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Tracking: August 11, 2020

New York Times assembles its Opinion Audio unit. Back to the Times for a hot second. Earlier this month, the news organization announced the eight hires they’ve made to make up the team that will be expanding the prominent Opinion section’s work around audio.

As a reminder, there’s already one Times Opinion podcast that’s been operating for a while: The Argument, which had originally been produced by an external partner, Transmitter Media. This staffing up presumably sets the scene for further expansion in Times Opinion audio products. We already know of one such future project: the upcoming Kara Swisher podcast, a production whose creation resulted in her stepping away from hosting Vox Media’s long-running Recode Decode podcast. (Though she continues to co-host Pivot, a podcast now housed under Vox Media’s New York Magazine banner.)

Two things stand out to me about this news bite. Firstly, the move to build out a dedicated audio team for the Opinion section, separate from the larger NYT Audio team, seems to be a replication of the Newsroom-Opinion firewall. It also means there are technically three distinct audio divisions operating within the Times: Audio, Opinion Audio, and Serial Productions.

Secondly, four out of the eight hires come from New York Public Radio. On a related note, the team is being led by Paula Szuchman, formerly the VP of New Show Development at WNYC Studios, who was brought on by the Times in March.

The eight hires are: Adam Teicholz, Alison Bruzek, Christina Ayele Djossa, Heba Elorbany, Isaac Jones, Kathy Tu, Olivia Natt, and Vishakha Darbha.

The Cut returns to audio, no longer on Tuesdays. Over half a year after the end of its collaboration with Gimlet Media, called The Cut on Tuesdays, New York Magazine has officially announced that it’s bringing The Cut back to audio — and that it’s tapped Avery Trufelman, formerly of 99% Invisible, to host the new version of the show.

Now simply called “The Cut,” the podcast will debut on August 19, with new episodes dropping every Wednesday. This comes as the magazine appears to be laying down the foundation for a more concerted podcast push, having brought on Hanna Rosin, formerly of NPR’s Invisibilia, as editorial director for audio last month.

Obligatory disclaimer: I’m a contributing writer for Vulture, New York Magazine’s entertainment vertical, but I’ll be covering what that organization is doing in much the same way I’ll cover any other organization. Perks of being an insider-outsider, I guess.  

On Servant of Pod. Because we took last week off, I wasn’t able to properly plug the most recent episode of the episode, so excuse me as I take a few hundred words to that effect.

Veteran Hot Pod readers probably already know this, but one thing I’ve long been interested in is the development and evolution of specific job functions within podcasting as the community continues to grow in size and complexity. In particular, I’ve been very interested in the role of Podcast Editors, which in many ways is a really hard job to talk about. It’s a little similar to the difficulties of defining the “producer” — podcasting and on-demand audio’s core labor unit — in the sense that the job can be rather fluid, coming to encompass a great many different things depending on the institutional context.

But my own understanding of Podcast Editors tends to be grounded in their emphasis on structure and perspective. The job, in my mind, is primarily linked to asking the question of how stories are being presented, and how they exist within the mind of many audiences.

So, for last Wednesday’s episode, I spoke with the great Catherine Saint Louis, a veteran of the New York Times who’s now a senior editor at Neon Hum Media. The conversation sprawled a little bit, touching on the actual experience of carrying out the role responsibilities, how she was drawn to the job, and the question of the editor pipelines. One line that has struck with me: “We can’t keep wanting different podcasts and not recognize that we need more Black editors.”

Alright, let’s look forward. For tomorrow’s episode, we’re doing something a little different. In a span of about thirty minutes, we’re going to provide an extremely brief look at the world of audio erotica and audio pornography. This isn’t a podcast-specific story, though it does engage with issues and dynamics that have long been central to our interests: among other things, you’ll hear about a big platform, an upstart startup, and an independent creator, all of which are situated within a web that connects each other.

I had a lot of fun working on this episode, though I did not quite expect to, as I am, by internal nature, a prude.

You can find Servant of Pod on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or the great assortment of third-party podcast apps that are hooked up to the open publishing ecosystem. Desktop listening is also recommended. Share, leave a review, and so on.