2020年10月2日 星期五

The Daily: While You Were Sleeping

How we turned a late night debate into an early morning show. Plus, a special episode.
The first presidential debate was 90 minutes of chaos.Doug Mills/The New York Times
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By Michael Simon Johnson

As we were getting ready to send this newsletter, we published a special episode. Listen now: “The Pandemic Reaches the President

This week, millions of Americans fell asleep after the first presidential debate ended. By the time they woke up on Wednesday, we had published a full episode breaking down the chaos of the event.


On mornings like this, we often get listeners writing in to ask us how, exactly, we turn around a show so quickly. It’s a fair question! When asked in person, I sometimes say, “Honestly, I have no idea.” But the truth is that it comes down to two unsurprising yet vitally important factors: preparation and teamwork. Here’s how the night went down:

We had decided well in advance (a few days, an eternity in the Daily universe) which reporter we’d be speaking to after the debate. The choice was clear: our in-house politics smarty, Alex Burns. We informed Alex that we’d plan to interview him at midnight, as soon as the debate was over. (Why reporters are OK with this is beyond me.)

On Tuesday morning and afternoon, our team of producers and editors were running errands, napping or wrangling kids for Zoom school. But as the afternoon became evening, we assembled for kickoff.

The key was to assign a discrete task to every producer. Producers Jessica Cheung, Asthaa Chaturvedi and I were each assigned a section of the debate to take notes on. Producer Alix Spiegel helped format and organize these notes in real time, and Rachelle Bonja combed through tape to pull the exact audio moments that we were interested in using. Then, in a group chat, we all discussed the big themes that we were seeing play out.


When the debate ended, it was Leg 1 of a race against the clock. We needed to plan what the interview between Michael and Alex would actually sound like. Where do we start the conversation? What are the crucial things we want to cover and have Alex react to? Where do we want it to end? Still wishing we had more time, we began the interview, aiming to keep the conversation as tight and focused as possible. After all, the longer the interview lasts, the less time we have to edit.

When we finished recording with Alex around 1 a.m., we entered Leg 2 of the race. Once again, the producers focused on their assigned sections. This meant they were responsible for weaving the audio moments that Rachelle had pulled into the recorded conversation with Alex. We cut and edited as quickly as possible, keeping a close eye on the clock, and staying in constant communication.

We were all keenly aware that our listeners expected a show at 6 a.m. As Jessica puts it: “The whole feeling of the night is that you don’t want the sun to rise on you. Because that means your deadline is approaching, and you worry about finishing on time. It feels like the faster and harder you work, the better you are at keeping daylight from breaking.”

All in all, it took a team of five producers, one Michael Barbaro, and our fearless editors Lisa Chow and Lisa Tobin, to pull this off. As 6 a.m. rolled around and the sunlight began to creep into our respective homes, we put the show to rest and crashed into our own beds. Our day ended as yours began.

Talk to Michael on Twitter: @SoundsLikeMSJ.


Why was President Trump hiding his tax information?

The tax documents suggest that President Trump is personally on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that come due in the next few years.Doug Mills/The New York Times

Our producer Andy Mills on Tuesday’s episode:

Over the past four years, many Americans have wondered what information lies in President Trump’s personal taxes. Why had he broken precedent and gone through such great lengths to keep them hidden? So recently, when a team of investigative reporters, whom we had previously worked with for two stories on the president’s financial history, contacted us to say, “We have the president’s taxes,” we were excited to get to work.

Russ Buettner, Susanne Craig and Mike McIntire had already done the hard work of poring through over two decades of his tax records. Our job was to figure out how to translate their complicated findings into a story beyond the numbers.

While thinking about how best to tell this story, we noticed that after the written investigation was published, right away the focus was on one number: $750 — the amount of federal income tax that the president paid in 2016 and 2017.

This figure was interpreted in different ways: Some assumed that this was because Mr. Trump was someone who really worked the U.S. tax code in his favor. “That makes me smart,” he had bragged previously about the notion that he evaded federal income tax.

But we knew from Russ, Sue and Mike’s work that this was not the case.

Our goal on Tuesday’s show was to communicate that the reason he was paying very little in taxes year after year was because he was losing far more money than he was making. As Sue said in the episode, this isn’t the case of a “rich guy hiding profits”; “this is a case of a man who runs businesses that year after year lose tens of millions of dollars.”

Talk to Andy on Twitter: @AndyMillsNYT.

On The Daily this week

Monday: Judge Amy Coney Barrett is President Trump’s pick to fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court. Adam Liptak on her judicial philosophy and why her nomination has energized conservatives.

Tuesday: We speak to Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig about their report with Mike McIntire that investigates the president’s taxes.

Wednesday: Alex Burns walks us through a chaotic presidential debate that was defined by a level of personal attacks unheard-of in modern American politics.

Thursday: All 50 states require people to register before they can cast a mail-in vote. But from there, the rules diverge. Luke Broadwater talks to us about different state laws governing the postal vote.

Friday: We went into the field with Nicholas Casey to explore the battle for the franchise in Florida.

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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