NY Magazine on Innovation at the Times

Aron Pilhofer, Andrew DeVigal, Steve Duenes, Matthew Ericson, and Gabriel Dance.
Photo courtesy NY Mag / Mike McGregor
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Sure there’s been a lot of recent bad news about the New York Times Com­pa­ny, and news­pa­pers coast-to-coast are pulling back cov­er­age, fil­ing for bank­rupt­cy and clos­ing. But there is also anoth­er sto­ry to tell.

New York Mag­a­zine has a piece in this week’s issue on the Times Mul­ti­me­dia, Graph­ics, Inter­ac­tive Tech and R&D groups, titled The New Jour­nal­ism: Goos­ing the Gray Lady. It details some of the orga­ni­za­tion­al steps tak­en by the Times, in order to posi­tion itself for the day when the online prod­uct eclipses the print edi­tion in reach, rev­enue and relevance. 

Emi­ly Nuss­baum quotes Aron Pil­hofer, the Times Inter­ac­tive News­room Tech­nolo­gies group:

The pro­pos­al was to cre­ate a news­room: a group of devel­op­ers-slash-jour­nal­ists, or jour­nal­ists-slash-devel­op­ers, who would work on long-term, medi­um-term, short-term journalism—everything from elec­tions to NFL penal­ties to kind of the stuff you see in the Word Train.” This team would “cut across all the desks,” pro­vid­ing a cor­rec­tive to the mad­den­ing old sys­tem, in which each inno­va­tion required months for per­mis­sions and design. The new sys­tem ele­vat­ed coders into full-fledged mem­bers of the Times—deputized to col­lab­o­rate with reporters and edi­tors, not mere­ly to serve their needs.

This, I think, is the crit­i­cal point for the future of news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines; as I argued in the com­ments of Jason San­ta Maria’s thought­ful post, The Death Throes of Print?:

Orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture and prox­im­i­ty mat­ter, and go along way toward mov­ing that “quaint add-on” [the web edi­tion] into the core of the operation.

But you also have to have qual­i­ty peo­ple dream­ing the stuff up and exe­cut­ing it. And, you need man­age­ment with the fore­sight to encour­age and fos­ter inno­va­tion, espe­cial­ly in the face of sec­u­lar change and recession.

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