By: Jay DeFoore
The firewall separating the Web site operations of The New York Times from the newsroom on 43rd Street is about to come tumbling down.
For the past decade, NYTimes.com has operated out of a separate office on 7th Avenue. Although the distinct news operations are not set to be fully merged until 2007, when the Times moves into its new headquarters, executive editor Bill Keller and Martin Nisenholtz, senior VP, digital operations for The New York Times Company, recently explained in a staff memo that preparations for the merger have already begun.
The memo says that NYTimes.com and the paper’s newsroom have been “separated administratively, culturally, geographically and financially” for the past 10 years.
“But in those ten years, the world has changed,” the memo says. “The digital news operation is now grown up and strong, ready to enlarge its ambitions. The reporting and editing staff at the original newsroom is much more at ease with the Web, more eager to embrace it both as an opportunity for invention and an alternative way to reach our demanding audience.”
Len Apcar, editor-in-chief of NYTimes.com, says the memo solidifies what Keller and the Web team have already been working towards. “What this memo does is officially sanctions and cements it and says this is how it’s going to be done,” Apcar said. “There’s no wall anymore, real or imagined, if there ever was one.”
Newly appointed deputy managing editor Jon Landman, who was recently put in charge of the paper’s digital journalism, has been tapped to oversee the integration project. New York Times managing editor Jill Abramson will oversee news content for the Web. Although it has yet to be finalized, Apcar says his reporting structure will eventually connect him to a chain of command that ends with Keller. (He currently reports to Nisenholtz.)
Apcar says the paper-s management realized that it could not wait until the big move in 2007 to begin the integration. “Everyone has to be more invested in the Web, there’s no question about that,” said Apcar, who came over from the newspaper three years ago. “We think we already have a world-class Web site. But to take it to the next level in a quantum leap, we need active cooperation from the biggest newsroom in the company. We need to have ownership and investment [from the print side].”
Recognizing that a full, physical integration will have to wait until the big move in 2007, the executive memo states that senior Web editors will begin participating “at all of the meetings where the masthead, department heads, feature editors, enterprise editors and others hatch plans.”
Apcar says online Web producers already attend 4:30 Page One meetings in person and, much like the Washington bureau, are “piped in” to the paper’s daily 12:00 meetings. They also show up to informal “enterprise” meetings where large special sections are launched, such as the recent series on class.
?When you put a producer in foreign and a producer in business, the benefit is they become part of the conversation,” Apcar said. “They hear about stories at the conception stage and are much more involved in the [planning] of the story.”
As desks and space come available, Apcar said more and more people from the interactive team will move into the Times newsroom on 43rd Street.
Keller and Nisenholtz’ memo also brings up the business reality for the move: “All of us appreciate that one of the biggest long-term challenges facing our craft is to invent a digital journalism and new services for our readers that both live up to our high standards and help carry out the cost of a great news-gathering organization.”
Apcar says NYTimes.com has been profitable for some time, but the goal is to find ways for the online operation to play a bigger role in the company’s bottom line. The first major test of that will come Sept. 19, when the NYTimes.com rolls out TimesSelect, its online subscription service.