The world caught a glimpse of the future of print journalism in December with The New York Times
’ publication of “Snow Fall
,” a story about an avalanche that unifies text and multimedia to dramatic effect.
With “Snow Fall,” the staff at the Grey Lady showed its readers that good storytelling doesn’t have to be just columns of text, and this new hybrid multimedia approach can attract millions of readers. But, as the Times
attempts to rewrite the future of newspapering, they still can’t shake the old world problems of not enough readers or advertisers.
To stay viable, the paper kicked off the new year by offering buyouts to its team of top editors. This week it was reported that 21 top editors accepted
the offer, including Sports Editor Joe Sexton, who oversaw the production of “Snow Fall.”
In a candid interview
with New York
magazine, Sexton said that the Times
’ culture lacks radical thinking needed to survive in the changing media environment.
“The ways to have impact are to produce exclusive news, write memorable stories, and evince a sense of daring and fun,” said Sexton, who took a job with the nonprofit investigative journalism outfit ProPublica. “And if that formula fails, then we’re all in fucking trouble. … Ain’t no room for cowards in journalism at this moment in time.”
Recent comments by Times
Executive Editor Jill Abramson seem to back up Sexton’s fears.
In a debrief after “Snow Fall” went live and reached 3.5 million views, Abramson said that she fears that she’ll get inundated with requests by reporters who will want the same treatment as “Snow Fall” did.
In a note
staff recapping the layoffs and further newsroom changes, Abramson said:
“We will continue to reposition ourselves, to meet the challenges of remaking ourselves for the digital age. The changes underway are part of the journey that we’ve been on for years: integrating our print and digital operations, expanding our reporting, deepening our ways of telling stories, innovating in ways that make our journalism the literal envy of our profession and the joy of our readers.”
In addition to Sexton, the list of departures includes journalists from the top tier of the newsroom including a managing editor, assistant managing editor, deputy managing editor, special sections editor, classical music critic, and Washington bureau chief.
Let’s just hope the Times
has the next generation of staffers who can fill the shoes of those who just left.
Gil Rudawsky heads the crisis communication and issues management practice at GroundFloor Media in Denver. He is a former reporter and editor. Read his blog or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.