episode from inside a cab, a taxi cab, with a taxi driver.

All right, so you could?

So we could.

I think traveling would be fascinating.

Do you think we should?

You know, I’ve said this to you. I think I yelled it to you.

“Get out of the studio!”

“Get out of the studio!” I think I did scream at you over a drink at South by Southwest because I think it’s interesting for people to see how it’s ... Ira Glass does it. Lots of NPR shows, they do it.

They do. I get nervous about making sure we would have the right studio setup and the right logistics.

Because you’re a soundie because you told us, exactly. All right. [reading] It’s interesting how The Daily takes a more storytelling conversational format when other news briefing podcasts are more newsroom style, was that part of the strategy — you did talk about this — and did it happen organically from the type of pieces you were covering?

We wanted it to be real and not like an anchor. And that’s why when we started the show, we kept a lot of these quirky little tidbits because we wanted reporters to be real, we wanted me to be real. And so we just said, “This is not going to be a voice-of-God show and I’m not going to narrate anything.” If you listen carefully, one of the quirky things about The Daily is I don’t ever, by and large, tell a story on The Daily. The story is told through the questions, so the questions have to contain the right information so that you are being told the story through pure question and answer rather than me interjecting the way maybe an NPR host might, and telling the story in my own voice to fill in the gaps. Which is why that Google Doc system we have is so important. If you listen carefully, there’s no kind of narration by me. If it’s not in the question, it’s not in the answer, it’s not in the episode. Which puts a huge burden on the host.

I’d argue that you’re an essential element of it, there is an anchor element to it. Absolutely. [reading] One of my favorite interviews was the one with a coal miner where he turned things around on you and asked you if you ever visited a mine. How did that man in your interview make you rethink your role and responsibilities as a journalist to influence how you reported future stories?

Yeah, so this is an episode we did with a coal miner in ... I think he was in Kentucky. Anyway, it was an interview that really threw me for all the reasons I talked about before, which was after the election feeling vulnerable, I think I successfully buried that for a while. And then we interviewed this coal miner and the coal miner turned the questions around on me.

And he was somewhere else. And you were interviewing ...

He was on the phone at home with his, with his voice, literally full of black lung disease. You could hear him kind of heaving. And he was so proud of the work he did as a coal miner and the four children whose lives it have paid for and opposed to the regulation of the Obama administration. He wanted to explain why he loved this industry, why he voted for Donald Trump.

Not only did he turn the question around back on me, he did it with so much generosity and grace that I started to get very emotional and I think it’s because I felt that he had exposed this still kind of open wound of the election for me and here was somebody who very much embodies the forces that elected Donald Trump saying, “What do you really know, fancy boy New York Times podcast host,” and I started to cry in the interview.

You didn’t want to see him in person though?

It’s not that I didn’t want to do see him.

They wouldn’t had it been better, it was fine.

This is a great question. I don’t think it would have been as emotional. I think it would have been ...

A phone conversation.

Just a pure phone conversation in the darkness of a studio made that very emotional for me.

Terry Gross does that. She doesn’t ...

She doesn’t even want to see people in the next room.

It’s interesting because there is an intimacy to the interviews when you have the headphones on. [reading] What is your favorite episode that you ... So the crying stayed on the air, correct? I didn’t listen.

We kept my emotion. Yeah, we kept the crying in the show. Not all of it, I mean, come on.

Was there copious weeping that went on for ...

I just think there was a point at which you were like, “I get it.”

All right. Okay. Good. Very Oprah of you. [reading] What was your favorite episode? — Actually, does she cry? Yes she does. What was your favorite episode that you have done? Or what episode are you most proud of? That could be two different things. We’re never gonna finish with these question.

My favorite episode is a special episode we did about kids. It was the kids’ episode of The Daily that was the first ever. It was about two girls, they are twins, and one of them is in the Boy Scouts and one of them is in the Girl Scouts, which is of course pretty complicated because they’re both girls, but they have an incredible set of parents who raised them to be very independent minded. And when the Girl Scouts ... when the Boy Scouts changed the rules that said girls could come in, she was ahead of her time and she’d already joined the local Boy Scout troop.

And she talked about what the response was from her sister and her parents and her friends and her family. And I just thought it was the rigor and the narrative storytelling of The Daily applied to children and I interviewed these two sisters together and separately and interviewed their friends. And I thought it was just beautiful the way it came together.

