The New York Times’ top editors earlier this year pledged to bring more management to its podcast team in the wake of the revelation that erroneous information was used in its Caliphate series. Now the Times has named Paula Szuchman as its first Director of Audio. She most recently was overseeing the content created by the paper’s Opinion Audio section.
“As Director of Audio, Paula will manage the teams that make our podcasts to ensure that our journalism remains excellent, even as we scale to do more, and that we live up to our values in fostering an equitable and inclusive culture,” said a memo to Times staff announcing Szuchman’s appointment. She will report to Assistant Managing Editor Sam Dolnick.
In her new post, the paper says Szuchman will work closely with Executive Audio Producer Lisa Tobin on news and enterprise stories, with Editor Lisa Chow and her team on The Daily, and with Senior Producer Alison Bruzek, who has been named as interim leader in Opinion Audio. Szuchman will hire her replacement for the Opinion Audio section, but that person will report to her.
“News Audio and Opinion Audio will continue to be two separate teams, maintaining a clear distinction in the journalism that each produces. In overseeing both teams, Paula will focus on ensuring that each remains independent and empowered to do its best work,” the memo said. “We are confident that bringing both teams under her leadership will create new career paths, better communication and a stronger culture that will continue to make The Times the best place for ambitious audio journalists to build wide-ranging careers.”
One team that will not be under Szuchman is Serial, which will continue to operate independently under the direction of co-creator Julie Snyder. She will report to Dolnick.
Szuchman joined The Times in March 2020 as the leader of Opinion Audio. She previously spent five years at WNYC Studios where she worked on developing new shows. Prior to that, she spent many years in print and digital journalism. She started her career at Condé Nast, and then spent eight years at The Wall Street Journal. She went to Newsweek and then The Daily Beast, where she became managing editor, running the newsroom and daily and feature coverage.
In January, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn announced they had concluded more management of the audio team was needed as well as a “more fully integrated” audio department into the broader New York Times newsroom. The decision came after the Times retracted a portion of Caliphate, saying the series did not meet the newspaper’s standards for accuracy. The paper also faced criticism of how the affair was handled that led several public radio stations to drop their simulcast of The Daily podcast.
The Times says its audio team has nearly 100 people and it continues to grow as they develop new shows and projects. The memo also notes that The Daily had 1.2 billion downloads last year. “We all know how central audio has become to Times journalism,” it said.