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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Reflections of the NY Times Public Editor

In his last column as "public editor" of The New York Times, Arthur Brisbane reflect on the impact of social media:
Encouraged by the company to exploit social media, many Times journalists have become extraordinarily prodigious publishers on Twitter, some with thousands of posts to their credit.
Consider this sign of the froth that surrounds social media: A few weeks ago on, a Times editor conducted a serious video interview with a BuzzFeed writer about the day Twitter was down for an hour or two — and the political, journalistic and (dare I extrapolate?) metaphysical implications thereof.
The emphasis on social and mobile media means that Times material appears far from the home base of, not to mention the distant shores of the Old Country, print. For journalists, this presents tantalizing new opportunities to build a personal audience, while for the company it is a way to follow readers where they are going.
The result is an oddly disaggregated New York Times of hyper-engaged journalists building their own brands, and company content flung willy-nilly into the ether.
He also takes on the question of bias:
I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.
When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.
As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.