editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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New York Times, you disappoint me

November 29th, 2007 · No Comments

I am disappointed so far with the “Talk to the newsroom” feature with Fiona Spruill, Editor of the Web Newsroom, that is currently happening at nytimes.com.

In this reoccurring Q&A (previous columns have featured Executive Editor Bill Keller, Obituaries Editor Bill McDonald and Assistant Managing Editor Glenn Kramon) readers e-mail in questions (what, no online posting?) and the subjects craft their answers and the two are posted to the website.

Spruill started accepting questions on Nov. 26 (her turn wraps on Nov. 30) and as of 11:42 p.m. on Nov. 28, has answered seven questions. That surprises me. Now it’s possible that she is too busy to answer more then seven questions in three days or it’s possible that she hasn’t received more then seven questions. Although for full disclosure, I did submit a question (about experienced journalists on her staff) and haven’t seen it answered.

More then likely, Spruill and her staff are picking the questions that she will answer and publishing them gradually. If that is indeed the case, then what really bothers me are their choices.

So far Spruill has touched on the following topics:

  • Updated/time tags
  • Is online going to replace print?
  • Why can’t you print blog posts?
  • Careers in online media (or how to work at the Times?)
  • When are articles “finished”?
  • Why can’t you comment on articles?
  • Where do corrections appear?

These all seem to be so basic, so “Online 101.” Just too many questions that deal with functionality and not enough that have depth.

I find it hard to believe that New York Times readers aren’t able to write more challenging questions that touch on some of the many complex issues facing newspapers. And I find it hard to believe that Spruill, an important figure at the Times and therefore in the industry in general, is interested in using this opportunity to share her thoughts on where the Times and other newspapers are going online.

With two days left, hopefully more people will write Spruill or she will find more time to answer more questions. Like many New York Times readers, I expect a lot from the Times, and currently Spruill and the Times aren’t meeting those expectations.

Tags: Industry · Innovation

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