Michael Barbaro, host of the New York Times podcast “The Daily” that attracts 2 million listeners per day, talked about the adapting world of journalism, at Scripps College Tuesday.
Barbaro told over 150 people in attendance that his job as a paperboy in his hometown of Connecticut fueled his passion for journalism, and his overriding mission to become a reporter for the New York Times.
“Everything about the newspaper intrigued me,” Barbaro said. “Where the story began, the language, the clauses, the jumps inside, the layout, the bylines, everything. My mom made a very important decision in my life around that time to subscribe to the New York Times.”
Barbaro said his obsession with his local paper became a full-blown love affair with the New York Times.
Barbaro started his journalism career right after college as a retail reporter for the Washington Post, before he started at the New York Times in 2005 as a politics reporter among other roles.
“The Daily” is a podcast that dives into important news stories of the day in 25 minutes or less audio clips. The podcast, which began in 2016, has grown from a four-person operation to 17.
Among the U.S. population ages 12 and older, the total number of people who have ever listened to a podcast passes 50 percent for the first time, according to Infinite Dial, a 2019 report that covers media and technology consumption.
One-third of the population reported having listened to a podcast in the last month, representing 90 million monthly listeners, according to the study.
Barbaro said he was at a crossroads in his career when the politics editor at the New York Times approached him to be the host of what is now “The Daily.”
“I left the world of retail and started covering local and national politics,” Barbaro said. “I knew this would be the last presidential election I covered because it is really grueling. I wanted to enter a new phase in my career where I would be a little more stationary, so it appealed to me to try something new.”
He said the experience was terrifying in the beginning as he had never ventured into the world of audio before.
“For the longest time the New York Times was figuring out audio the way everyone was figuring out audio who was not NPR or ‘This American Life,’” Barbaro said. “And the Times made a very smart decision which was to hire some real heavy hitter smart people from the world of audio.”
Barbaro said the professionals came in and were entrusted to answer the question, ‘What should the New York Times sound like.’
“I was very much like a baby being swaddled by these seasoned producers,” Barbaro said. “Best decision I ever made in my career was just letting them run things and explain to me what audio was.”
“The Daily” has three criteria that they use in their morning meetings to assess if a story is worth a spot on the podcast.
“There is a lot of time spent on refining the way we will approach a story,” Barbaro said. “How do you decide in the vast world of news what subject is worth 25 minutes of recognition every day?”
They ask: Is there a narrative you will remain interested in from beginning to end? Is there a character you want to get to know better? Is there a big revelatory idea that you will have by the end of the episode?
Barbaro said through audio, journalists are connecting with the audience in unexpected ways.
“For the longest time journalists were trained to think of themselves as these delivers of the news who were supposed to remain very removed from the subject,” Barbaro said.
“I had over time developed a theory that well that system made a lot of sense, it has contributed to this problem we have in journalism where we have the world’s trust until suddenly we do not,” he said.
Cade Niles, senior biology major at Pomona College, said “The Daily” is not objective journalism, but rather it is interactive and subjective in the best ways.
“‘The Daily’ is special and unique in that it connects with young people, new media and the culture of this younger generation,” Niles said. “In almost every episode [The Daily] makes it a point to go out to the street and talk to people regardless of gender, sex, identity and gender expression.”
Ada Cohen, sophomore political and media studies major at Pitzer College, listens to “The Daily” every single morning.
“When you have these integral people in your life you wonder what they will be like in person,” Cohen said. “I was intrigued to find out who he was, and hear he is as authentic as he sounds.”
Julia Young, sophomore public health and queer theory major at Pitzer College said in today’s world it is important to know more about the news people are receiving.
“Reporters now have to develop a different relationship with their audience,” Young said. “In a time where you cannot necessarily trust the news you are receiving, it is great to see and meet what you hear every day.”
“The Daily” podcast is available online at nytimes.com/column/the-daily.
Layla Abbas can be reached at email@example.com.