2021年7月16日 星期五

The Daily: Interviewing the Interviewer, Again

Plus, our annual summer playlist.

As you might have heard on the show, Michael Barbaro and his wife recently had a baby. Over the next few months, Michael won't be working every day, giving you the chance to hear from a broader set of voices on the show. Recently, we introduced you to guest host Astead Herndon. Today, you'll get to meet another one: Sabrina Tavernise, a national correspondent.

Then, read on for The Daily's 2021 summer playlist. If you've got a song that you've been grooving to this summer, send it to us at thedaily@nytimes.com.

Introducing Sabrina Tavernise

Host-to-host banter via Slack.Michael Barbaro

Michael Barbaro: So Sabrina, this is all about you, so let me start with a big ol' Daily-style inquiry. Where does the Sabrina Tavernise journalism story start? Don't hold back. I really do mean the beginning.

Sabrina Tavernise: Oh wow. Didn't realize this was the idea.

Michael: Oh yes. We are going there. So, where did you grow up?

Sabrina: A tiny rural community in western Mass., called Granville. It has lots of apples and votes Republican; 1,800 people.

Michael: That's small.

Sabrina: Yes, too small for a high school. And it is still shrinking. They just closed the primary school, because there aren't enough kids. It's beautiful though.


Michael: It literally sounds like the kind of place Sabrina Tavernise writes about today. Changing. Shrinking. Uncomfortably.

Sabrina: Yes, in a way, yes.

Michael: GRANVILLE, MASS. — I write about these kind of towns all the time.

Sabrina: Hahahahahaahah

Michael: So what came next?

Sabrina: I had studied Russian in college. I wanted to go to Russia. I sent my résumé to dozens of places in Moscow. None took me. I called the National Audubon Society in Alaska and someone named Bucky told me there was an opening for a translator going to a nature preserve near Magadan.

Michael: Magadan, Russia, that is. (I had to Google that). Well, wow. Thanks, Bucky!

Sabrina: I spent two months on an uninhabited piece of land strewn with rusty barrels of oil with like 30 high school kids and a few educators. On my way back to Anchorage at the end of the summer, I met someone who was leaving a U.S.A.I.D. funded job in Magadan. A kind of school that taught Russians about capitalism.


I worked there for two years. My Russian got really good. I sometimes went on a radio program out there. Then in 1997, I moved to Moscow. I had no plans. But I had great Russian. I made a list of the things I liked to do and was good at, and didn't like to do and was bad at. Basically journalism came out on top because I had this instinct to write home about everything that I was seeing. And trying to convey the wonder and the sense of the absurd in everyday Russia. It was the same instinct for being a foreign correspondent.

Michael: So, why Russian language and why Russia, of all places?

Sabrina: Complete accident. I had to take a language requirement. The wall was falling. I chose Russian.

I loved the challenge of trying to figure out: Where is this country headed, based on its distant past (I was reading its history), its current events (I would soon be covering them)?

Michael: What kept you there and drew you in?

Sabrina: It sounds cheesy, but it is true: The people. Russia is such a weird place. Dark in so many ways, but also utterly fun-loving and throws caution to the wind. Every day might be your last, so let's spend everything right now and have a really good time. A disaster, but a really charming one.


It was also the place I grew up — spent most of my 20s. Owned my first car. Had my first car stolen! Met my husband.

Michael: Caution to wind indeed!

So once you find yourself in Russia, having mastered the language and deciding that journalism is the best way to communicate everything you're experiencing and observing, how did you go about finding a reporting gig? What was your big breakthrough in the field?

Sabrina: I applied all over and didn't get hired. But there was this new news agency called Bloomberg News. They had one guy in a conference room in a hotel in Moscow called the Olympic Penta. He gave me a short writing test and then basically hired me on the spot. So then it was just me and him working in that conference room. Competing with Reuters staff of 50-60.

I remember at the time no one knew what Bloomberg News was. I stood up at a press conference and asked the prime minister, Chernomyrdin, a question, and he told me to identify myself. Then he was like, "Look, I know your name is Bloomberg, but what damned agency are you from?"

Michael: It's amazing to think that there was a time when Bloomberg News was a young, struggling upstart.

Sabrina: Yes. In Russia, it was totally new. They later hired a bunch of people and got a fancy office. But it started small!

I worked there for about 2 years — through a financial crisis, which was really, really hard. Then, The Times was trying to supplement its international business coverage, so it hired stringers in a few places — Moscow, Rio, London, Shanghai. I became the Moscow one.

My first big story was the sinking of the Kursk submarine — all of these sailors knocking desperate morse code messages as it sank. Everybody died.

Michael: I remember it well. It was a horrible tragedy.

I'm also curious how and why you ended up in Iraq. If my memory serves me, you spent time there covering the war. That feels like a big scary decision.

Sabrina: Yes good memory! I went to Iraq at the tail end of the invasion — basically as the looting was finishing in the spring of 2003.

