Whether it’s an hour spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic, a 20-minute walk to class, or sitting on the bus through 37 stops, most people have to endure some form of a daily commute. The way we spend that commute time, however, can vary significantly. Some people listen to music, some read books, and others talk on the phone. Personally, after exhausting my music library during my daily morning commute, I discovered a different, more constructive form of travel entertainment: podcasts.
Specifically, I listen to “The Daily” by The New York Times. At around 20-30 minutes per episode, “The Daily” brings a thought-provoking, nuanced approach to exploring current events. Tuning in while driving has quickly become a much anticipated and valuable morning ritual.
“The Daily’s” secret ingredient is its host, former New York Times political reporter Michael Barbaro. Without a background in radio or broadcast media, Barbaro might seem an unlikely rising personality in the podcast sphere. His soothing voice, the obvious intensity in which he actively listens to his guests, and his knowledge of the world we live in make him an ideal face – or voice – for the evolving New York Times that now streams more than nine podcasts for its active readers and listeners.
Maybe it’s Barbaro’s affable introduction to every episode that keeps his audience hooked (a rough reproduction would sound something like: “From The New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This. Is. – dramatic pause – The Daily.”). It could be how he encourages banter with his guests, for example, Barbaro playfully began his interview with the Times’ chief Washington correspondent Carl Hulse with, “I am rudely distracting you from what I imagine is a well-earned cocktail.” But above all, what keeps everyone listening is Barbaro’s unwavering allegiance to his audience.
Barbaro is also not afraid to ask simple, foundational questions like, “So where exactly is Mosul?” or “What exactly does the Justice Department do?” Some podcast hosts may be embarrassed to ask questions that may be common knowledge, but Barbaro’s Everyman style allows him to act as “an advocate for the listener.” Without projecting a know-it-all attitude, Barbaro creates a relationship with his listeners that helps them feel comfortable wherever they are in their own understanding of the world and its current events.
Understanding the different facets of current events requires knowledge of complex political ideologies, international relations and public policy, all of which “The Daily” explains in layman’s terms. As executive producer Lisa Tobin puts it, “‘The Daily’ is about explaining something you’ve always wished someone would explain to you.”
Learning about current events is an invaluable habit to develop both personally and professionally. Staying up to date on breaking news and current events makes us all well-rounded and capable of developing an informed opinion about politics and social issues.
Unfortunately, a significant percentage of U.S. citizens are not committed to making current events a priority. In fact, according to Pew Research, only 22 percent of Americans are “eager and willing” seekers of information and have a strong interest in learning and the news.
As alarming as this statistic may be, it is not surprising. With work, family and a social life life to balance, it is easy to fall out of touch with current events. It takes time and effort to keep up with what’s going on, and even more effort to effectively understand it all. Once staying current on news or other key issues gets shoved to the back burner, it most likely remains there.
Since PR professionals typically represent clients across a wide range of industries, it’s imperative that we be well informed about the business, industry and technology trends being shaped by current events.
For example, the Communiqué PR team recently had an editorial brainstorming session for one of our clients, WGU Washington. The ideas we came up with were based on recent technological advancements including artificial intelligence and how it would affect the job market. Because the team possessed a broad knowledge across several industries, we were able to speculate how these advancements would impact our client’s target audiences, and offer some timely, relevant pitch suggestions.
Not only also does a regular news habit keep PR pros up-to-date with breaking world events, it can provide insight into the elements that journalists need to tell a compelling story for their audience, as well as the language and style they use. This can help PR and communications pros tailor their pitches and writing styles accordingly for different reporters and publications, and ultimately become more effective and successful in their careers.
The importance of understanding current events is irrefutable. To get a jumpstart on your continued learning effort, check out “The Daily” on your next commute. You may be surprised at how quickly Michael Barbaro’s dreamy voice will launch you into podcast Happyland, all the while keeping you informed.
Tags: Communique Public Relations, commute, current events, Media, Media Relations, New York Times, News, pitching, Podcast, Public relations