At least four public radio stations have dropped syndication of The Daily, the New York Times’ popular daily news podcast, from their broadcast schedules in the wake of the Caliphate scandal.
On Tuesday, Houston Public Media announced that it was suspending the broadcast of the podcast. “Recent discoveries have led us to question whether The Daily, a national podcast, adequately represents Houston Public Media’s core values and standards,” general manager Lisa Shumate wrote in a note posted on the station’s website. Shumate specified the lack of disclosure around host Michael Barbaro’s personal connection to Caliphate, and cited the situation to be inconsistent with the station’s commitment to transparency and standards. “Houston Public Media strives to avoid even the appearance of impropriety,” she added.
Yesterday, two other Texas stations, KUT in Austin and Marfa Public Radio, followed suit. They were joined later in the day by KCRW, one of the two major public radio stations in Los Angeles. They all cited the same concerns as Houston Public Media.
When reached for comment this morning, the New York Times responded: “The Daily has its roots in public radio, we are long admirers and consumers of it and we are deeply committed to upholding its mission and values. Those are our values as well. It is a privilege to be included in their programming and we hope the affiliates that dropped The Daily will reconsider in the future.”
This development comes in the wake of a letter-writing exchange between a group of public radio stations and the Times. On Monday night, more than 20 stations that syndicate The Daily sent a letter to the New York Times expressing their “concerns over the recent behavior of members of The Daily production team and personnel decisions undertaken by the New York Times that impact The Daily.” The letter listed a number of specific concerns, including Barbaro’s previously reported efforts to influence the way several journalists framed the Caliphate story; the disparity in outcomes between the two Caliphate leads, Rukmini Callimachi and Andy Mills; and renewed concerns over Mills’s professional behavior.
The Times responded to that letter on Tuesday morning, acknowledging in a letter the stations’ concerns and expressing its belief that it has handled the journalistic lapses around Caliphate with accountability. “Please be assured that our standards are the same in audio as they are across the New York Times,” the letter said. “When we make mistakes we own up to them as we did by correcting the record with Caliphate.”
Given the decision by the four stations to drop syndication of The Daily, it seems that at least some do not share the assessment.
It’s unclear at this point if other stations will drop the podcast. Three of the stations that have serve major metropolitan areas thought to collectively reach over a million listeners, and more stations may join the mix. Nearly 300 public radio stations across the country currently syndicate The Daily, the distribution of which is handled by American Public Media. It’s an embarrassing enough situation for the Times, but the extent of the fallout remains to be seen.