Changing news

Today The New York Times announced to its staff that it is combining the print and online newsrooms. I can’t and won’t comment on that specifically because I don’t know much about it and because of this full disclosure: I consult for The New York Times Company. Similarly, I did not comment on the specifics of these issues when I worked at Advance with its 29 newspapers, though I have said that my final reason for moving on what that I did not want to be the change agent in newsrooms. They’re hardly the only ones going through this change: CBS News says that all 1,500 employees of its employees now work for the online service. Even TV Guide is grappling with fundamental change; see my post on milking the cash cow here. A few weeks ago, I also wrote about changing the newsroom.

The essential truth of all this is that a fundamental change in media is driving fundamental change in the market, which should be driving fundamental change in news products, which must cause fundamental change in newsrooms.

That is what we are witnessing now. I often hear people say that big-media executives don’t get it, that they don’t get the imperative for change. Well, they’re getting it. They have no choice.

Each organization will debate — until the cash cows come home — about who should drive that change.

Each organization and each executive will debate — until retirement — about the form that change should take.

Each of us will debate — until somebody goes out of business — whether they are successful.

But make no mistake: Change is inevitable.

  • Hey Jeff,

    I like the new look. Very sleek. Re: your post – reason #439 that the Internet is the modern day printing press.


  • I can’t see the benefit of building a Chinese wall between the print side and the internet side editorial staff. It’s all about repurposing the same content for multiple streams, init?

  • Scott:
    In the early days, at Advance, we set up separate operations because:
    1. It allowed us to create services that were appropriate for online — and not just repackaged print content. This allowed us to, for example, become highly interactive with hundreds of millions of pageviews in forums that the newspaper folks never liked. We could not have done that from inside the newsroom. The pressure to recreate the paper online was intense to the end of my tenure there.
    2. It allowed us to create separate value for online with advertisers and not be just value-added to print sales, which was certainly the instinct of the print sales people.
    But there remained political control issues and the question became whether one could take full advantage of the asset that is the newsroom in new media if they refused to cooperate because they did not “own” it.

  • “Change” —

    I’m watching this A-340 crash in Toronto, right now. At the same time, I’m watching discussion at, where people who know what they’re talking about would be falling over laughing out loud at the dinks on cable news making utter asses of themselves with bullshit. On poster suggests that they should consult at before they open their ridiculous mouths.

    They really ought to do something to open a real-time channel like that. I understand the race these morons run in order to break their necks with “the *news*”. However, if they were remotely concerned with the quality of their output, they could afford the few seconds it would take to open a chat window with the right people who would be happy to fact-check their asses before they showed their fact-free asses.


  • Jeff:

    Some perspective from my end of the world – I began my professional life as a print journalist and have evolved into an Internet product manager focusing on content-type stuff.

    I worked in the online arm of a media conglomerate (newspapers, TV and radio in my market) from ’97 – ’02 when the first order was set. At the time, the online content group pretty much just pushed through content from the newspaper, which could be pretty scary in a breaking-news event. These were kids without any kind of journalism training writing headlines, photo tags, etc. about murders and all sorts of things with VERY little editorial oversight.

    At the time, the newspaper didn’t want much to do with online. But over time, the newspaper built out its own website and starting building actual editorial staff for online. Actual, real newspaper editors overseeing what went on. It was a good thing.

    Of course, economics may drive the consolidation of online and print/broadcast editorial staffs, but I think it’s a positive thing that news organizations start to think of themselves as one property (that happens to be distributed in multiple mediums).

    Now, does this mean this joint “newsroom” is filled with actual journalists – or does it mean it’s filled with HTML monkeys? That’s the question for each organization, I guess.

    But done right, it’s a positive thing. And, of course, the media always does things right …

  • Jim Dermitt

    I was using the NYT forums last winter. It was just amazing what they had going on with the forums. The forum was like some sort of denial of service attack, with rapid fire messages and you couldn’t make any sense out of it. It was just a series of crazy messages and jibberish about nothing. The whole thing was like a digital panic attack. It wasn’t useful for any sort of communications. It was like a buzz saw.

    I hope they drop the sign in routine. I guess they figure if people sign in, they won’t abuse the site. I use a bunch of different sites, so signing in means more passwords and more steps that I tend to avoid. The three digit code to post here isn’t a problem since I don’t have to remember it. I have enough on my mind.