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Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

I thought I was done blogging about whether top editors should be active on Twitter. Then last night, Lexi Mainland tweeted this:

As her Twitter profile says, she’s an editor on the Times’ interactive news desk. Not exactly agreeing with me (as you’ll see in some subsequent tweets), but sort of agreeing with me. So, given the interest in my criticism of her boss, Dean Baquet, and other top editors who aren’t active on Twitter, and Baquet’s response to me, and the response to Baquet, I thought I’d give the topic at least one more ride and curate last night’s Twitter exchange among several of us:

“Pontificating.” OK, that could be me.

What I’d say here is that Baquet and his predecessors, who have been similarly dismissive of Twitter in terms of personal use, have led a lot of great innovation at the Times. So “suffering” isn’t exactly the right word, and I don’t think I ever said innovation at the Times was suffering. In many respects, it’s been an innovation leader.

But a Times committee studied innovation and said the newsroom needed to do better. That’s true in any newsroom, but no other has identified the need (to my knowledge) as clearly or in as much detail as the Times. Baquet has embraced the report and said he plans to implement its recommendations.

My point is that you lead innovation more effectively by example than by exhortation. But back to the tweets (where I think I made that point):

Valid point: I believe Twitter is a valuable tool for every newsroom leader and editorial-page editor.

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Clay Shirky went on what he admitted up front was a “tweet rant” last night. It illustrates why I’m glad I’m on Twitter and why I think editors should be on Twitter. More on that later, but first, here’s Clay’s rant:

Did you know about Meatspace, Ello and ~Club? Are you using them? I had heard of one of them (Meatspace), but really didn’t know anything about any of them. And I’m not using them. I don’t know whether any of them is important to the future of media, or whether they are all destined-to-fail startups that reached their peak of fame in getting mentioned by Clay Shirky on Twitter. Only one of the three, Ello, has merited a mention in the New York Times that I can find.

Since I criticized Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet for not being active on Twitter and he responded, warning against creating a new “priesthood” for journalism, some have raised questions on social media, other blogs or in comments on my blog about how important it is to be active on Twitter and why.

Well, here’s a reason: Twitter is eight years old. I’m not saying it’s the cutting edge of digital media. It was eight years ago. If you’re active on Twitter, you may still be catching up. I don’t’ use Twitter to be on the cutting edge, just to keep from falling behind. But I want to be aware of the cutting edge and exploring the value of new tools. And you’re more likely to learn about those new tools on Twitter than in old media.

So now I need to go fiddle around with Meatspace. Or Ello. Or ~Club. Maybe all three.

Update: I’m no the waiting lists to get into Ello and ~Club. Meatspace looks kind of odd and probably not for me. But I thought the same thing about Twitter, too. First impressions aren’t a very good guide about the value of social media.

 

 

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baquet twitterDean Baquet isn’t active on Twitter, but he’s great clickbait. And he’s getting a lot of attention on Twitter today. I hope he’s lurking, as one of his staff assures me:


Last Thursday I blogged that editors who want to lead innovation undercut their efforts if they aren’t active on Twitter. I mentioned Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, and used the screenshot above (now getting its third run here). So, as I normally do when I criticize someone, I invited response from Baquet. I tweeted at him (not likely to get a response, given the topic of the blog).
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I also emailed him using the clunky contact form at the Times site. I have no faith in such forms (or in the likelihood that people will respond), so I also asked a friend who works at the times for his email address and emailed him directly. Late yesterday, Baquet responded to my email. This won’t be one of my blogs full of lessons, but here’s one: Email people politely and they often respond. In a later email after I posted his response, Baquet said he responded because “you were fair and persistent.” That combination always serves a journalist well.

Mathew Ingram, who blogged about Baquet, the Times and Twitter before I did, noted that he didn’t get a response: (more…)

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baquet twitterNew York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet has responded to last week’s post which criticized top editors who aren’t using Twitter actively, including Baquet.

I appreciate the response, which is below, combined from two emails. I don’t agree with his observation, but I welcome it. I had my say last week and I’m glad to give him his say here today, without insisting on the last word. I do hope, though, that this post will merit his third tweet:

I do think the fact that I have made so little use of Twitter is fair game for criticism. But I can’t resist an observation. One of the biggest criticisms aimed at my generation of editors is that we created a priesthood, that we decided who was a journalist and who was not. If you hadn’t done cops and courts you weren’t a journalist, etc. That characterization was right on. We deserved the hit.

As I observe the criticism nowadays, you will forgive me for noting that it sounds like a new priesthood is being created, with new rules for entry.

Don’t take that as saying I should not tweet more. I should. Just a warning that each generation of journalists seems so certain they know what it takes to be a journalist.

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baquet twitterEditors who aren’t active on Twitter tell their newsrooms that we don’t all have to change. Journalists who aren’t active on Twitter choose to remain or fall behind.

