New York Times audio producer Christina Djossa ’10 is applying her storytelling skills to a new subject—tales of modern love
Christina Djossa ’10 has a knack for bringing stories to life. As an award-winning writer and audio producer, she has covered an incredible array of topics, including gay referees in Brazil, inclusivity in national parks, and beached whale dissection, just to name a few. A member of the New York Times Opinion Audio team since 2020, Djossa is known for her expertise in developing and piloting new shows. This year, though, she made the switch to a more established format—the hugely popular Modern Love podcast, which contends with one of the most complex topics there is: love. We recently caught up with her about this new role.
What led you to work on Modern Love?
For the past few years, I’ve been part of the New York Times Opinion Audio team, which produces like The Ezra Klein Show and First Person. That has been great, but I wanted to take advantage of the company’s “embed” program, which allows you to move across different departments at the Times to gain new skills. With new shows, which I have specialized in, you’re sometimes building the airplane while you’re taking off, but a more established show like Modern Love forces you to be creative within established constraints. You have more time to think about how to structure episodes differently and innovate within the format.
What has been the biggest surprise in moving to Modern Love?
I’ve worked on a lot of shows that come from an opinon or analysis point of view—people share their opinion and support it with facts. Modern Love is about emotion, so you have to interview people in a different way: “How did you feel about that? What do the memories bring up for you?” That comes with special challenges. Many writers are comfortable telling their story on the page, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can be vulnerable in audio. As our senior producer often says, “Vulnerability is a privilege.” We have to work to make people comfortable. And when we’re directing authors to read their essays aloud for the podcast—often for the first time in their lives—you have to say, “Let’s breathe. Let’s stand up and shake it out.”
What else does an audio producer do?
Producers are truly jacks of all trades. On any given day, we could be a reporter, an engineer, a booker for a show, a coach, an editor, and a million other behind-the-scenes things. So when you listen to your favorite podcast, know it’s not just the host. There is a whole team making it happen.
What is your superpower as a producer?
I love coming up with ideas. I’m someone who can find an idea from a throwaway line in an article, like, so-and-so was the creator of the first laundromat in Tennessee. I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I want to know more about that.” I’ve also discovered that I’m drawn to creating community. When Opinion Audio started in 2020, our managers wanted to be thoughtful about creating a culture. It was a startup division, during a pandemic, and at the height of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor protests. It was hard to connect when we were all dealing with so much stuff, but I tried to embrace the opportunity to create our own DNA. I’m trying to lean into that more.
What’s your favorite episode so far?
It’s a three-way tie between “How to Learn My Love Language,” “I Promised God It Was the Last Time,” and “How to Feel Yourself.” I adore them so much for the wells of vulnerability each guest brings, but I will choose “How to Learn My Love Language,” which is about a gay, deaf man who has been let down by previous lovers, and hopes his latest will break the pattern. We hired a deaf actor to read the essay. It was important for people to listen carefully to understand Ross’ lived experience. Even for me, the episode made me reflect on how I show up for myself and for others. It also made me think of how I represent and translate myself differently in speech, in writing, and in other modes of communication.
Since 2004, the The New York Times has published the popular weekly column Modern Love, which chronicles love in all its joyous, sorrowful, complex, and peculiar forms. The podcast version, hosted by Anna Martin, draws on these colums, enhancing them with interviews, conversations, and more. Tune in wherever you get podcasts, or at NYTimes.com.