When you actually hear a journalist grappling out loud with a story they're covering, it changes the news consumer's relationship with that journalist and that story, says Michael Barbaro of the New York Times. Barbaro gives his Brief but Spectacular take on his podcast, The Daily.
Michael Barbaro: When I was a political reporter at The Times, you would have all these moments where you wish that a camera crew or an audio team were with you.
It was 2011, and I was in the Las Vegas hotel of real estate developer Donald Trump. His wife, Melania, was in the nearby bedroom wearing a bathrobe, because he asked me to meet her and she was feeling reticent about it because she was wearing a bathrobe.
And he just said some of the most extraordinary things, the one I remember best being that the way he thought about same-sex marriage was how he thought about whether to use the new kind of putter that men were using in golf. And he said, I can’t — kind of wrap my head around using this. I can’t make that change.
And that was what he compared to his relationship to same-sex marriage. He kind of just wasn’t there yet.
My biggest objection to the kind of contemporary forum of news and news storytelling is that it often feels like the story, whether it’s a TV segment or a radio news segment or a newspaper story, it’s kind of beginning in the middle.
There’s a government shutdown. There’s a crisis in Myanmar. There’s a ballistic missile that’s being tested by North Korea. In almost every case, the real story requires the clock to start way, way earlier.
And what “The Daily” does, I think uniquely, is say, no, no, no, we are really going to start this story where you need it to begin to understand it.
The thing we love to do is genuinely surprise people in the morning. So, you have had three or four days of coverage of President Trump, of Congress, of the shutdown. Tomorrow, you’re going to wake up, we’re going to tell you 30-minute, operatic tale of Tonya Harding and her entire life.
The idea of “The Daily” was to change the relationship between the consumer of the news and the presentation of the news. We did an interview the night that the United States started to bomb Syria after it had determined that chemical warfare had been used on the Syrian people by Bashar al-Assad.
And we called up one of our dearest colleagues, Helene Cooper, at home while she was reporting the story, and we asked her a pretty provocative question. Did these missile strikes on Syria by the U.S., did they mean that we’re at war with Syria?
And instead of filibustering or pretending that she knew the answer, Helene said, “Michael, I just — I just don’t know that. I don’t have an answer to that.”
Inevitably, when you’re transforming a story and making it human and generating all the intimacy of sound and letting someone really hear a journalist grappling with a story, you inevitably — you have a different relationship with that journalist. Your bond with them changes. Your understanding of their mind changes and that relationship deepens.
So, that’s the not-so-secret secret mission of “The Daily.”
I’m Michael Barbaro, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on “The Daily.”