From the Editor’s Desk: Page One: Inside The New York Times
As you might know, Marketwire + Sysomos has a vested interest in the world of journalism – primarily because our clients are the ones who look to us as a way to interact with the media. To gain a better understanding of the state of journalism today, the Marketwire + Sysomos marketing department went on a field trip to check out Page One: Inside The New York Times, a behind-the-scenes documentary that provided a year-in-the-life glimpse into a publication that is experiencing insurmountable challenges and unforeseen changes, rocking a 160-year-old institution to its core.
Although the film focuses on The New York Times, it suggests that many of the general issues that the Times is experiencing are also taking their toll on other print-based publications: declines in advertising and subscriptions, massive lay-offs, the advent of social media, the shifting role of journalists, etc. To personify the publication, the filmmakers honed in on David Carr, a reputable journalist with a checkered past who covers the media industry for the Times. He contends that “…media is a technology business. Changes in technology affect changes in media,” but is hard-pressed to relent to the growing opinion that “the newspaper is dead.”
The proof is in the pudding. In a South by Southwest (SXSW) panel discussion, Gawker, an aggregated news source, said that, in not so many words, traditional outlets like The New York Times are a thing of the past. As a telling rebuttal, Carr showed the audience what Gawker’s home page would look like if not for those “old-school” publications: one with gaping holes with little to no content.
As the internet surpasses print as our main news source, the Times is but one of many media icons struggling to stay relevant and solvent. To that end, the Times created a paywall, gating much of its online content – a risky move, to be sure. But, by year’s end, the Times may have 350,000 paying subscribers for its electronic edition, a year after the paywall’s debut.
Admittedly, I still flip through entire editions of printed newspapers (yes, even the Sports section) because I learn things that aren’t in the sections that I would normally refer to online. As current and future generations become more and more reliant on electronic and mobile devices, hard-copy editions may follow the way of the dinosaur. However, full integration probably won’t happen until my 6-year-old niece is married with kids. So, The New York Times and other traditional outlets will live on, but maybe not in print format.
Here are some other takeaways from my teammates:
- “Regardless of the number of aggregated online sites that gain momentum or the number of social channels that give rise to citizen journalism, traditional media is still an integral part of carrying messages to the masses. As David Carr noted at the beginning of the movie, social channels are just new platforms for which they (journalists) need to be accountable. Would The Huffington Post or Newser have succeeded without The New York Times?”
- “What the movie brought home for me was this question: If ‘everyone’ on the internet today is a publisher and Twitter is the go-to source for breaking news, where does that leave the trained, passionate, in-the-trenches investigative reporter – and us as a society? Journalists can fall in with the ranks of bloggers and tweet along with the rest of us. But, is that heeding their deep-down call to expose the truth and promote justice?”
- “The juxtaposition of the personalities and journalistic practices personify much of what’s true about the state of media today, as analog and digital news attempt to co-exist, and a business model based on advertising revenue and paid subscription crumble in the face of blogging, Twitter and YouTube. Watching the movie was much like sitting front-row at a prize fight between the heavyweight champion of the world and a brash new challenger.”
- “The moral of the story for me focused on perseverance. The New York Times is clearly an iconic figure in American publishing history, but it was incredible to see what happened when their position was jeopardized. Countless other goliaths toppled in the industry around them while it stood strong. It looked (and continues to look) diversity in the eye and is still around to talk about it. The fighting spirit of the Times can be harnessed in many other organizations and industries as they face doubt – their own or from others — but simply rolling over will not suffice.”
- “As I watched the movie, I was struck by how traditional media has been so radically altered and impacted by the internet, and by the choices people make to acquire information. I thought back to the ‘60s when the media was considered the fourth branch of government; when they had a noble calling: To investigate fairly and comprehensively to ensure fairness and equality, while maintaining an egalitarian America that, as the movie suggests, has since faded. Will we ever miss investigative journalism and the need for deeper meaning about what happens in our society? Time will tell if our dependence on quick and easy access to information — without a moral purpose or compass — will make us less compassionate and more detached.”
- “I was disappointed that the movie did not focus more on traditional versus online journalism. Page One: Inside The New York Times is to journalism what An Inconvenient Truth was to global warming. We all know doom is ahead for traditional media because of the rise and importance of online journalism, but it’s far from being dead.”
- “The movie provided a behind-the-scenes look at the ‘Page 1’ meetings where editors discuss the topics that should appear on the front of the paper. It gave us a sense of what goes into the decision-making process and what power plays are involved, how stories are generated and how editors and writers interact.”
Of course, these opinions, including my own, may well do a 180 as new technologies disrupt those that were once disruptive. Although insecurity has pervaded the media industry well before “internet” became a household word, The New York Times and other traditional outlets are still here – and, hopefully, here to stay as they will undoubtedly continue to reinvent themselves to forge new paths, cross unchartered territory and, yes, avoid the same fate as the Tyrannosaurus rex.
- From the Editor’s Desk: Revisiting journalistic code of ethics
- From the Editor’s Desk: 5 essential social media tools for journalists