Issue 184,  published November 6, 2018

This Week in Daily News Podcasts

I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but I just wanted to highlight two recent additions to the genre that are pretty compelling: the CBC’s Front Burner and The Guardian’s Today in Focus.

Three parts to this take:

(1) Both productions genuinely beat the problem of information redundancy for me, speaking as a US-based news consumer. One of the major opening hurdles for any new American daily news podcasts is addressing the choice between staking claim on the biggest US-centric stories — thereby risking a repeat for some listeners that might already be attached to The Daily — or pursuing an alternative route. Either way, your context is defined by the front-runner, which gets real tricky real quick.

For Front Burner, which has an open lane to claim the “new front page” of Canada, and Today in Focus, which holds a purely international gaze, the lane is open to make their choices completely on their own terms. There have been some headline overlaps, particularly when it comes to Front Burner, but I’ve found the overarching choices of both productions quite encouraging — and refreshing.

(2) Speaking of being defined by The Daily: the influence and shadow of that production seems to loom quite heavily over Front Burner and Today in Focus. I can’t speak to the extent to which The Daily’s design elements affected choices made by both production teams, but you can definitely hear some familiar moves in the toolkit. It’s quite fascinating.

(3) Something I particularly liked: Today in Focus’ choice to attach an Opinion section at the end of each episode. I’m not super hot on The Argument, the New York Times’ recently launched attempt at a podcast for its (highly scrutinized, sometimes controversial) Opinion section, in large part because I find the gabfest format to be a little too cumbersome to effectively carry out its goal: namely, to present and extend an informed opinion (ideally). The monologue structure of Today in Focus’ Opinion segment gets us much closer to the heart of it, I think.