AJR News Wrap: Digital Age Angst in NYT Report
AJR News Wrap
May 16, 2014


EDITOR’S NOTE: Links to selected media news from the past week.

New York Times

By Erika Cross/Shutterstock

DIGITAL ANGST AT NYT — BuzzFeed published a leaked draft of a 96-page internal “Innovation” report on the New York Times. Authored by a committee headed by the publisher’s son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the document concludes the staff is too focused on the front page and is “not moving with enough urgency” to become a “digital first” newsroom. It says the Times is falling behind digital competitors that are doing a better job of engaging audiences and promoting their work in social media.

The report (Mashable later obtained the full report in color and made it available as a download) is chock full of details, including the steep declines in home page traffic and lack of an effective system for tagging content and maintaining structured data. Some commentators noted the irony of a newsroom taking six months and producing 96 pages of richly illustrated text to determine that it is moving too slowly to adapt to the Internet era. The full report is must reading for anyone trying to save a newspaper, but for those in a hurry, Nieman Journalism Lab lists the highlights and Mashable summarizes key takeaways.

TOP LADY OUT AT GREY LADY: The media machine turned frenetically inward trying to understand the ouster of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Ken Auletta’s revelations about her pay disparity complaints triggered a tsunami of tweets, while the Los Angeles Times asked if Abramson was “the professional-class equivalent of equal pay heroine Lilly Ledbetter.” New York magazine reported she had clashed with the the company’s C.E.O. over native advertising. Politico said Abramson’s attempt to hire a top Guardian editor without telling her deputy Dean Baquet was thought to be “one of the deciding factors” in her ouster.

#UKRAINEDESK IS BORN: Six news outlets are jointly creating a new kind of pool report about Ukraine on Twitter. The experiment pulls their news coverage into a shared Twitter account and tags their tweets with the hashtag #UkraineDesk, reports GigaOm. The six are VICE, Digg, Quartz, Mashable, Mother Jones and Breaking News Online.

SHORT! SHORT! SHORT!: Editors at the Associated Press and Reuters are putting the smack down on bloated stories. The AP said most stories should be between 300 and 500 words due to shrinking news holes and a growing audience of mobile users that doesn’t necessarily like longer stories, reports The Washington Post. A Reuters America editor also has proposed that all story lengths should be below 500 words unless there is exclusive information, according to a blog run by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Chris Roush. Ironic: The Reuters memo explaining the length restrictions was not exactly short.

GLASS (THE SITE): A new tech news site launched this week that will discuss the future of video and television in an experimental notebook format. Glass (so named for all the screens connected to the Internet) was created by the team at business news site Quartz, owned by Atlantic Media. Glass editor and lead writer Zach Seward, a senior editor at Quartz, told NPR’s David Folkenflik the new site will use a casual outline format because it’s how people take notes and it “has the potential to have a greater connection to readers.”

WAPO IN GROWTH MODE: The Washington Post has hired 50 staffers so far this year, an expansion made possible by its sale to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reports that the Post is hiring a new Silicon Valley reporter and has opened a new office in New York City. VentureBeat details a promising expansion on the tech side. Politico’s Dylan Byers chronicles other recent hires at the Post, but adds,”The only thing missing is an ambitious business plan.”

UGH, TWEETSTORMS: Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel deconstructs the trend of multi-part tweets, numbered and sent in “rapid succession,” that is annoying some folks on Twitter. Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen popularized the format by delivering a mini-lecture in tweets which he numbered “1/….2/….” Warzel writes that tweetstorms have “become one of Tech Twitter’s greatest scourges, not for their insights (which can be valuable), but for their ability to clog a timeline at a moment’s notice.” So are tweetstorms going to be a thing now? Possibly. Just this week, @DavidFolkenflik unleashed a news-filled tweetstorm after word broke about the NYT pushing out its top editor. Vox storified his torrent of tweets.

FINAL CHUCKLE: Forbes published a satirical explainer on the so-called explanatory journalism of Vox, the site started by former Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein. If you need a good laugh, go ahead, read it — and then weep for the future of journalism.

This post includes contributions from Leslie Walker and Lisa Rossi. UPDATED to add a link to Mashable’s copy of the Innovation report.

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