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Jan. 5, 2021, 1:25 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   January 5, 2021

The Washington Post announced Monday that Olivier Knox — currently the chief Washington correspondent at SiriusXM — will write The Daily 202, the Post’s flagship daily politics newsletter.

James Hohmann, who launched the newsletter in 2015 and will move to the opinion section after Inauguration Day, was the author of The Daily 202. Knox, though, will take over as “anchor” and “host.”

A Washington Post spokesperson says “author” and “anchor” are “used interchangeably” in the newsroom. (Other newsletter authors at the Post use “anchor” in their bios.) But the rechristening does seem to be part of a growing trend. Back in April, The New York Times announced that David Leonhardt would be the “new writer, host and anchor of The Morning, our rebranded flagship newsletter.” And over at The Los Angeles Times, Ryan Faughnder will be the “host” of a new entertainment business newsletter, The Wide Shot.

What to make of the title changes? Nieman Lab’s own Joshua Benton had a few ideas when the switch was announced at The New York Times.

Look at that title. “Writer, host, and anchor of our flagship newsletter.” Host and anchor are the language of TV, which I’m sure isn’t accidental; morning shows have used the personal connection between anchor and viewer, reinforced daily, to build extraordinarily profitable businesses. (The three network morning shows generated more than $800 million in ad revenue in 2018.)

Benton points out that Washington Post editor Marty Baron wrote in a staff memo (after the Felicia Sonmez incident) that “The Post is more than a collection of individuals who wish to express themselves…The reputation of The Post must prevail over any one individual’s desire for expression.”

But The Post can’t have missed the success The New York Times has seen with The Daily, which foregrounds lots of individual reporters but none more than the show’s host Michael Barbaro. Benton pulled a few highlights:

The Daily is probably the most successful new product the Times has launched since the paywall in 2011. (Sorry, Cooking.) We’re talking a billion downloads successful, No. 1 podcast in the United States successful, three-quarters-of-listeners-under-40 successful. When you have execs saying things like “The Daily is the modern front page of The New York Times” and “The Daily is a monster hit with an astonishingly valuable audience, and it just continues to grow,” you’re onto something.

Why is The Daily such a success? Lots of reasons, but perhaps its most distinguishing one is how it foregrounds the personalities — the person-ness, really — of Times reporters. The star, of course, is host Michael Barbaro, the Virgil guiding listeners through the newsroom’s nine circles. But the other Times reporters that Barbaro interviews are also rendered realer than bylines. Combine that with the intimacy of audio and you’ve got something that has created a morning news ritual for millions.

Knox — who hosted a live, three-hour show every weeknight for SiriusXM — has plenty of experience with audio and he’s taking the reins during a period of growth for The Daily 202, which the Post said experienced a 20 percent increase in readership in the last year. (The Daily 202 is one of the Post’s most popular newsletters, with a readership in the “hundreds of thousands.” The 202 newsletter franchise — named after the area code for Washington, D.C. — has grown to include newsletters focused on political and policy happenings in technology, healthcare, and more.)

Knox told Axios that he expects to continue features like “The Big Idea” section that current Daily 202 subscribers see each day.

And will the Daily 202 become a podcast in the vein of NYT’s The Daily? “We don’t have specific plans to share just yet,” the Post’s spokesperson told me. “But we hope to capitalize on Olivier’s audio expertise.” 

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