It was the first time I'd covered anything outside Russia. It was very new for me.

And it was the first time I'd ever been in a war. Journalistically, it was hard; I didn't speak Arabic. I eventually found a translator I really bonded with and we spent most of the war together. She was a divorced mother of two from a secular Shiite family.

I remember we would go to the main Baghdad morgue every month to get their numbers for body counts. And as the war ramped up, the statistics kept going up and up and up — 1,000 a month, then 2,000 and then 3,000. All these bodies from different cleansings in different parts of the city.

It was like watching a society split apart — and America had set it all into motion.

Michael: So, once again, you are covering fatalism and tragedy.

And all of that lays the groundwork for the Modern Sabrina, who returns to the U.S. and spends years translating this country to Times listeners, telling remarkable stories about unforgettable characters (Abraham Davis) and deep-seated conflicts (abortion) as a national correspondent and, lately, translating the dense but important world of demography — unlocking the data that tells us who we are, what we are up to, what we want, our divisions, our inequities. Basically, whether we are living up to our expectations for ourselves. And it's in this role that Daily listeners really meet you — and love you.

Sabrina: Thank you! It was a hard transition from being abroad, but one I eventually managed.

Michael: I feel your bio perfectly set you up for this moment when we asked you to help host the show, because you've covered such big and rich and varied subjects around the globe. What's the transition been like from reporter/Daily guest to having hosting responsibilities?

Sabrina: Hard! I love audio. Definitely my favorite medium. But I'm not used to actually creating it. So there's a learning curve. But I love it.

I still feel like that cartoon T-rex trying. Like I have these really powerful legs from running but I'm being told that the one thing I need to do now is pull-ups and so I'm trying to do pull-ups with these little, undeveloped arms. And no one cares how fast I can run.

Michael: I love that metaphor. Hosting is… weird!

Sabrina: Hard! Yeah. It is weird. but great!

Michael: When I think of the history of the show, I think of so many episodes we made with you that felt like watershed moments for The Daily. Especially the two-part history of Roe v. Wade. It was as if we'd all walked around for years thinking we knew what that case was really about, and then you told us a story that made clear we didn't.

So Sabrina, I've now kept you for 45 minutes (!) Any final thoughts? On The Daily? Hosting? The heat? We have to find a way to cover this heat in New York on the show.

Sabrina: Hahahaha. Final thoughts: I love the show. I feel honored to be part of it.

Talk to Sabrina and Michael on Twitter: @stavernise and @mikiebarb.

Presenting Our Annual Summer Playlist

Our playlist wouldn't be complete without a couple of bangers by Lil Nas X.Emma Mcintyre/Getty Images for Spotify

We're officially midway through the summer. It's been a hot and sticky one, but many are feeling jazzed up like it's 2019 again, releasing pent-up energy after more than a year in lockdown (cue "Hot Girl Summer").

Music has been a refuge for our team throughout the pandemic, so we were excited to put together this year's summer playlist. You can follow the full playlist on Spotify, and below is a taste of what you'll find. (Though some tracks are best for adult ears only.)

  • "Liz" by Remi Wolf: "This song is so fun and soulful, with an irresistible dash of funk grooves to make you move. I love attempting Remi's vocal runs and riffs on this song. My neighbors probably don't, though." Sydney Harper, a producer
  • "Caribbean" by Astro: "I miss Astro. The group spent a few years making super fun synth tracks about rabbits and dolphins and druids and then they peaced out. They lived in a world of eternal sunshine and summer, and I wish they would come back." — Michael Simon Johnson, a producer
  • "Goosebumps" by Travis Scott (featuring Kendrick Lamar): "This is my 1-year-old daughter's number one. She can't stop herself when it comes on Hot 97; she has to move." — Paige Cowett, an editor
  • "Bodies (Intro)" by Jazmine Sullivan: "I'm suggesting the first song on Jazmine's album "Heaux Tales," but every track on the record is both a banger and a short story. Interspersed are vignettes from conversations with women in Jazmine's life about their relationships and sexuality. Listen in full on a Sunday morning, then put it on repeat." — Stella Tan, a producer
  • "Saana" by Ebo Taylor: "I listen to Ebo Taylor while skateboarding in Prospect Park. His music keeps me in good spirits, even as I fail for the thousandth time at trying to land an ollie." — Dan Powell, a sound designer and composer

On The Daily This Week

Monday: How Evanston, Ill., became the first American city to approve a reparations program to address historical racism.

Tuesday: Allen Weisselberg, Donald Trump's former moneyman, may be key to holding the former president legally accountable for his conduct as a businessman. But will he flip?

Wednesday: How much is climate change to blame for the extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest?

Thursday: What prompted Cuba's largest protests in 30 years?

Friday: We speak to a survivor of one of Canada's residential schools for Indigenous children.

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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