This is the reality TV show pitch that could save even NBC: New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller is sending Managing Editor Jill Abramson to a six-month digital news boot camp in advance of the Times’s planned experiment in metered paywall revenue catching, which means that if you surf to the Times a lot, you’ll eventually be asked to pay for content, which means that content better be good, which means truly digital.
To his credit, Keller’s memo announcing the decision to send one of the top news people in the nation to blogger training is a gem. “No doubt this rotation will be widely analyzed, interpreted and speculated about. (I look forward to hearing and reading a lot of entertaining nonsense.)” He writes that one of the reasons for the move is to “give these editors a break, a digression, a cobweb-clearing, an adventure.” Ha. That’s funny– and smart. As has become painfully obvious, half-baked efforts to learn on the fly while managing a newsroom big or small has been a recipe for failure for more than a decade. Full memo after the jump.
May 19 memo from Bill Keller
Beginning June 1, Jill is going to take a six-month detour from the traditional Managing Editor role to run the news part of the Website and to fully immerse herself in the digital part of our world. Her aim will be to push our integration to the next level, which means mastering all aspects of our digital operation, not only the newsroom digital pipeline but also the company’s digital strategy in all its ramifications. During this time she will largely disengage from day-to-day news coverage.
We have invited three editors—Larry Ingrassia, Dean Baquet and Susan Chira—each to fill in for two months as acting Managing Editor for News. Larry will step up for June and July, Dean for August and September, and Susan for October and November.
No doubt this rotation will be widely analyzed, interpreted and speculated about. (I look forward to hearing and reading a lot of entertaining nonsense.) The real purpose is threefold: 1) to give us a chance to see some of our best editors applying their talents to the entire news report, in print and online, rather than to specific departments; 2) to give these editors a break, a digression, a cobweb-clearing, an adventure; and 3) to allow deputies in their departments to show what they can do with a couple months of greater authority and autonomy.
At the end of these sojourns, we expect the substitutes to return to their department a little smarter and a little refreshed. Jill will return to the ME job ready to guide the final lap of newsroom integration.