Today In Focus: Bringing print journalism to podcasting

Inside The Guardian’s flagship daily podcast

The Guardian is one of the UK’s most successful podcast producers, and the jewel in its crown is Today In Focus - the flagship current affairs show that looks at a different news story in depth every day. Winner of multiple British Podcast Awards, including Best News and Current Affairs at last year’s show, the podcast has been a leader in audio journalism for years.

In this week’s episode of PodPod, Rhianna Dhillon and Adam Shepherd sit down with Today In Focus hosts Michael Safi and Nosheen Iqbal to talk about the growth of the show, how their approach to journalism has changed since taking over the podcast, and how they’re bringing the values of print journalism to the world of podcasting.

Key takeaways

It takes a village

“I mean, for me, one of the things I really enjoy about the show is that it really is a combination of the sensibilities of all the people who work on it,” said Safi. “So we have a meeting every morning, and over the years working with the same producers and executive producers, you come to see that people have interests and they have ways of looking at the news.”

“They will chip away at issues day after day, week after week and eventually you'll end up with an episode that really reflects what this one particular producer is really passionate about. And I love the idea of the show as a synthesis of the things that these eight or nine people - plus presenters, plus EPs - are really passionate about, and the result is what you hear, you know, every morning in the podcast.” 

Know your audience

“It's interesting because until this week, I didn't know much,” Iqbal said. “I mean, that sounds awful; I did know about our audience, but I wasn't necessarily interested in figures and all the rest of it.” 

“And learning that actually, half of the audience is global, is international, beyond the UK, and that our interests naturally skew that way and our focus already is generally that way. And also that more than half of the audience is female, which you don't get with news offerings - it feels like we’re doing something right.”

Embrace spontaneity

“Often, the best stuff in an interview are the things that come up really naturally, where your curiosity is just piqued by something, and often it takes you to a place that wouldn't have come up in the planning session.”

“I think in podcasting, maybe in any kind of audio medium, those serendipitous moments are the ones that you end up really chasing, because the listener can hear them. Like, they can hear that you're genuinely surprised, that wasn't expected, and it's this really electric thing that only happens so often, but when it does, it's just… I don't know, what we do it for.” 

Footnotes

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British Podcast Awards 2023: Best news & current affairs podcast

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How podcasting became a key medium for delivering news

Vox Populi: How podcasts are reshaping the face of political journalism

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