Crosscut Ideas Festival: Michael Barbaro on truth, lies and news

The host of the New York Times' podcast The Daily explains why covering falsehoods is an existential problem for journalism.

When The New York Times launched its podcast The Daily in 2017, it was a tumultuous time for journalism. The recent election of Donald Trump was raising new existential questions for journalists who were confronted with the dilemma of how to cover the falsehoods of a U.S. president.


The answer from host Michael Barbaro and the rest of the team at The Daily was to bring the journalists to the mic to discuss their reporting, show how they got the story and, sometimes, admit what they didn’t know. 

That approach, built on the reporting coming out of the New York Times newsroom, attracted an audience in the millions, making The Daily the most-downloaded new podcast on Apple Podcasts for 2017. 

For his appearance at the Crosscut Ideas Festival, Barbaro spoke with Crosscut Now host Paris Jackson about the value of the podcast format as a new way to disseminate and receive news. It is and it isn’t, says Barbaro; it’s really simply a twist on the venerable mass medium of radio. The true innovation is instant, 24/7 accessibility — just reach into your pocket — and the advantage is greater time to dig into a story: The Daily offers just one in-depth story per episode in a world of soundbites and tweets.

Barbaro and Jackson also discussed the importance of journalistic transparency, and the podcast’s greater facility at “letting people into our process” and “acknowledging what [journalists] don’t know.” Along the way, during a discussion of the importance of challenging the audience’s assumptions, Barbaro confessed what Daily story left him feeling “emotional … naked and exposed.”

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