The New York Times is still the most powerful force in journalism — or so the paper tries to reassure its readership today. In the wake of The Daily Show’s hilarious but revealing tour lampooning the NYT’s newsroom culture (also highlighted by Daniel McCarthy on Tory Anarchist), the editors today respond:
The comic got the laugh but missed the larger point (not to mention the Web site). Journalism’s most important question is not today or yesterday – or even print or digital – but considerably deeper: With the blogosphere expanding like the freeways of Atlanta, are readers going to want a little guidance with their news? Or will they simply navigate the Internet alone.
To show us where they produce their guide to the big, scary web of knowledge, the NYT editors ran an enormous photo of their rather uninspiring conference room. It may not have nice art on the walls, but it is where they decide what’s fit to print. A typical afternoon:
In Baghdad, vast parades for the withdrawal of American troops. In Minnesota, Al Franken wins a disputed senatorial election. In Honduras, crowds denounce the recently ousted president. And in Albany, the business of the government continues to be a joke.
Meanwhile, at the offices of The New York Times, a meeting was taking place. Eighteen editors had gathered at a table to discuss tomorrow’s news. The table was formidable: oval and elegant, with curves of gleaming wood. The editors no less so: 11 men and 7 women with the power to decide what was important in the world.
[…] Every afternoon at 4 o’clock, the top dogs at the nation’s paper of record descend upon a third-floor conference room to decide what news is truly fit to print.
The print version of the article invites the reader to go online for a 360-degree view of where this all happens. It’s rather bland for the anchor tenant of a $1 billion-plus Manhattan skyscraper. But most fascinating about this room is the nice seating for the lackeys not invited to sit at the main table. At Washington’s activist meetings, these backbencher seats are far less cushy and well-appointed. At the NYT editorial meetings, however, the seating gives the room the air of a parliamentary debating chamber (albeit with all the minimalist charm of postwar modernism à la the UN general assembly and EU Parliament). For people with no less than “the power to decide what [is] important in the world,” they ought to get a better interior decorator. Maybe start with a White House Situation Room-like map of the world?