NYT public editor Clark Hoyt frets about some slipups by the paper’s staff as it strives to deal with a real-time news world.
Hoyt opened by talking about the TimesCast, which shows the morning editorial meeting and highlights strong visual content.
… several stumbles in the past few weeks have demonstrated some of the risks for a print culture built on careful reporting, layers of editing and time for reflection as it moves onto platforms where speed is everything and attitude sometimes trumps values like accuracy and restraint.
On just the second day of “TimesCast,” Bill Keller, the executive editor, misspoke about a sensitive story involving Israel. A week later, a business reporter in Japan, unhappy over common reporter frustrations — lack of sleep, bad coffee, bossy press handlers and a newsmaker who did not take her question — lost her patience and tweeted, “Toyota sucks.” And, on April Fool’s Day, two Times bloggers fell for hoaxes.
“What ties them together is the acceleration of the news cycle,” Keller told me. “We’re always on, which increases the danger that things will not get checked as they should.” He said news organizations have always had times when they have had to work quickly on deadline, and they know there is more danger of mistakes on those occasions. “The difference now is the deadline is always.”
Another difference is that The Times is opening more of its news process to public view. It once did not matter if editors had all of their facts straight at the morning news meeting; there was plenty of time for reporting and editing. But with the world looking over their shoulders, things are different. Editors are dressing better, speaking in complete, sound-bite sentences, and mistakes are embarrassing.
Paul Iredale, a veteran Reuters reporter, said he watched “TimesCast” on its second day and was unhappy to see Keller say that Britain had expelled “the head of Mossad,” the Israeli intelligence service, “in retribution for the Israelis’ having assassinated a Hamas militant in Dubai.” The British had not accused Israel of the assassination. Nor had The Times established that the person sent home was the Mossad station chief.
“Agh,” wrote Keller when I sent him Iredale’s message. “This is why I went into print rather than TV.” Because “TimesCast” is taped and edited, Keller said he should have said, “cut,” and given a more careful summary of the story then in progress. Ann Derry, the editor in charge of the paper’s video operations, said, “Several pairs of eyes view every segment — and the entire show — before it goes up.” She said they all missed Keller’s errors and will “‘button up’ our procedures going forward.”
Nobody edits Times reporters on Twitter, and its prevailing style — fast, chatty, personal — can lull a user into opening up far too much. The Times has written guidelines for social media. As Philip Corbett, the standards editor, put it, they boil down to a warning that Times staffers on Facebook and Twitter “can’t think of it as a personal activity. Like it or not, they are seen as a representative of The New York Times.”
One question for the NYT to ask is yes, Times writers are Times employees, but how robotic should they be?
I like the fact that they show some personality.
And yes, I see a few typos on occasion, but that’s Twitter.
An eye-opener to me is that two NYT staffers got sucked in by April Fools jokes.