Let’s talk more about The New York Times, which lately seems to be filling in as some sort of representative for the state of journalism everywhere, both good and bad. First up rumors of Bill Keller’s demise are apparently untrue. Gawker called Keller about the recent newsroom chatter that he would be out by the end of the year and Keller (mensch indeed!) called back to say, in as categorical a tone as one can possibly muster in these extremely uncertain times, that there was no truth to them whatsoever(!).
Meanwhile New York has a nice long piece this week on a subject close to our hearts: how the Times has so spectacularly transitioned online may possibly will be “saved” by the “cybergeeks” employed there. In fact, the piece talks about many of the NYT.com features we (ahem) frequently highlight in this space.
And yet, even as the financial pages wrote the paperâ€™s obit, deep within that fancy Renzo Piano palace across from the Port Authority, something hopeful has been going on: a kind of evolution. Each day, peculiar wings and gills poke up on the Times’ websiteâ€”video, audio, “drillable” graphics. Beneath Nicholas Kristof’s op-ed column, there’s a link to his blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and YouTube videos. Coverage of Gaza features a time line linking to earlier reporting, video coverage, and an encyclopedic entry on Hamas. Throughout the election, glittering interactive maps let readers plumb voting results. There were 360-degree panoramas of the Democratic convention; audio “back story” with reporters like Adam Nagourney; searchable video of the debates. It was a radical reinvention of the Times voice, shattering the omniscient God-tones in which the paper had always grounded its coverage; the new features tugged the reader closer through comments and interactivity, rendering the relationship between reporter and audience more intimate, immediate, exposed.
Despite the swiftness of these changes, certainly compared with other newspapers’, their significance has been barely noted. Thatâ€™s the way change happens on the web: The most startling experiments are absorbed in a day, then regarded with reflexive complacency. But lift your hands out of the virtual Palmolive and suddenly you recognize what youâ€™ve been soaking in: not a Xerox of a print newspaper but a vastly superior version of one. It may be the only happy story in journalism.