The star host of The New York Times podcast “The Daily” is attempting a mea culpa in the wake of some negative press.
Michael Barbaro, host of the Times’ most popular podcast, which ranks consistently on lists of the country’s most downloaded and listened to audio programs, took to Twitter on Saturday afternoon to issue an apology for some of his recent actions. According to a number of reporters at public radio stations around the country, through which “The Daily” is syndicated, Barbaro got in touch with them directly in what was perceived as an effort to see critical coverage of the Times’ problems with another podcast, “Caliphate,” toned down. Production of that big-budget podcast was overseen by Barbaro’s partner and fiancée, Lisa Tobin, but the main subject of the series was discovered to have been false, having lied about his identity and experiences.
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In his apology, Barbaro did not deny getting in touch with reporters, saying that in an effort to “hold myself accountable” he “impulsively sent [direct messages]” to people who had commented on a Twitter post linking to a published conversation between Barbaro and Times executive editor Dean Baquet discussing the drama around “Caliphate.” He also admitted to blocking people “who raised concerns about a Caliphate producer,” presumably his partner Tobin, although he did not mention her by name.
“Both of these actions delivered the wrong message: that the questions and criticism weren’t welcome,” Barbaro said. “I should not have done either. At a moment when I should have been more open to examining our shortcomings and hearing out those who had concerns, I failed. I am sorry.”
“‘The Daily’ is about listening and trust. I am deeply committed to them both. And I will continue to do better,” he added.
Barbaro’s apology comes after public radio stations had started to drop syndication of “The Daily.” At least four stations, three in Texas and one in Los Angeles, said by Friday that they would no longer air the show, according to a report in Vulture, one of New York Magazine’s websites. And this followed a letter campaign from about two dozen public radio stations to Baquet.
In the letters, the stations expressed concern for the actions of Barbaro regarding “Caliphate,” as well as what has come to be seen as the disparate actions taken against Rukmini Callimachi, the host of “Caliphate,” another producer who eventually found the fake source the show used, and Andy Mills, another producer on the show.
In response, Sam Dolnick, the Times’ assistant managing editor, told the concerned stations “We believe we’ve handled what was a significant journalistic lapse with accountability. We are deeply committed to continuing to pursue audio journalism and have already begun to implementing changes that will make our audio report even stronger.”
Dolnick added, in regard to Barbaro’s contact with those commenting and reporting on the “Caliphate” issue, “editors have discussed their expectations of him going forward.”