From the Tower to the Dungeon
A bit more than 18 months ago, I took on what at first felt like a test of my endurance: the overnight shift running The New York Times home page. In the intervening period, my long-suffering wife, family and good friends have heard way too much about my confused sleep schedule. Come Monday, I will move to my new desk on the second floor of our “Tower of News,” where, if you didn’t already hear, I’ve been fortunate to secure a new role as a producer on our burgeoning social media team.
Sure, it’s great to escape the “time to make the donuts” shift. But there are a lot of other reasons to be excited about my new gig. For a long while now, I’ve really enjoyed the awesome responsibilities of the overnight shift - the hours a day when it’s me and the janitors alone in the newsroom, and big decisions have to be made on the spot about major news developments.
Where in the building could I go next and play a role that was similarly satisfying? It’s a question that’s often been on my mind.
Fortunately, I’ve convinced a team of really smart people that I can measure up to the pace they’ve set as innovators. There are a lot of unknowns in this job, because there will be 3 of us starting, and a lot of responsibilities to divvy up and priorities to set. But what’s exciting about this role, more than anything else, is the feeling that we’ll be in the vanguard of this paper’s relentless push into its digital future.
We’re told that the steady integration of social media into the way we publish news is a priority of management. Meanwhile, it’s clear that aspects of this job are perceived in some quarters as “a problem.” Take our paper’s outgoing public editor in a recent column:
The problem is part of a much larger phenomenon. In the current environment, New York Times journalists are empowered to build their own personal following via social networks like Twitter and Facebook, while at the same time the wider audience can use blogs and curation sites to pull content away from The Times.
The result is a deconstructed New York Times that is reassembled by others far from The Times’s home base at NYTimes.com.
Let us give comfort to the deconstructors and reassemblers, I say.
We can’t put spilled ink back into the well. Our readers will come to us from many different places. It will be an abiding principle in the way I do my job to engage them on their terms while maintaining the standards they have come to expect from The New York Times.
Doing that will be a lot of hard work - but it will also be fun. I owe gratitude to a lot of people for helping to make this move possible; and even more to those of you who have (and will) express your happiness for me making it. It’s a thrill to feel such a well-wishing head of steam driving you forward into the next thing.
(Particular thanks to @nicatnyt for the joke in the headline)