I’m late to this round of a discussion that’s been going on intermittently since at least when I started advocating Twitter’s use by journalists in 2008. But I was tied up Monday when Mathew Ingram and some New York Times staffers discussed whether journalists need to use Twitter (on Twitter, of course). Ingram then blogged about the issue. The discussion was prompted by Buzzfeed’s  “Quick Tour Of The New York Times’ Twitter Graveyard,” which exposed and mocked some Times staffers for their weak presence on Twitter, including Executive Editor Dean Baquet, who has tweeted twice. Update: Baquet has responded to this post.

Baquet at least has a photo for his avatar. Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel showed 13 Times staffers’ accounts with Twitter’s generic egg avatar, which is like shouting, “Someone made me start a Twitter account! There, done!”

Before I continue my criticism of the Times, I should note that the Times has some outstanding Twitter users, too many to call out here, but I’ll just mention Nicholas Kristof  as an example of a Times staffer who would excel at his job without using Twitter but is even better at it because he excels at Twitter. On the whole, the Times is better than most newsrooms at using Twitter. But the Times never aspires just to be better than most. And the Times should aspire to be the best in its use of Twitter and any other valuable tool for journalists.

(more…)

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In a post earlier today, I asked the question I would have asked Friday at a panel on the New York Times Innovation report (I was at the microphone, next to speak, when time ran out).

My question:

Why didn’t the Times publish the innovation report itself? And what does it say about the issues the report was addressing that the Times did not publish the report itself and was even surprised that it leaked to Buzzfeed and created such a stir?

Amy O'Leary

Amy O’Leary, Twitter avatar used with permission

Amy O’Leary, the Times’ Deputy Editor, Digital Operations, sent this response by email (I added the links and embedded the tweet):

Thank you so much for your question! I wish we’d had more time during the panel and had been able to get to it!

This is a really common question that we’ve been asked many times. Of course, it seems like the supreme irony that a report designed to tackle issues of digital innovation was printed out, on heavy stock paper,* for small distribution, which ultimately ended up going viral on a grainy photocopied PDF shared on Buzzfeed.  As I tweeted during on Friday, this irony was not lost on any of us that worked on the report.

Of course there are very good reasons why any internal strategy document at any company should remain private — it might contain confidential data, or present a roadmap for competitors to strategize around — but in hindsight, I think we were all glad the report ended up being a public document, and its release has opened up more conversations in the newsroom about the positive effects of a more public kind of conversation around these questions.

But the really simple answer to your question was that the report was commissioned by Jill Abramson, and it was up to her and her senior leadership team to decide what they wanted to do with it. (Keep in mind that when we delivered the report, as a group, we had no idea if the senior leadership of The Times would embrace any of these recommendations. That they ended up enthusiastically embracing all of our recommendations was a (pleasant) surprise to us.) And if I recall correctly, there was at least one question I heard in a meeting with newsroom leaders about whether the full report should be released more widely.  This was shortly before events unfolded which overtook that conversation.

I hope that’s helpful!

All best,
Amy

* I was the one who went to the Office Depot to buy that heavy stock paper. It was really nice quality!

Thanks to Amy for that response (and for quoting me in the report). I don’t have further comment, except to say that I’m pleased it was published, pleased that people at the Times are glad that it was published and I hope that everyone will agree to publish it right away if the Times does an internal study this important again. (It would be so much better as a Times interactive project or at least a hyperlinked document than on that heavy stock paper.)

And here’s that grainy PDF (my mention is on Page 87, and I’m also quoted but not named on Page 15, the quote about Project Unbolt):

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One of the most interesting sessions of the Online News Association conference in Chicago last week was a discussion of the New York Times Innovation report. Andrew Beaujon (a former TBD colleague) wrote an excellent account of the session for Poynter, so I won’t recount it here. But I’ll raise the question I didn’t get to ask. As my friend and former colleague Mandy Jenkins noted, I was lined up at a microphone to take my turn asking questions:

But Swisher and Jarvis both asked follow-up questions and we ran out of time with me at the microphone, next in line. Friends noticed.

Beyond the tweets, that was kind of the greeting for much of the rest of the conference, when I would encounter friends and even strangers (or Twitter friends I had not yet met). Again and again, people asked what I was going to ask.

So here’s my question:

Why didn’t the Times publish the innovation report itself? And what does it say about the issues the report was addressing that the Times did not publish the report itself and was even surprised that it leaked to Buzzfeed and created such a stir?

(Amy O’Leary had opened the panel discussion by telling of her surprise when Buzzfeed published the report.)

I’ve already blogged twice about the Times report, and I’ve blogged multiple times about the importance of transparency. So I won’t belabor the point here. But I’ll invite O’Leary (or anyone at the Times) to answer in a comment or guest post here, by email — stephenbuttry (at) gmail (dot) com — or on a Times format (I’ll quote it and link to it).

Like Swisher and Jarvis, I’ll include a few follow-up questions, too: Why didn’t the Times publish the report? Was there even a discussion about whether to publish the report and what to do if it leaked? Was the committee satisfied with the watered-down summary that was published, and did anyone think that wouldn’t stimulate interest in obtaining the real report? Has the response to the report increased transparency to the point that such a report would be published today?

Looks like I’ll be getting an answer. I’ll update here when I do (or perhaps make it a separate guest post):

It was an interesting panel, but I want to know more.

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