INNOVATION has been preaching for years the gospel of the “on and off line newsroom integration”.
Well, today is a great day for the newspaper industry when the editors of The New York Times join the revolution.
Welcome to the club!
From: Bill Keller
To: [New York Times newsroom]
Subject: A Message from Bill Keller and Martin Nisenholtz
To the Staff,
Over the past ten years the newsroom of Nytimes.com and the newsroom on 43rd Street have been partners at a distance — separated administratively, culturally, geographically and financially. We have built bridges — most notably the Continuous News Desk — and we have admired each other’s work, but we have not been full collaborators. This was probably a healthy arrangement in the formative years, because it allowed our digital operation to flourish, to experiment, to move at its own quick rhythm and focus on the competitive new digital world. The result is, unassailably, the best and most widely read newspaper website in the world, one that consistently wins every award in the field and that continues to attract new readers in droves.
But in those ten years, the world has changed. The digital news operation is now grown up and strong, ready to enlarge its ambitions. The reporting and editing staff at the original newsroom is much more at ease with the Web, more eager to embrace it both as an opportunity for invention and an alternative way to reach our demanding audience. We have a burgeoning video unit that is eager to be a larger presence on the website, at a time when most users of Nytimes.com have graduated to the kind of high-speed delivery that makes video appealing. And all of us appreciate that one of the biggest long-term challenges facing our craft is to invent a digital journalism and new services for our readers that both live up to our high standards and help carry the cost of a great news-gathering organization.
We have concluded that our best chance of meeting that challenge is to integrate the two newsrooms into one. This will enable us to fully tap the creative energy of this organization and thus raise digital journalism to the next level. In the coming weeks, we will be working with editors and staff in both places to work out details and accomplish a smooth transition.
As you know from an earlier announcement, Jon Landman will oversee this large project for Bill and Jill. He’ll have help; more soon about the team that will work with him on this assignment.
The change embodied in this integration will be gradual but important. For quite a few years now, we’ve sworn allegiance to the modern-sounding doctrine of “platform neutrality” — meaning we care only about our journalism, not about whether we transmit it to our audience on paper or via streams of electrons. But in practice most of us have been writing and editing newspaper articles, or taking pictures or making charts and graphs for the newspaper, while a few of us have been taking this work and adapting it for the Web.
By integrating the newsrooms we plan to diminish and eventually eliminate the difference between newspaper journalists and Web journalists — to reorganize our structures and our minds to make Web journalism, in forms that are both familiar and yet-to-be-invented, as natural to us as writing and editing, and to do all of this without losing the essential qualities that make us The Times. Our readers are moving, and so are we.
Until we move into the new building, we cannot physically merge the newsrooms, but we are looking at ways to promote much more side-by-side cooperation in conceiving and executing journalism. Web producers should routinely participate in the daily conversations where coverage is launched. Senior editors of the Web should be a presence at all of the
meetings where the masthead, department heads, feature editors, enterprise editors and others hatch plans. In the newsroom at 43rd Street, everyone should come to regard the website as his or her responsibility. That means Jill will be managing editor for news — not just in the newspaper, but on the website. Susan Chira will be the editor of our foreign report whether it appears in print or on Nytimes.com. And so on. This will take some getting used to, and a large part of Jon’s responsibility will be to help us absorb these new responsibilities and make the most of them.
An undertaking on this scale is full of complications, but we are convinced that the time is right for this, and that it cannot be a halfway venture. Judging from the excitement that has arisen in both newsrooms as the magnitude of this sinks in, we know a lot of you already share our conviction.