May 31, 2017

NYT opens itself to #TrumpTrain punking and Google SEO punking

Liz Spayd has been neutered
So, the Old Gray Lady has decided to can its public editor position, apparently in part as a way of canning its current public editor, Liz Spayd, who didn't do the job as well as predecessor Margaret Sullivan.

That said, the position, created in the wake of Jayson Blair, was always about forward-looking PR for the paper at bottom. And, when the paper gives you shit, sometimes, shit-tasting lemonade being made at the end still isn't that good, if you're the public editor, no matter the seriousness of your lemonade-making endeavors.

That said, per a Salon overview, on paper, Spayd had the chops for the job. But, she not only appears antiquated in relation to social media, but in relation to ways in which the Times could be, and sometimes was, different in a good way.

In hindsight, she strikes me as "earnest." Like a fourth-grade schoolteacher from the 1950s. And, generally, that's not that good.

On the other hand, predecessor Margaret Sullivan was by no means perfect. I once both emailed and Tweeted her about staff "pre-writing" a weather storm in anticipation of a snowpocalypse that didn't pan out. Never heard back. How she would have handled Stephens, I have no idea. That said, per Nieman Lab, Sullivan's defense of the position, and by extension, her prior inhabitation of it, is kind of laughable.

But, back to the headline of this post.

The decision to eliminate the public editor comes a day after the Times announced the creation of a “Reader Center” led by editor Hanna Ingber. One role of the new “Reader Center” is to improve how the Times “respond(s) directly to tips feedback, questions, concerns, complaints and other queries from the public,” according to a Tuesday memo.
This is the TrumpTrain punking part of the headline. Have fun with THAT, Times! Because you will get it. You're probably already getting it with your idiotic "say something nice about Trump" schtick. I know that, if there's others like me, you're getting punked from the other side, too. Well, actually from the nonduopoly left-liberal third side.

Then, there's this, from the memo to staff from Punch Sulzberger:
We are dramatically expanding our commenting platform. Currently, we open only 10 percent of our articles to reader comments. Soon, we will open up most of our articles to reader comments. This expansion, made possible by a collaboration with Google, marks a sea change in our ability to serve our readers, to hear from them, and to respond to them.
Lemme see how interesting that is. Will readers try to Google SEO their own comments? Will Google AdSense try to sell Google ads into those comments?

What else will this involve? Google bots helping edit comments?

And, while the PE role was allegedly designed to address, or turd-polish, the Blair issue, it never did allegedly do that for Judith Miller. Or for the Times holding a 2004 story on President Bush spying on Americans until after the election. Or its sanitized photo coverage of U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Couple of other notes, coming primarily from the Times' own piece. One, Spayd is getting kicked to the curb on Friday. Wow. Second, this is part of larger buyouts. Third, they're going to hire some new journos. They claim that the moves are to hire journos who don't think in "legacy" ways, but what it really is, is younger people they can pay less.

Overall ad sales are still down. It's unclear if the post-election circ rise has come close to offsetting that. It's also not reported if the backlash over the Stephens hiring has ixnayed that rise or even reversed it.

In any case, getcha popcorn! And remember Spayd by this interview earlier in May.

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