Thursday, May 12, 2005
A tidbit on the Times: Earlier this week The New York Times released their "credibility" report.
Let me start by saying that if the Times does everything that is suggested in the report, they will end up with a better newspaper at the end of the day.
Two things struck me about the report.
First, the seeming hostility of a good portion of the paper's reporters to the possibility of any e-mail contact with the general public.
The Times makes it harder than any other major American newspaper for readers to reach a responsible human being. Making it easier for the public to approach Times people has numerous benefits. It sends a message to the paper's readers - our customers - that we are indeed accessible. It also opens up another avenue for reporters and editors to get ideas and tips that can lead to stories.
The links we advocated above for articles on Nytimes.com will let readers address Times people without opening the door to spam. When a reader clicked on such a link, a "dialogue box" would open on the screen. The box would forward an e-mail to the reporter without revealing a specific e-mail address. While we encourage all reporters to participate, the dialogue boxes could be programmed instead to forward e-mail to the department of any reporter who declined.
The Union-Tribune puts reporters' e-mail address and phone numbers at the bottom of each of their stories -- though when the story runs long they are often the first things cut. The reporters aren't given the option of refusing to do this. Why are the reporters at the Times given so much deference?
The second interesting thing was acknowledgement that diversity is more than skin deep.
Our paper's commitment to a diversity of gender, race and ethnicity is nonnegotiable. We should pursue the same diversity in other dimensions of life, and for the same reason - to ensure that a broad range of viewpoints is at the table when we decide what to write about and how to present it.
The executive editor should assign this goal to everyone who has a hand in recruiting. We should take pains to create a climate in which staff members feel free to propose or criticize coverage from vantage points that lie outside the perceived newsroom consensus (liberal/conservative, religious/secular, urban/suburban/rural, elitist/white collar/blue collar).
It will be interesting to how the Times goes about implementing this -- if it chooses to embrace the idea that maybe it would be good to have a conservative or a evangelical Christian or two in the newsroom.