February 5, 2013

Why is no one covering the New York Times?


It would be wrong to say that a more-than-is-usual amount of journalistic navel-gazing is taking place at the moment, but the impact of click-hungry journalism has led to a considerable number of lamenting opinions pieces over the last few weeks.

As pertinent and as correct as these pieces may be — “the most overused words in journalism”, “when is exclusive not exclusive”, etc. — I, for one, would appreciate some media journalism that wasn’t such low hanging fruit.

Plenty of ink was spilled over billionaire investor Chris Hughes and his purchase of The New Republic, which is a worthy subject, no doubt, but there is little being done which questions or investigates the machinations of our most significant gatekeepers, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, for example.

Doree Shafrir at Buzzfeed asks why we’ve heard so little about the significant buyouts which have been taking place at the Times.

 “The articles about the buyouts have been focused mostly on the news of who’s taking them, with a few boilerplate quotes in each from editors saying things like “the time had come” (often with quotes from Twitter about the departures), or a reproduced memo about the buyout …There’s been no real glimpse inside the newsroom, no sense of what the rank and file are feeling, no temperature-taking.”

The reasons behind this lack of coverage may be because, as Shafrir writes, “the intrigue behind the walls of the old-school media giants that I was obsessed with back in 2006 and 2007 — the Times, the Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast — seems much less, well, intriguing when the narrative hinges on layoffs, not innovation … Personally, these days I’m much more interested in the conversations inside a Facebook conference room than one on 8th Avenue. I suspect many others are too.”

Of course, I agree to the extent that I’d also like to know what’s going on in Facebook’s conference rooms, but as someone who works in book publishing, the impact when one of these currently “un-cheerful” institutions deigns to review a book cannot yet be dismissed. It’s important to us, not just for our sales figures, but also to many of our authors for whom their stamp of approval still matters a great deal.

The lack of in-depth coverage of these news institutions can make it seem as if no one actually works at the Culture Desk or at the Book Section, and gives their departments an aura of lack of bias and almost automated cultural accreditation, which can simply not be the case.

Of course, media coverage is dying when you can’t make a headline out of it, like “Cannibal Cop Credits Bondage Fetish To ‘The Mask”, and maybe no one else is interested in the inter-departmental gossip at our biggest newspapers, but if these papers are still to be the papers of records, I’d argue they need a little more oversight. And when several top editors take redundancy packages, I’d like to know more.



Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.