Some say that good morning starts with coffee, but mine begins with news. I open my eyes, yawn and reach for the phone to turn off the alarm. I then check my email, for there is always a concise summary of what is going on around the world.
In fall 2017, an email from our Gaylord College encouraged me to subscribe for DailyChatter, a free international daily newsletter, and I went along with it. After all, I felt like moving to the States had somewhat detached me from global news.
Next morning, I received an email with a brief account of the most important news of the day, which only took me five minutes to read through. The morning after, I received another one, and then one more, until it became a habit.
Each DailyChatter newsletter comprises of one “need to know” piece of news and three “want to know” pieces, with each one focusing on a recent development in a certain country. Newsletters also include a “discovery” section that overviews new scientific findings.
The newsletter is sent every week day, leaving Saturday and Sunday for independent news browsing.
Thursday, almost two years after I had started receiving my DailyChatter, I reached out to Philip S. Balboni, its CEO and co-executive editor. Much to my surprise, he agreed to discuss the story behind DailyChatter with me.
Over a phone call, I talked with Mr. Balboni about how his background in journalism, how it gave rise to DailyChatter and what is the newsletter’s main goal.
Balboni’s path to a remarkable career in broadcast, cable and print journalism started when he, willfully, had been deployed to Vietnam after finishing college.“The seed [for DailyChatter] was planted in Vietnam, in 1965,” he said.
Balboni also said that after Vietnam he did not know what to do, and so he “packed up and went to Paris to become a journalist.” His master’s degree at the Sorbonne led him to begin as a general assignment reporter for The Richmond Times-Dispatch.
However, Balboni shared that his dream always was to be a foreign correspondent.
In 1992, he created New England Cable News (NECN), “the nation’s largest and most honored regional news network with more than 3.7 million subscribers in the six-state region,” according to the DailyChatter website. Balboni led the network for 16 years.
In 2008, Balboni raised money to start GlobalPost, one of the first online U.S. digital journalism companies with a focus on international news.
GlobalPost had a daily newsletter called “Chatter”, and when in 2015 Balboni sold the company, “Chatter” grew into an independent project.
In 2017, DailyChatter launched a university initiative, granting free access for college students. Peculiarly, University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College was the first institution to join the initiative.
Balboni said that Gaylord College Dean Ed Kelley is his old friend. He also said that as of now, 70 universities are participating in the program.
Balboni said that 15,000 people have signed up for the newsletter since its start in March 2016, and that a third of the subscribers are university students and faculty.
When asked about DailyChatter goals, Philip Balboni remarked that Americans do not read enough on global news. “Some of these people are probably hopeless,” he said. He believes that this is because what is happening abroad “doesn’t affect most families.”
“But there are people who are interested in the world affairs,” said Balboni. His passion for helping others to understand the world is exactly what drives DailyChatter, with Philip Balboni being its heart and engine.
The DailyChatter team operates all over the world: Its managing editor is in Paris, news editor — in Berlin, senior editors and Balboni — in Boston, with the copy editors working from Washington, DC. These people, Balboni said, are “the editorial thrust” of the publication.
Together they select the stories from various sources, research and refine the content “so that it walks smoothly”, said the newsletter’s CEO. The choice of sources, according to him, is a wide assortment of local, regional and national news outlets, which introduces Americans to a rich and varied list of foreign publications.
The key to sustaining excellent quality of the work process is in product renovation, said Balboni. DailyChater constantly introduces subtle feature improvements, including a new logo, font and font size.
The team also produces audio versions of the newsletter and works on the newsletter podcast. They plan to introduce an app and a sign-up-by-text option in the near future to attract wider college audience.
Balboni suggested that people are so overwhelmed about their lives that it leaves little space to follow the news. He said he wanted to present them with something they could consume easily, with no ads.
Besides, DailyChatter strives to remain non-partisan and to produce impartial content that covers as many countries as possible. Last year, the newsletter included news on 134 countries, with this year’s count already reaching 120.
An outstanding team with great experience and journalism ethics, according to Balboni, is the best way to achieve objective reporting. He said that he trains his staff to be guided by the DailyChatter mission, which is “to help people know the world better” and remain “completely independent of all other media.”
Balboni said that he goes through the readers’ reactions and feedback himself. He reported receiving “lots of wonderful messaging from people.”
However, there are also “sharp eyes”, he said. “Some people notice what’s not right, and we always publish the corrections next day.” He recalled a Columbia University student from Botswana that reached out complaining about how her country was represented in the newsletter.
Balboni said the student “sounded almost angry, not nice, but came out apologizing at the end of the conversation.”
The DailyChatter CEO shared his philosophy for dealing with such situations: If you plan to treat your reader with respect and kindness, care to respond to each piece of feedback, whether positive or otherwise, since such instances of direct contact with the audience define the publication.
When I asked Balboni how he managed to envision and execute new forms of journalism while securing financial results, he answered that “there is no trick to it, you just have to be willing to adapt and make changes.”
The founder of NECN and GlobalPost underscored that “nothing is static” and that everything has to evolve. He said he believes that media success lies in fresh sources and secure funding.
“The future of journalism is not hopeless, but not good,” he said. “Journalism is terribly important and people start to realize that.”
Balboni added that the consumer must choose to consume news and pay for it. That is why he chose the subscription business model for his DailyChatter.
The newsletter comes for a price of $20 a year.
Lastly, the founder of Daily Chatter offered his advice to aspiring journalists: Be well-informed; Learn how media is structured; learn how it affects the reader; learn who controls it because it is always better to be in control.