The episode I’m probably most proud of is one we did about the worker in a steel plant, a woman named Shannon. And it was just an absolutely stunningly beautiful story that made me and everybody else on the team cry just hearing her tell the story of what it really means to be left out of this economy and to lose your job. This is a company that was moved to Mexico. President Trump in the campaign claimed he was going to try to save the company and did not follow through. And she believed so firmly that he was going to save the company. And then just that story was remarkable.

More crying.

More crying. If you listen to The Daily five days a week, you’re probably going to cry one day.

All right. [reading] Obsessed fan, but sometimes a week of episodes leaves me depressed. What do you think of doing more feel-good stories to counteract the bad? It feels almost like, have you ever gone to TED?

TED Talks?


I know.

Some of them. If you go to it, it’s like, “I gotta get off this planet.”

Because they’re downers?

They are just ...

We hear that a lot of people want happy news. One of the great pieces of advice we got from an editor when we started the show was, “Just remember that people want good news sometimes,” and we have not really ...

You haven’t provided that.

I’ll give you an example. Sometimes we end the show with headlines that are about news from outer space like twice or three times — you know, a satellite was let go and it flew off — and we’ll end it with some fun music or something, and we’ll do things like that are ...

That doesn’t make me feel better after the coal miner.

You know, a couple days ago I got really excited that Time Warner was going to be merging with AT&T.

You got excited by that?

Because I knew any time a company merges, I have a policy. I don’t have a lot of say over the sound of the show but I have a policy that we will use the theme music of the companies when they merge. And a lot of companies, music is not recognized.

I didn’t know companies had theme music.

Well, Warner Brothers pictures’ music, right? So that could be the end of the show. That made me so happy. That’s good news, yeah, that’s happy. We did that when Disney merged with 20th Century Fox.

But they haven’t done that, Michael. Keep on this.

I know, I know, when they said they would.

Yeah, when they said they would but they’re not.

They’re not.

Maybe, who knows.

We got to use the music so that’s ...

What are you going to use for Comcast?

We use AT&T music a little bit.

Good to know. Wow, I don’t even think of sound when I’m doing these things. Who is exactly ... you said who is your favorite reported interview and why, which podcast have you done that moved you, we already answered.

I know how to answer the favorite one.

And editing is done, how much of it? Who’s your favorite?



It would be like a crime to that say that.

But go ahead I mean break the law, Michael.

I am in love with Matt Apuzzo. I think he’s just the nicest guy on earth and he and his wife listen to the show and they are ... he’s hosted a podcast and he did audio work in college and he is so sophisticated about audio that ... first of all, this is ... He just won a Pulitzer Prize. He will come on The Daily and say things like this, he’ll say something, he’ll deliver a line and be like, “Roll tape,” and he’ll set it up perfectly. Like, “And then Comey came to the podium. Roll tape.” He knows how to set up audio for The Daily even though he’s a print reporter, so anybody who’s that game to work with us is pretty great.

And Maggie holds a very ... Maggie Haberman holds an incredibly special place in my heart because we started off hating each other as City Hall reporters competing for the same story.

She worked for the Daily News?

She worked for the New York Post.

Post, okay.

And was very aggressive and we would go at it and that, you know, “You didn’t credit my story,” and, “I didn’t credit yours,” you know, and that kind of thing. And then she came to work at the Times and we’ve become very, very close.

Yeah, she’s a great reporter.

She’s an incredible reporter.

She an incredible reporter. She’s a friend of mine also. She’s amazing. She’s ... you can also see her in the Showtime ... Are you in that?

“The Fourth Estate” came ... the people who made the Showtime documentary “The Fourth Estate,” they were in The Daily studio all the time. We actually were really confused about what they were doing. And it turns out that they were in the studio — it took me a really long time to figure this out — only when the reporters in Washington were coming on The Daily because the documentary really was about our Washington bureau and the Trump-Russia story. So I of course, mistakenly thought like, “Oh, look at me, I’m in this documentary.” It was never about The Daily.

Were you in it?

A couple scenes. But really it was in the service of telling the likes ...

I keep trying to watch it then I’m like, “I don’t care about the reporters.” You know what I mean?

I think the documentary ...

“Spotlight” was good. Okay.

The message of the documentary is that these reporters work 24 hours a day. All right, it’s not for you.

So do coal miners. I don’t know, it’s fine, okay. You know what I’m saying. I don’t love us becoming the story that much.

You don’t like us becoming the story.

I do not.

I mean that’s part of the ...

I don’t like it at all, I think we are being dragged into it and it’s ...

I mean, you host ...

It’s a little worse for the wear.

You host an event. I’m gonna call a little BS on this.

