2021年2月5日 星期五

The Daily: What does climate change sound like?

How we tried to tell the story of a warming planet. Plus, the woman behind The Daily's crazy-busy calendar.

By Lauren Jackson

Hello! Phew, it's Friday. We had a big week on The Daily: GameStop. A vigilante mother's vengeance against a Mexican cartel. A coup in Myanmar.

When not making the show this week, our team was sharing close looks at the history of collaging, getting excited about NASA's new stamp collection and reading through your listening recommendations in our inbox. One suggestion to listen to a "sumptuous" 1935 orchestral performance was a favorite (I'm listening as I write this). As always, we're open to your recs.

This week in the newsletter, we take a look at how we're covering climate change — and introduce you to one of our beloved producers who helps make The Daily happen.

'No one story can capture the scale of this.'

A pump jack and wind turbines in Stanton, Texas. Last month, President Biden signed a sweeping series of executive actions to combat climate change, including pausing new federal oil leases.Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

The climate emergency does not sound like a siren. There are, of course, the alarms of erratic hurricanes, uncontrolled wildfires and splintering ice shelves. But, for the most part, the crisis of our warming planet is quiet. It is the slow death of forests that once hummed, the muted bleaching of coral and the silence of governmental inaction.


This lack of audio, combined with the incremental nature of the crisis, makes climate change a tricky topic to report in our narrative-driven medium. "How do you cover a crisis that affects everything and is still unfolding?" producer Michael Simon Johnson asked. "No one story can capture the scale of this."

But last month, when President Biden announced sweeping plans to reduce American emissions in his first few weeks in office, our team heard the possibility for an episode.

"While politics shouldn't be our only coverage angle, it at least opened up the possibility of being able to report on how the administration is handling the issue and what they plan to do about it," Michael said.

Still, the story didn't immediately materialize. When Michael and editor Marc Georges teamed up to build an episode around the news, they received the feedback that all of the focus on policy made the episode feel "like homework," Marc said.


Then, a breakthrough: Marc had the idea of asking our environmental policy reporter, Coral Davenport, to envision what an American morning routine in 2035 could be if Mr. Biden's agenda was fully realized — a way of personalizing the policy agenda.

The team worked together to "put the listener in that world, get a sense of how different it could be," he said. "Then one of the first questions that comes to a listener's mind after that would likely be, 'Well, how do you get there?'"

In the episode, we hoped to convey that the answer to that question isn't neat — and that success will ultimately touch almost all aspects of culture and society. "Communities will be affected or displaced by changes in climate, there will be knockdown effects across the justice system and the economy and climate change will also affect the need and pace of technological innovation," Marc said.

Which means there are many more stories to tell on the topic. We've been inspired by our peers across the industry who are creatively pushing boundaries in climate change coverage (Michael recommends listening to "The Big One" by KPCC, which focuses on the potential societal effects of a pending disaster). And while we'll continue to evaluate whether the Biden administration is executing on its environmental ambitions, we also hope to imagine new possibilities for how to capture the scope and scale of the climate crisis, and all of its effects, in audio. We'd love your input as we do so.


Alexandra Leigh Young: Producer, Calendar Whiz, Author, K-Pop Stan

Earl Wilson/The New York Times

By Desiree Ibekwe and Mahima Chablani

We wanted to give you more insight into the producers and editors who make the show happen. So we're starting a series of profiles that will help you get to know them a little better. First up, senior producer Alexandra Leigh Young.

First things first, how did you make your way to The Daily?

I started on the audio team back when there were only two producers! On one of my first days reporting to work, I entered the building to see newly elected President Donald Trump in the lobby, surrounded by hundreds of reporters and onlookers. I thought, "Well, I guess it's real — I work at The New York Times now!"

Before starting at The Times, I was a producer at WNYC's Radiolab and before that I had many jobs, one of which was producing tours for pop bands like Third Eye Blind, New Kids on the Block and Nick Lachey.

Tell us a bit about your role on the show.

My role is very different from the other senior producers on The Daily. While I do produce episodes, I spend much of my time looking at the weeks ahead, plotting out the show calendar and making sure that each story is pushing ahead as planned and is properly staffed, juggling everyone's schedules to make sure our incredible team gets some rest.

What is it like managing the calendar?

I think the technical term for it is "bananas." Typically, we have episodes planned out a week in advance, but, of course, when news breaks we have to drop everything and turn to that story, rearranging schedules and sometimes killing stories that get stale. Other times, we have to rerecord with reporters as a story that missed its air date evolves. As my colleague Theo Balcomb always says, it means we constantly have to stay "knees bent."

What's the craziest experience you've had crashing on an episode?

I'll never forget the time I closed the first Democratic debates in 2019. Debates are always guaranteed late nights, and that night we were about 40 minutes away from our 6 a.m. deadline when my colleague Rachel Quester yelled across her desk at me: All the tape in her audio editing session was suddenly corrupted.

With the first morning light filtering into our office windows, I frantically called our engineer Chris Wood in London, who always has a solution for us. I will never forget his calm but puzzled "hmmm" that signaled to me that we were screwed. We were not screwed — he eventually sorted out our problem — but there was a moment there when Rachel and I thought we were going to have to blow past our deadline to start over, something that has miraculously never happened on the show. My blood pressure still hasn't recovered from that night.

And what episode of The Daily are you proudest to have been a part of?

I am deeply proud of the episode we made at the start of the pandemic, "New York City Grinds to a Halt." In 30 years, when I look back on this pandemic and all that we've been through, I will think of that episode.

Finally, is there anything else you'd like to tell newsletter readers about yourself?

My literary agent would be very unhappy with me if I didn't mention that I wrote a book! It's a young adult novel about a Chinese-American girl who pursues her K-pop dreams in Seoul (because, yes, I stan for K-pop). It's called "Idol Gossip," and it comes out on Sept. 14. It's my first novel and I'm very excited about it! I've also started to write my second novel during quarantine.

On The Daily this week

Monday: Who was behind the GameStop rebellion? And how did they do it?

Tuesday: A look at President Biden's plans for the environment.

Wednesday: We present the story of one mother's implausible quest to bring a cartel to justice for the murder of her daughter.

Thursday: The rise and fall of Aung San Suu Kyi Myanmar's civilian leader ousted in this week's military coup.

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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