2020年11月6日 星期五

The Daily: Our Big Live Experiment

Inside our Election Day broadcast.

Hello, Daily listeners! While we wait to find out who the next president of the United States is, we wanted to give you a look back at this week on the show (unless you are currently supposed to be counting ballots … in which case, please go do that.)

We kicked off this week by visiting a divided Wisconsin in our final installment of The Field before the election. Then, Alex Burns became Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” and appeared on our show four times (twice in our live broadcast, which you’ll hear more about below, and again to make sense of where the votes stood on Election Days 2.0 and 3.0). Finally, Maggie Haberman, another all-star from our live broadcast, joined us today to analyze President Trump’s lies about electoral legitimacy, as told from a White House lectern.

We hope everyone gets some rest this weekend (looking at you, Alex and Maggie).

Live from The Daily

Michael Barbaro had a rare co-host for our Election Day broadcast: Carolyn Ryan, a deputy managing editor at The Times and his former editor on the Politics desk. They were in separate studios for the broadcast, but masked-up for a photo together as the night ended.

Listen to the highlights of The Daily’s live Election Day broadcast.

On election night, as the world anticipated the end of a long presidential contest, The Daily team was preoccupied, for a moment, with another question.


We were eight minutes into our first-ever live broadcast, which was an “admittedly wild experiment,” as the editor Paige Cowett described it. And now it was being tested by our first guest.

“Alex, can you hear me?” Michael Barbaro asked into the literal radio silence, searching for the national political correspondent Alex Burns. We held our breath.

“I can hear you. Can you hear me?” Alex Burns emerged, reliable as ever.

“Thank God” Slack messages flooded our team channel. And with every passing minute, our team became assured that our live experiment would work.


It all started a little over a week ago, when The Daily team was in an election coverage brainstorm. Our objectives for Election Day were clear: We wanted to deliver lucid news analysis, “showcase the deep bench of Times reporters scattered across the country” and “document the day in a sound rich way,” Paige said. But we also needed to do this for an event with no clear end date.

Multiple shows per day seemed to be the only way to “cover an Election Day that might bleed into an Election Week or Month,” Paige said. But when she took the idea to the executive producer Lisa Tobin, it evolved: “Could we create a live show,” they wondered, “capturing all the nuance as it changed in real time?”

Doing so would require transforming The Times into a Covid-safe digital radio station. “When we designed the audio studios three years ago, we never thought we would try to stream live content for four hours. We also never imagined having to do so from separate rooms due to occupational health requirements,” the audio engineer Brad Fisher said.

Soon, teams across The Times were pulled in to figure out how to make this happen, jury-rigging the technical setup needed (and organizing many, many backup plans and dry runs). Our production configuration required two phone lines, three Google Meet connections, four audio consoles and “just the right number of adjoining studios to pull it off,” Brad said.


Michael prepares for the live broadcast. The newsroom in The Times’s New York headquarters is normally packed on Election Day. Not this year.Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Meanwhile, The Daily team figured out the lineup — dozens of reporters who would be in conversation with two hosts, Michael and Carolyn Ryan, a deputy managing editor at The Times. But the schedule took a lot of arranging — and rearranging.

“I cannot begin to fathom the number of emails the reporters got from me with updated calendar invite times or how many Slack messages I sent,” the producer Rachel Quester said. “To those reporters who see this, I’m sorry!”

Ultimately, it all happened. Alex finally answered. Live jokes were told. And amid the “rush and roar of producing live programming,” as the producer Jessica Cheung described it, vivid dispatches from reporters and voters emerged, helping us contextualize what was happening across the country on Election Day 2020.

“It felt like putting on a high school musical,” the producer Sydney Harper said, filled with rehearsals, tricky choreography and “an ensemble cast bringing out each other’s best talents and bringing the production to life.” We’re grateful to you for joining us on our opening night.

How we’re covering the election

Mindful of social distancing rules, our executive editor Dean Baquet called into the live broadcast from his office in The Times’s headquarters.Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

In January, just before the kickoff of this election cycle, The Daily sat down with Dean Baquet, The Times’s executive editor. He spoke openly about the lessons The Times had learned from its coverage of the 2016 presidential election.

During Tuesday’s live show, Michael interviewed Dean once again, this time to discuss how these hard-won lessons from four years ago were informing our “extraordinarily cautious” approach on Election Day, and in any calls that would be made in the days thereafter.

Listen to Dean’s full interview from the live broadcast, and read excerpts from his interview below:

Being right vs. being first

MICHAEL: Dean, we recently revisited the story with Jim Rutenberg of the 2000 election, and a major theme of that story was how the TV news media really bungled the call — and what a call does to a race. It’s not an innocuous thing to label someone, even for a moment, as a winner or a loser … From what I understand, while we have all our data reporters and political reporters getting the latest information, in some ways you’re the last line of defense here, when it comes to making such a call — is that right? And is there anything you can say about that decision making to help people understand the lessons of 2000?

DEAN: You know, journalists are competitive. I’m hyper competitive. I want to beat the other guys in every story. I do not feel hyper competitive on making election calls.

I feel a need to be cautious. I don’t have any desire to be first. I would just rather be right. You know, we’re going to be extraordinarily cautious. We’re going to talk about it. We’re going to let others make their own calls before us, and I’m fine with that. We’re just going to be really cautious.

And I’m going to want to see it before we make a call. I’m going to want to debate it and discuss it. I’m not talking about the obvious states; I’m not talking about calling New York, which is, you know, clearly a largely Democratic state. I’m talking about calling the overall election. I think we should be really cautious. We should put aside all of our competitive instincts for one day or two days and say, “Let’s just get this right.”

Describing a divided country

CAROLYN: Dean, I want to ask you, you’ve always told us that elections are not about the candidates. They’re really about the country. I just wonder, as you reflect on this incredible election, this very unusual election, what would be a few adjectives that you would use to describe the state of the country right now?

DEAN: Divided. I mean, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the country is divided, that there are very passionate people who believe the country should take different directions. And it’s not just divided in terms of liberals, conservatives. We learned during this pandemic that being, for instance, poor and Black in America means you’re more likely to suffer the worst effects of the virus. I mean, if you look at the treatment Donald Trump got from the health care system when he developed the virus, that is not the treatment most Americans would get. We always knew in our gut that we had a country where if you were a person of color or a person without money, that you had a different life. But I think we’ve learned in this year, with the pandemic, just how powerful that is.

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

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