This story has been updated.
This morning, you may have listened to the New York Times‘ podcast The Daily, as so many people do. The episode focused on the GOP’s controversial new policy of separating migrant families. Reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis had actually interviewed White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, and she planned to use the audio from the interview on this morning’s show. But that’s not what happened.
Instead, this morning’s episode features a little explanation at the beginning from Davis, who said the Times had planned use the audio “until I heard from the White House earlier today that they were not at all comfortable with us using that audio.” The issue is that Davis interviewed Miller a few weeks ago for a big story about the topic, but hadn’t discussed the other ways the audio could be used. Ethically speaking, using the interview probably would have been fine. When sources are interviewed on the record, they are aware that what they are saying is, well, on the record. As long as the material isn’t taken out of context, it can generally be used as source material for news stories about the topic at hand.
Still, the White House appears to have wielded its influence in this case. “When they found out his voice was actually going to be on the podcast discussing this,” said Davis, “they were not happy about it so they asked us not to use it.” The Times did not have to say yes, yet it ultimately did.
This morning, Adweek editor Josh Sternberg tweeted this tidbit about the interview spike, and people–especially journalists–were horrified by the concession.
brave stuff from the Times https://t.co/4nU8vPLBYz
— Katherine Krueger (@kath_krueger) June 19, 2018
imagine capitulating to these people https://t.co/KqXU0B12MM
— maya kosoff (@mekosoff) June 19, 2018
This seems too incredible to believe. Definitely interested in hearing from the NYT if that happened. https://t.co/0y6NPGIX3P
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 19, 2018
This seems odd. Unless the Times felt that it miscommunicated about the audio somehow. What the White House is comfortable with is not normally a factor. https://t.co/cACSzlVXUG
— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) June 19, 2018
I reached out the Times for further comment about its decision. I will update the post if I hear back (Update: see below). For now, we can simply read the quotes from Miller and imagine what they sound like.
Update: The New York Times provided me with this statement:
We conducted an extended White House interview with Stephen Miller for a weekend story about the Trump administration’s border policy. Miller was quoted, on the record, in that story.
After the original story was published, producers of The Daily planned to talk with the reporter and use audio excerpts from the Miller interview. White House officials objected, saying that they had not agreed to a podcast interview. While Miller’s comments were on the record, we realized that the ground rules for the original interview were not clear, and so we made a decision not to run the audio.
But to reiterate: The Times made extensive use of the Miller interview in both the original weekend story and The Daily.