Monday, May 12, 2008

How the New York Times is managing convergence

The New York Times used to house its digital operations in a separate building from the main news operation. But since moving into new space a year ago, all of the journalists are sharing space in a massive three-story newsroom. That has helped the Times speed up the process of integrating the print and multimedia operations, says
Susan Edgerley, assistant managing editor of the Times, in a QandA with readers. Photo is from the New York Times

"Being in the same space as our Web colleagues helped us put into practice what we had always thought was the best way to go into the future — we're going together. Producers and multimedia experts sit on the Metro, National and Foreign desks. They have skills the editors of the traditionally print newsroom don't, and they are valued for their expertise."

Edgerley is in charge of managing the process of convergence, which can be painful for readers and journalists alike. Readers asked about everything from a perceived pro-Yankees bias to the elimination of roll-call votes from the print edition.
Edgerley also fielded a question from a student who wondered if he was wasting his time studying print journalism. Edgerley replied:

Yes, the Internet is where the industry is going, and no, I don't think you're wasting your time getting a print journalism degree. Telling stories fairly and compellingly will always be at the center of what we do.

But I bet you're more of a multiplatform kind of guy than I am (even though I am thumb-typing this on my Blackberry), and that's a good thing. And I would be surprised if you don't find yourself picking up all different kinds of Web skills over the arc of your career, and that's good, too.

Regarding your question about cross-training at The Times, well, we're doing all of the above. We're hiring people, some of them straight out of school, for their Web skills. When I ask them why they want to work here, they tell me because they want to be journalists and they love The Times.

At the same time, we are training some folks who used to work in print to work on the Web. A photo editor becomes a videographer. Page designers become Web producers. A copy editor blogs. An editor on our Continuous News Desk honchos our Topics pages. Not everyone does it, and not everyone has to. But many welcome the opportunity to try new things.


The web has forced a change in how editors think about news stories. Now they break stories on the web rather than holding them for the print edition. They can't risk losing a scoop to competitors that include specialty publications in entertainment, culture, sports and business, among others. Increasingly, the web comes first.

Should a reporter file now for NYTimes.com, and again in 10 minutes, and again 10 minutes after that? Or should she file a quick 300 words to the Web and then spend the rest of the day reporting for the next day's paper? Or is the answer all of the above? We make the decisions in much the same way we have always decided the relative importance of a story and what is its best play.

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