In the Participant Media book Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism published by Public Affairs, editor David Folkenfilk (NPR’s media correspondent) gathers essays from David Carr, Hillary Clinton, Scott Shane, and many others to investigate the present and the future of news. It’s a companion piece that elaborates on issues touched upon in the documentary, from the shifting sands of the media industry to the role of philanthropy and new economic models for the survival of investigative journalism.
We have five copies of the book to give away! Here’s how to win: Give your 140 (or less) character review of Page One: Inside the New York Times this weekend (Friday, June 17 to Sunday, June 19) on twitter with the tag #PageOne. Our five favorite tweets will win a copy of the book. (To be eligible, your shipping address must be within the United States.)
Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism will also be on sale at our Film Center today and tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Jennifer 8. Lee’s essay “How The New York Times Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog,” (twitter: jenny8lane) courtesy of Public Affairs:
My first Times job was as a college intern Web producer. I arrived just a few months after the article “The New York Times Introduces a Web Site” ran on January 22, 1996. So my first perspective on The Times came through a digital lens. The best perk was staking out firstname.lastname@example.org as my e-mail address.
Back then, the front page of the site was a massive, image-mapped gif file, which could take an excruciating five minutes to load if you were overseas. But The Times was keen on maintaining its visual style. Since the Web was not mature enough to offer online publishers that kind of control, the paper’s solution was to turn fonts into images. Web producers had to undertake painfully repetitive hand coding, almost like a high-tech assembly line. So I, like others, taught myself some basic perl script to automate some of the processes.
Four years later, in 2000, I started my full-time reporting career at The New York Times as a technology writer. I still recall having to define the term “blog” to the readers as “short for web log,” which, we hastened to explain, “often compiles entries chronologically.” By the end of the 2004 election, the need for that shorthand was largely over. Within another three years, The Times was rolling out blogs in earnest. That idea would once have made many in the newsroom wince: most blogs were initially considered more driven by opinion than by reporting.
City Room, the new metro blog where I worked, felt like a little start-up within The Times. The agility of blogs really landed on the managers’ radar when the City Room post on the death of the actor Heath Ledger in 2008 racked up 1.78 million page views. It was the most viewed article ever in the history of The Times Web site at that point—in large part because The Times blog was the first news outlet to report his death (thanks to the speed of my then colleague Sewell Chan), giving us a head start on the story and a destination for worldwide interest.
Since stepping back from the daily newspaper churn, I’ve devoted a good deal of my energy personally and professionally to thinking about the infrastructure needed to create accountability journalism in the new media world.
Newspaper culture most resembles that of the military or hospitals. Papers are designed for a systematized rapid response, optimized for crisis situations. The structure is command and control, even though on the reporter level it doesn’t always feel that way.