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Jan 24, 2024

"Make sense of the day’s news and ideas," urges The Morning, a daily New York Times newsletter. "Get smarter, faster on news and information that matters to you," Axios assures its readership. "This is how the news should sound," The New York Times again declares, via its podcast The Daily.

Over the last ten years, roughly speaking, we’ve seen the proliferation of the daily digest-style newsletter and podcast at legacy and new media organizations. Inspired, at least loosely, by the so-called explanatory journalism of Vox and similar outlets that arose in the mid-2010s, publications now commonly offer bite-sized breakdowns of the news that allegedly matters most, delivered to the inboxes of upwardly mobile, dinner-party-hosting, perennially on-the-go professionals - or at least those who want to think of themselves as such.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with accessibility in news media—quite the opposite, in fact. But, for corporate “explanatory” news models, it’s worth asking who makes the decisions about which news is the “most important,” and about how that news is framed. How do seemingly benign, even folksy promises to “make sense of the news” mask the ideology of corporate media institutions? And what are the dangers of herding audiences into a center-right political consensus that issues complaints like “campus speech is vexing” and “the left is less welcoming than the right”?

On this episode, we examine the rise and hegemony of centrist micro-news platforms–from Axios’s trademarked "Smart Brevity" to The New York Times’ David Leonhardt’s newsletter The Morning and The Daily podcast–looking at how they package left-punching, pathologically incurious, glib news nuggets served up to busy, upwardly mobile, well-meaning liberals.

Our guest is writer Jacob Bacharach.