The Arlington-based news organization Axios has an answer for newshounds whose morning routines don’t allow expansive listens like The Daily, which often clocks in around 30 minutes: Axios Today, which will make its debut Monday at 6 AM and promises to inform you about what you need to know in ten minutes flat. Washingtonian caught up with host Niala Boodhoo, a founder of the Illinois Public Media show The 21st and a veteran of WBEZ, Reuters, and the Miami Herald, to learn about what we should expect from the new show.
Washingtonian: I’m endlessly fascinated by Axios’s approach to writing. How are you going to adapt its style to audio?
Niala Boodhoo: That’s a great question. I think if you’re someone who loves audio and listens to podcasts or consumes a lot of radio, you know that it takes a while to develop a sound. What we’re going for is the sound that captures the intelligence of public radio with the speed of commercial radio, which I think will dovetail nicely into Axios’s “smart brevity” format.
Can you give me some examples of what that might sound like? For instance, how would you approach a story about the Department of Justice suing to stop John Bolton’s book? Is it is it a conversation with [Axios co-founder] Mike Allen? Is it an interview with Bolton’s lawyer?
I think it depends. Yes, definitely a conversation with Mike Allen would be the obvious first choice. And what we have been experimenting with right now is having conversations with Axios reporters. It’s a podcast. So of course, it needs to be conversational. What we really are hoping is we can kind of give people a little peek into the newsroom. And it’s really like a conversation between me and—Mike likes to describe it as being at a breakfast table with your smartest friends, by which he means me [laughs] and all the Axios reporters.
That should be good for me, because I don’t actually have any smart friends.
Why would anyone in Washington have smart friends, right?
And you’re going to limit the podcast to ten minutes, right?
Yes. That’s a really important part of it. We have to consider our audience’s time. And I think given both news fatigue and looking at the way people are consuming news, it’s really important for us to know that if people give us ten minutes of their time, we’re going to make it worth it for them.
That’s not a lot of time for what some days throw at us. How are you going to compress a whole day’s worth of news, especially now, into ten minutes?
I’ll just give you a little sneak peek into what we’re piloting. We’re covering at least four different topics in those ten minutes. I imagine we’re going to have as many as five different topics that we’ll cover in those ten minutes.
This is such a difficult time to launch a show, just logistically. How are you going to physically produce it? Are you already here in the DC area?
I moved to DC two weeks ago. We have been doing this all remotely. We’ve basically been putting together the protection. It’s an amazing team. [Senior producer] Carol Alderman has come from the Washington Post. [Associate producer] Cara Shillenn comes from commercial radio. [Associate producer] Nuria Marquez Martinez most recently was at NPR. That’s our initial little core team. We’ve got a sound designer in New York. Sara Goo, of course, is our executive editor, and is really this is her brainchild. And all of us are all scattered across the DMV.
What’s your schedule going to be like?
Right now most of my work is happening in the afternoon and in the evening. But there’s also room to do early mornings as well.
Oh, how nice for you.
I mean, is it different than any other reporter in Washington?
Well, I mean, you’re going to be working with a guy who famously doesn’t sleep.
Mike is definitely one of those people who famously doesn’t sleep, but we’re trying to work on having him be a regular, and I think he’s super excited about it. He’s been a great voice so far.
Do you have any models for this podcast? I’m just trying to get a sense of what I might be hearing.
No, I mean, as you know, Axios likes to do things that are new and different. So I can say with all honesty, I don’t really think there are really models for how this is being done.