Entry 3

5 a.m.—In the office just in time to catch the early morning newscast and learn that there is no news—or at least no single big story that’s going to force itself to lead front pages across the country. At least I don’t think there is; I haven’t checked “Today’s Papers” yet—something I do regularly as a quick summary of what the country’s top editors like. It feels as though this is going to be one of those summer days that reporters know as the journalism doldrums: squibs of news, nothing obvious.

Yes … looked at TP (wonder if Slate thought about that acronym?), and the leads are scattered. This is good and bad for us. It means we aren’t obligated to cover something in a place where it’s difficult to reach the participants (as a startup, we’re supposed to avoid using NPR’s already overworked correspondents). The hard part is that we have to rely pretty much on our small show staff for whatever coverage we want to present (12 people based in Los Angeles comprise the entire Day to Day staff). That can be very tricky on a day when there’s no clear lead. Could be a long day and I must be out of here early today, which will mean about 2:30 this afternoon … I hope.

Booker Luke Burbank
Booker Luke Burbank

10:15 a.m.—Well, that was a bracing morning. We’ve just finished the first feed of the show … leading with Texas Senate Democrats fleeing their state in order to prevent a quorum call vote on redistricting. We threw out the opening we had planned: Episcopalian national meeting in Minnesota may confirm a gay bishop. The meeting actually starts tomorrow and we’ll cover it then. This change creates a slight complication because the promo—a little 30-second announcement set to music we send to all the stations that says what’s going to be on the next show we sent yesterday, talks about the Episcopalians. This kind of thing tends to aggravate the stations; here we are on our second day and already we’re not doing what we said we would. So far, though, a lot of support and good words from the public radio community.

11:30 a.m.—Editorial meeting. We decide on a gay culture zeitgeist thing for tomorrow that will connect to the Episcopal story. Setting up various interviews is the task of our very able booker (the term for a person who finds people for us to interview), Luke Burbank. He’s 27; he used to work for some right-wing radio outfit; he’s got the ace and queen of hearts tattooed under his right bicep; and he appears to be brilliant at his job. We’ll see tomorrow. Also, trying to callSlateWar Stories” columnist Fred Kaplan because he’s great on Korea and it’s badly under-covered.

I think Slate was worried a few months ago that we would use their name and not their writers. But our actual secret plan is to pound their overworked writers till they beg for mercy, and avoid pissing off the NPR bosses for as long as possible (a rarity for me). By the time SlateÜber-editor Jacob Weisberg sees through this plan, it’ll be too late to get out of the deal. It’s probably already too late!

Noon—E-mail passed on from NPR ombudsman. Why is NPR, which proclaims its neutrality but has a rep as the Fox News of the left, pairing with a liberal online rag like Slate? Jeez, do these guys read Kaus? And from another, how come we’re such lightweights, betraying the trusted heritage of NPR?

Alex leaving early
Alex leaving early

12:30 p.m.—Record three things with Will Saletan: His political buzzword observations play very well on radio, especially with tape dropped in of the candidates using the words and phrases he deconstructs.

2:42 p.m.—Another editorial session, scheduling, a quick lunch at the desk, and now out the door—only a little late. I’ve got an appointment to keep, and it concerns what has really made this whole enterprise so crazy over the last two months. Like they say on the radio … tune in tomorrow.