I was barely 23 years old when I moved to New York for my first job at a daily news broadcast, ABC’s World News Tonight. It was 2000. Peter Jennings was still in the anchor chair. Google was not yet a verb. Video tape was still being cut on giant consoles that looked like they belonged on the Starship Enterprise.
Looking back, it isn’t just the computer consoles that seem retro. The idea of organizing the world into neat little packages at 6:30 p.m. each evening seems like an anachronism. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing valuable about it.
For the past three months, I’ve been developing a daily news podcast for Slate called What Next. (We tried out the show’s concept and format in a four-week public pilot last year.) And I’ve been looking back on all the years I spent in broadcast news—two decades, if you include the time in public radio—wondering: What is it about a daily news show that’s worth keeping? What’s worth throwing away?
It’s not that I long for the old days. If the cacophony of the internet has done one self-evidently good thing, it’s to reveal that the power of old media was rooted in the certainty that just one lens (i.e., white, male, and privileged) was sufficient to give audiences a complete view of the world. Good riddance to that.
But the feeling you could get from those daily shows: That’s something I actually do miss. That satisfying click of understanding, the relief of knowing you were up to speed. There was something about those neat little packages, the way the daily news Marie Kondo’d information and filtered it through one eager and interested brain. That’s what we want to do with What Next.
We’re not going to give you all the news; that would be a false promise, and you have plenty of push notifications stacked up and podcasts queued on your phone already. Instead, we’re going to winnow the glut of information down to one story we think you need to know, each weekday. There are other podcasts that do a great job of distilling and unpacking the news of the day. But with What Next, we want not only to help you feel mastery of the facts but to really help you understand the forces behind the news, from a human point of view—and to present all of this in an accessible, conversational way.
At a moment where technology has amplified all voices, we’ll elevate the ones we think you should be hearing more from. Like the professor who’s committed to holding the Catholic Church accountable and can explain, from her perspective, why that’s been so hard to do. Or the homeland security guru who warned about the rise of white supremacy long before the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting or rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sometimes we’ll answer a question you might have after catching the headlines (like, how big of a deal is it that Attorney General Jeff Sessions got fired?). On other days, we’ll surface a story we think you should be paying more attention to (like, why it matters that the IRS is getting defunded, or how a single memo could derail police reform).
As a TV journalist, I felt like the internet was breaking the news. Slate was one place that helped me see things a bit differently. When the drumbeat of information starts to seem relentless, Slate takes pleasure in the act of conversation. Slate’s articles and podcasts don’t just give you the who, what, where, when, and why of a story; they provide the context and help you see a path forward. That’s baked into the DNA of What Next, too—it’s where the name comes from.
Seeing what’s next sometimes means looking at a story from a different angle. So, with the spotlight on Washington, Monday morning’s episode starts out 1,000 miles due west of the capitol. We’ll introduce you to a legislator in Kansas City, Kansas, whose experience with party bosses who act more like mob bosses reveals a lot about the future of the Republican Party. Check it out here, and be sure to subscribe in your podcast player. Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more.
Listen to What Next via Apple Podcasts.