Sunday, 12 October 2008

Blogging at the New York Times: Rich gives us the word

I recently posted on New York Times blogs and indeed their own list of recommended blogs, which was, shall we say, a little Manhattan/L.A focused, somewhat behind the curve and without much (anything) for 'the foreigners' (the new term I like to use for us IHT readers).

I wrote to Rich Meislin at the NYT and am grateful for his comprehensive reply, which I received today.

I don't think it reveals a new view of the blogosphere that many members thereof would agree with and largely, if I can parse Rich, it reveals that at least at, many (but by no means all) of its blogs are simply used as another platform for breaking news more quickly.

I have to say that I am also surprised - very - that there is no official NYT editorial policy on NYT blogs regarding the purpose of them.

The editor of the NYT has accused bloggers of 'riffing off MSM' so he must therefore believe that blogs are different to MSM, in which case the blogs on must presumably be different - in some way - to the MSM content of the NYT.

Anyway, enough of me - over to Mr. Meislin:

Hi, Ian, and thanks for the note.
The first thing I must do is apologize for
the Blogs 101 list, which is embarrassingly in need of a refresh. It's been at least a year since there was a serious update, and it's on my to-do list for after the U.S. election. (Your thought about international blogs is an interesting one and I'll take it into account.)
Like the original Navigator page (,
the Blogs 101 list was originally created several years back for internal use in the Times newsroom, to get our staff more familiar with what was then the relatively young and quickly growing Web form of blogs.
Since then, we've nurtured quite a large number of our own, as you can see on our blogs directory page, While there's no official New York Times editorial policy on the purpose of them, they tend to fall into a couple of categories.
Some of our blogs, like
The Caucus, DealBook and City Room, are places where we post breaking news multiple times a day, generally in shorter form than you would expect from a fully developed New York Times article. These allow us to stay on top of developing news, in addition to getting instant reaction (and sometimes supplemental information and tips) from our readers. We have sports blogs for readers who can never get enough, some of which have offered play-by-play coverage of various events.
Other blogs allow our readers to get more of their favorite subjects or writers than we could possibly fit into the pages of the printed New York Times (which still forms the backbone of what we publish online each day). And they give our writers an opportunity to get closer to their readers, which is often useful for both.
So fans of the New York restaurant scene or of wine (or in particular fans of Frank Bruni and Eric Asimov) can enjoy more of them as they explore additional subjects on
Diner's Journal and The Pour. Brian Stelter, who made a name following the networks and cable on his TVNewser blog, now does that for us on TV Decoder. During the Hollywood awards season, we offer Carpetbagger (one of our very first blogs) with David Carr to provide detail and commentary, including video.
Tara Parker Pope has been getting enormous readership for her health blog,
Well, which has fascinating takes on a subject that affects everyone. Jane Gross's new blog, The New Old Age, has quickly developed a following among those who are caring for aging parents (and some of the aging parents themselves); it was an area that we felt wasn't being explored on blogs elsewhere in as useful a way as we could do it. Andrew Revkin has made Dot Earth the home of a dedicated community of people trying to consider the limits of and answers to global growth, and Green Inc. is looking at similar subjects from the business perspective. David Leonhardt and Catherine Rampell didn't know there was going to be a global financial meltdown when they started Economix recently, but it's good that it's there for the extra insights it provides.
As for the ethical boundaries for blogs, it's simple: they're the same as for The Times on paper. The tone of blog posts may be more casual, and the editing process is quicker, but the effort to maintain high levels of accuracy and fairness is the same. (That each blog post is looked at by an editor and that comments are scanned to avoid offensive or off-topic posts is a rarity among blogs.)
Doing blogs well takes a lot of time -- generally more time than our authors and editors of them initially expect. So in deciding whether to do a blog, we also have to consider what we can sacrifice from the authors' previous duties and where we can find the people to edit them and moderate comments. That's not easy, particularly when resources are tight. But when we get the right author and the right subject and enough time, the results can be pretty great for our readers.
Best, Rich Meislin

A word about Rich Meislin:

Rich Meislin is the technology editor of The New York Times, directing the reporters who cover technology news for all parts of the newspaper.
He served from March 1998 to January 2001 as editor in chief of New York Times Digital, where he oversaw the editorial staffs that produce The Times on the Web, New York Today, and other electronic offerings from The Times.
Before joining the electronic world, Meislin was senior editor for information and technology at The Times, responsible for the introduction and support of computers and other technology used by reporters, editors, photographers, artists and page designers in the production of newspaper. He was one of the earliest advocates for the newspaper's presence in the online world.
Meislin has been at The Times for more than 25 years, starting as a copyboy and a computer programmer for the New York Times/CBS News Poll. He served as a political reporter and bureau chief in Albany, N.Y., and as a foreign correspondent in Central America and the Caribbean before becoming bureau chief in Mexico City. Among the stories he covered were the war in El Salvador and the battle between Argentina and Britain over the Falklands, as well as the Mexico City earthquake.
He subsequently became the newspaper's Graphics Editor, a post he held for six years.
Computers and computer-aided communication have long been one of Meislin's interests. He learned programming as a teenager, working with punch cards on an IBM 1620 at his high school in Allentown, Pa., and could once program in seven computer languages, several of them now obsolete. Meislin has been online for well over a decade, starting with accounts on CompuServe and People Link in the mid-1980's, and still spends way too much time on the Net.

Rich Meislin at navigate AT welcomes your comments and suggestions.


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