Okay, call BS, but it’s not about Kara, it’s about me interviewing Evan Spiegel or Sheryl Sandberg and stuff like that.

You have a personality and I agree, I wish that journalism could be never about the journalist, but we have entered a phase — and I think it’s a welcome phase — where people are curious about the journalist telling the story. For the longest time we pretended that we could hide behind these kind of big tablets we handed down every day, you know, in the sweeping authority of our news organization. We were going to tell you a story and if you didn’t like it, I’m sorry. And now I think people are demanding greater accountability and transparency. I think audio and what you do, that’s a part of that.

They want to feel a relationship with the reporter.

But they want to understand where the reporters are coming from. They want to understand who these people are and how they think. And I think any time a journalist is really grappling with a story, then you’re learning that they take this job really seriously, you understand how they do their job, how they weigh all the various pieces of information and just how much thoughtfulness goes into the storytelling.

And I agree with that, and from one egomaniac to the next, let me just say I love the attention, but I think we get in the way of some things, we have become the story in a way that’s very damaging to journalism at some point.

I think that’s a big concern.

At some point. All right. We’re walking right into it too. [reading] What impact have you seen or do you ... Let me give you example. John, who wrote “Bad Blood,” a great book about the Theranos thing, he just did his work and he got yelled and screamed at by the Theranos people. John. I can’t remember. [Carreyrou]

He has a French last name. I just bought his book.

It’s fantastic. But he just kept his head down and did the job and killed that company, essentially. And deservedly.

[reading] What impact have you seen or do you foresee podcasts or — two quick questions, I need to go get on a train — What impact have you seen or do you foresee podcasts having on an increasing stratification of American political identity? Will we see a resurgence of moderates, the third way?

I mean, that would be an interesting outcome. I think that podcasts are all about empathetic listening.

It’s a really good way of putting it.

That shows like The Daily are about letting yourself ... letting people into your lives, you know, journalists or the characters in the story, the Shannons or the Miriams, you know, the woman from Burkina Faso who was abused by her husband, and it just inevitably engenders understanding and humanity in a way that I think the rest of journalism is still struggling with. I mean, sometimes we’ll grab a single character and quote out of a story and turn it into a 25-minute episode of The Daily, and the emotional impact will be so significantly ...

And so I think people who listen to podcasts are a breed of empathetic people and I hope that because of all the nuance and complexity that we’re introducing into storytelling that we’re introducing a positive new force into the ...

It also shows people want substantive things. Which is a lie that they don’t, it’s the twitchy Twitter world people want to understand.

Cable news is ... since I started doing that ... I used to ... I don’t have a television at the moment but when I watched more television I was less aware of how unnuanced cable news is and now because of The Daily it just feels like night and day and weird to me.

Along with Twitter and social media.

Although I find Twitter to be ... Twitter is a very powerful medium for those of us involved in The Daily because it’s such an early warning system that something is going on. That a story is big and that we should be paying attention to it, and also there’s just a lot of audio on Twitter.

There is, it’s very useful.

You can literally find it and borrow it for The Daily.

Yeah, it’s a very useful cesspool. Sorry, that’s what it is. But in any case, last question. [reading] Do either of you sleep? No.

A little more than I used to, more than I used to.


Yeah, because we’ve gotten to a point where we make the show a little earlier and the final elements are done a little earlier. I sleep more than I used to.

And the last question, what’s next for you? What would you want to do if you weren’t doing this?

I want to host The Daily for a long while. I love making the show, I love the way it’s helped me reimagine storytelling and I’m struggling, actually, to understand if and when I would ever go back to writing again.

At all?

Yeah, it’s been ...

If you had to and they grabbed The Daily from your hands.

Cold hands. Yeah, of course I would.

Go back into journalism.

Yes. It’s a funny way of putting it, “go back into journalism.”

No, but you’re doing ... You know what I mean, go back.

What are you saying? I’m nervous. I mean, I’m an anxious person by nature. But so I’m nervous that I don’t remember how to do it. That I’ve ...

I’ve hardly written this year. I do only podcasts and events. It’s interesting. It’s an interesting reason, just cause it’s more satisfying. But I consider it journalism.

I do, too.

So, but anything else you would do? Would you say anything else?

No, I really love this. I love this medium. I don’t know where it goes. I mean, if you asked me two years ago, would I be doing this ...

You were sitting there on the Trump train.

Or you asked little New Haven Register deliverer Michael Barbaro if he was gonna do this, I don’t know.

That adorable font-loving boy. Anyway, thank you very much.

Thank you.

This article originally appeared on