August 20, 2018

Andy Mills on his path to radio and the breathtaking audio series Caliphate

Find out more about #Story18 speaker Andy Mills, audio producer for The New York Times, where he helped create The Daily and Caliphate.

Andy Mills is an audio producer and reporter for The New York Times, where he helped create The Daily – a podcast that focuses on the previous day’s most important news and events – and Caliphate – a breathtaking audio series about reporter Rukmini Callimachi’s quest to understand the Islamic State.

Mills has always wanted to make stories that moved and informed people, but with a creative twist. Before getting into audio, he has worked at bars, cafes, and told stories on house show tours with his friends’ bands. One of his first jobs in journalism was working as researcher in South Sudan, where he interviewed people who had lived through some of the worst atrocities imaginable. There he learned that a key aspect to his job is never forgetting that the person he is speaking to is a whole person and not just a character in a story.

He was inspired to become an audio producer by listening to radio shows like Sherre Delys’ If and Jad Abumrad’s Behaves So Strangely. He later worked for several years with Abumrad at Radiolab, where he produced stories about blame, friendship, forgiveness, old dead things and addiction. ”Jad taught me the power of really going tight with the metaphorical camera. Zooming in on the moments that contain magnitudes”, says Mills in an interview for the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

When Mills interviewed for a job at The New York Times, he said that one of the projects he would like to do was a serialized podcast with Rukmini Callimachi on ISIS. While working on Caliphate, Mills spent 21 days in Iraq with Callimachi, where they travelled in armoured vehicles to the front lines of battle, they searched bombed-out buildings for ISIS documents and interviewed ISIS captors in military prisons. About the whole experience he says that the main challenge he faced was in trying to keep the series’ emotional journey intense, without making it manipulative or sensational.

In 2011, Mills won the Best New Artist award from the Third Coast International Audio Festival. In 2017, The Daily has been downloaded more than 200 million times and won a duPont Award in 2018.


Andy Mills is speaking at the 8th edition of The Power of Storytelling. Register here to meet him and the other amazing speakers who will tackle this year’s theme: Rewrite.