Publisher: The New York Times
Host: Michael Barbaro
Producer: Theo Balcomb
Since The Daily was launched earlier this year, it has quickly gained a lot of attention. It was 13th in the March Podtrac Rankings, topping longtime podcasts such as 99% Invisible and Hidden Brain. Additional information about The Daily is available here.
The Daily is a daily news-oriented podcast published by The New York Times. Each edition is 15 to 25 minutes in length and features between one and four different stories. It is fed first thing each weekday morning and it is available for online and mobile listening. It is available on Android devices via RadioPublic.
The podcast host is Michael Barbaro, a well known Times political reporter. Barbaro has spent most of his time at the Times working as a print journalist. In 2016, he launched his first podcast in 2016, The Run-Up, covering the election. The success of The Run-Up played a major role in management’s decision to shift him from writing to audio.
Theo Balcomb is the senior producer at The Daily.
Before joining the Times, she was supervising producer at NPR’s All Things Considered.
Theo is highly regarded by her colleagues at NPR. Balcomb began her work at NPR in 2009 as an intern.
PROGRAMS USED FOR THIS REVIEW:
• Tax Plan Explained, published Friday, April 28, 2017 [link]
• An Illuminating Drive Across Venezuela, published Monday, May 1, 2017 [link]
These are two very different editions of The Daily. One works fine (Tax Plan) and the other sounds like it was taken out of the oven before it was baked. (Venezuela).
• Tax Plan showcases Michael Barbaro’s best attributes. He is an easy-to-listen to conversationalist who obviously loves talking with other people. Barbaro is clearly in his element as host. He has successfully transferred his sharp writing and reporting skills to the audio platform.
The podcast begins with a breezy forward promotion of what will be heard during this edition. In addition to coverage of President Trump’s new tax proposal, Barbaro says we will hear “three short scenes” on other topics.
Barbaro sounds his best when he is talking with reporters. In this case, fellow Times reporters provide background thoughts on their stories concerning the tax plan. I love to hear the banter between articulate reporters and these do not disappoint.
The conversation is fast-paced but it never feels rushed. Coverage of the tax plan lasted 11.5 minutes, approximately half of the lengtht of this podcast.
The “three scenes” were all very strong. The first was a short discussion about GOP efforts to re-introduce the failed Health Car Bill. The second explored arguments before the Supreme Court (with riveting raw audio from the testimony) regarding revoking US citizenship. The third, my favorite, was a first-person essay by a Facebook executive who learned a lesson about the power of social media.
Some observers say Barbaro practices “narrative news.” To me it sounds like good old-fashioned reporting.
• Venezuela didn’t work out as well. It failed to include many of the elements that I praised above. The entire 23+ minutes feature one story: A reporter’s 1,200 mile trip across Venezuela. The reporter, Nicolas Casey is based in Caracas and has been reporting on a country as it teeters on the brink of collapse. Barbaro never says, that I recall, whether Casey works for the Times.
Casey’s travelogue wanders from place-to-place in Venezuela and he describes what he is seeing. It is a monologue, not a conversation. Barbaro never gets a chance to do what he does best, interacting with reporters. Instead, Barbaro sounds like a distant anchor in this piece.
To me, the low-point is the awful audio quality of Casey’s report. It sounds like he is in a boomy room. This makes his deadpan delivery even harder to understand. I began to loose interest around eight minutes into the program. I exited soon thereafter.
Will I listen to this program again? Yes, I certainly will.
The Daily feels like is hasn’t jelled yet. The combination of Barbaro’s comfortable style, and the opportunity to hear other Times reporters talk about their work, will keep me coming back.