NYTimes: Digital Memo Had Nothing to Do With Abramson Firing

Thursday, 15 May 2014 07:23 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The New York Times is struggling to adjust to the digital world, an internal report sent to top executives says, and digital companies are hindering the paper's storied "journalism advantage."

However, Times executives insisted that the damaging report, obtained by BuzzFeed, and written by a committee headed by reporter A.G. Sulzberger, son of Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, seemed to have nothing to do with the sudden dismissal Wednesday of its first female executive editor, Jill Abramson.

"As Arthur said in his remarks to the newsroom yesterday, there was no disagreement between him, Jill or [deputy editor] Dean Baquet," who became Abramson's immediate successor.

But her dismissal will add to The Times problems keeping up with the digital media era, Politico reports.

The abrupt firing, which made no attempt to show Abramson's parting was voluntarily, did not mention her achievements, including eight Pulitzer Prizes won "under her watch," Politico reported.

The internal report ignores its legacy competition, BuzzFeed reports, instead concentrating on digital news companies.

"They are ahead of us in building impressive support systems for digital journalists, and that gap will grow unless we quickly improve our capabilities," said the report.

"Meanwhile, our journalism advantage is shrinking as more of these upstarts expand their newsrooms."

But New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said the report obtained by BuzzFeed was just a draft and not a final version of the paper given to newsroom managers.

Part of the problem, said the report, is that reporters are evaluated in their annual reviews on how often they make the front page of the paper. And, the report said that most content is posted online around the evening print deadlines, not throughout the day like most digital companies.

The report said the paper's editors are unfamiliar with the Internet and how to evaluate digital work.

Further, the report pointed out that the newspaper is not willing to kill off digital features, such as its international home page, that do not work.

"Increased collaboration, done right, does not present any threat to our values of journalistic independence," the report said.

The report, overall, offers a warning to its newsroom, saying the Times is at risk of becoming known as a place that does not fully understand, reward, and celebrate digital skills, "and as a result has been losing talented staff workers and not being able to hire others."

The committee took six months to complete its findings.

Eileen Murphy, another Times spokeswoman, said the full report was meant for newsroom management, and "the key findings were distilled into a shorter report and released publicly last week."

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