“Caliphate” Podcast: Public radio calls New York Instances on “flawed judgment”.
A group of 24 public radio stations sent a letter to the Times’ audio division on Monday with concerns about “misjudgments” in their response last month when the newspaper announced that the podcast “did not meet our standards of accuracy”. These stations broadcast The Daily, the Times’ flagship news podcast. The letter received from CNN Business was previously tweeted by Erik Wemple of the Washington Post.
The Times opened an investigation into the reporting process behind “Caliphate” in September after Canadian police charged Shehroze Chaudhry with “hoax terrorist activities”. Last month, the Times said it had “found a story of misrepresentation by Mr. Chaudhry and no confirmation that he committed the atrocities he described on the Caliphate podcast,” according to an editor’s note, and the episodes Audio corrections added. Journalistic errors were a black mark in the Times’ audio ambitions, led by the team behind “The Daily”. “Caliphate” won the Peabody 2018 in the radio / podcast category, a renowned journalism award that The Times has now returned. Monday’s letter, mailed by the Public Radio Program Directors Association, focused not on the merit of the podcast, but on the way The Times handled the aftermath. Three concerns were raised. The first concerned the moderator of “The Daily”, Michael Barbaro, who contacted other journalists to try to influence their coverage of the effects of the “caliphate”. These news were previously reported by NPR’s David Folkenflik, who was one of the Barbaro contacted.
The letter also states that the Times’ decision to interview Barbaro was “flawed” with the Times editor-in-chief Dean Baquet, including because of Barbaros personal relationship with Lisa Tobin, the executive producer of “Caliphate”. The two are engaged.
The final concern was with Andy Mills, a producer on “Caliphate”. The letter is about Mills becoming “more visible” after the fallout, while Rukmini Callimachi, the journalist behind the podcast, was reassigned. Mills had produced and hosted an episode of “The Daily” that was released a few days after The Times announced the results of their investigation into the podcast “Caliphate”. The letter also referred to a Washington Post story of allegations of inappropriate behavior by Mills, most of which arose during his previous work at WNYC’s Radiolab.
Abby Goldstein, president and executive director of the Public Radio Program Directors Association, told CNN Business on Tuesday that the letter was intended to convey concerns and not “draw a line in the sand” with specific requirements.
“When we put the programming on the air for our audience, we support that programming. We tell our viewers that we believe in the journalistic rigor of these programs and make them available to you via our largest megaphone.” Goldstein said. The letter is “really about taking responsibility for the behavior of employees”.
The Times responded to each of the concerns Tuesday in a letter signed by Sam Dolnick, an assistant editor-in-chief of the newspaper.
“We believe we have addressed a significant accountability journalistic error. We are determined to continue doing ambitious audio journalism and have already begun to implement changes that will make our audio reporting even stronger,” Dolnick wrote.
Dolnick wrote that the Times did not believe Barbaro needed to disclose his relationship with Tobin, as the conversation was viewed as an “audio version” of an editor’s note while NPR was given an “accountability interview.” He also said that Barbaro “deeply regrets” the private messages he sent journalists and that “the editors discussed their expectations with him for the future”.
Regarding Mills, Dolnick wrote that The Times took allegations of wrongdoing “very seriously”. Regarding the reasons Mills hosted the latest episode of “The Daily,” Dolnick said the episode was previously planned, but the company “should have changed plans.”
The Times did not go beyond the letter. Barbaro and Mills did not respond to requests for comment.