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When The New York Times decided to turn its popular Modern Love column into a podcast four years ago, it had yet to build its own in-house audio team, so it teamed up with Boston public radio station WBUR to produce the show. Now, the Modern Love podcast is getting a refresh.
On Wednesday, after some 200 episodes, Modern Love will relaunch with a new, 10-episode season produced by NYT Audio, the group that built The Daily into a regular chart topper. “We have a team now, whereas we didn’t before,” says Wendy Dorr, executive producer of NYT Audio shows. “We actually have more bandwidth to do these kinds of projects.”
Though the show will continue to feature a reading of a Modern Love essay, the structure and sound of each episode will feel different to longtime listeners. For instance, professional voice actors will read the essays instead of the famous actors who performed the pieces in the previous iteration of the podcast. Modern Love also will have two new hosts, column creator and editor Daniel Jones and Modern Love projects editor Miya Lee. They replace NPR journalist Meghna Chakrabarti, who hosted the podcast during its run with WBUR.
Lee will kick off each episode with a selection from the Tiny Love Stories column, which she also edits. The short, 100-word-or-less stories will be read by their authors and will often be related in some way to the longer essay featured in the piece. “We’re not spelling out those connections,” says Lee. “We’re letting the listeners draw those connections.”
The Times first began publishing Modern Love in 2004. The podcast’s producers now have 16 years’ worth of weekly essays to draw from when assembling the show. In its new iteration, the Modern Love podcast will focus in on those stories, the process of selecting and editing them and the impact they might have had on the authors’ lives.
“We saw this as an opportunity to pull back the curtain a little bit on how Modern Love is done and how our engagement with these writers, we as editors get sort of emotionally involved in these stories in a way that we wanted to take advantage of,” says Jones, would provide commentary on the essays in the previous iteration of the podcast but, due to logistics, wasn’t able to regularly interview the writers or provide updates on their stories. In the first episode of the new season, Jones checks in with the writer of a 2019 essay who charted the demise of her marriage through images of her home of Google Maps. Over the course of the conversation, they share how the piece came together over the holidays.
Jones and Lee have each selected five essays to feature in the upcoming season. Though the writing will always be at the center of the podcast, they hope to experiment with the format over time. “We’re not approaching it with a formula,” says Jones. “We have the flexibility to do all kinds of different episodes that are held together by theme or subject.”
The team crafting the show includes producers Kelly Prime and Hans Buetow and sound designer Dan Powell. Modern Love joins a growing roster of podcasts from NYT Audio that, includes Kara Swisher-hosted Sway and Cheryl Strayed-hosted Dear Sugars. Dorr says the introduction of these new shows reflects the podcast group’s desire to tell stories from throughout the newspaper in audio form. “We’re all very hungry to be making those stories,” she says.
New episodes of Modern Love will be released on Wednesdays.
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