The New York Times is planning to launch a new "Instant Op-Ed" next month that will allow the paper's Web site to post immediate expert viewpoints on breaking news, according to Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal.
"Our Op-Ed now is very rapid response, but it is at the most the next day," said Rosenthal. "We are looking at a way to take advantage of the expandability of the Internet, the back and forth of it and the instantaneous nature of the Internet. Taking ideas that have existed in Op-Ed form and giving them a robust position online."
Rosenthal said three editors, among them former editorial writers, are teaming up with a Web producer to oversee the initiative. He said the team is gathering a list of numerous experts on a variety of issues to be ready to provide quick comments, essays and columns on issues or stories that come up in the news. He said the idea is to have a group that provides opinions soon after news occurs, with a solid Web space dedicated to them.
"One of them could write a piece arguing that something is a terrible idea, then another could argue that it is a great idea and a third could react to those," Rosenthal explained. "Readers could also comment, as they do now."
Taking the ongoing speculation about Caroline Kennedy taking Hillary Clinton's senate seat as an example, Rosenthal said the day that first broke, the instant Op-Ed team would gather and ask for comment that could be posted within hours. "Maybe it would be fun just to have four historians debate the history of the Kennedy clan," Rosenthal said. "It could be applied to almost anything. A lot of it is on the main news."
This initiative also marks the first collaboration between the Times' editorial page and the news department, Rosenthal said, noting that news side editors and reporters will be asked to offer up experts and ideas. But he stressed no news editors or reporters would be giving opinions.
"It is a blended kind of journalism," said Jill Abramson, managing editor/news. "It is an extension for the news and issues that we are covering and convenes outside voices to have discussions of that."
Abramson said news stories would continue to include reaction and expert analysis as they always have, but this approach would allow for a more expanded approach: "This could be a forum for one of those people to express themselves in a more extended way."
Rosenthal said no exact date had been set to launch the program, but expected it to be before the Inauguration on Jan. 20.