The New York Times Keeps Up with the Times
November 8th, 2007

Oh, what a brave new world wide web we live in.

The New York Times has waded further into the tumultuous ocean of online discussion, and its writers are both excited and wary.

In his column, the Times’ Public Editor Clark Hoyt ruminates on the recent ability of readers to leave comments on actual articles, and not just blog posts. Comments must meet discerning guidelines to be accepted by moderators – they must be “coherent, on point, not obscene or abusive, and not a personal attack.” But still, as their experience with the blogs go, things can still slip through the editorial cracks. For example, one reader left a now removed comment on the Lede blog that said, Have all the displaced ILLEGALS from the FIRES Move into the TIMES NYC HQ Building … and let them urinate in the halls like they do infront [sic] of most every Home Depot in all the rest of the USA.

It’s comments like this that leads many bloggers to approve of the moderation. The NotionsCapital blog thinks these type of comments proliferate because of the anonymity the web provides, and wonders if they shouldn’t go even further. “What newspaper would print a “Letter to the Editor” without confirming the identity of the letter-writer?” it wrote. “It is time to apply the same standard to reader replies on the Web?”


Still, some readers think comment threads should stay wide-open to promote frank discussion. “But if you’re going to delete comments, do it on the basis of style and substance, not naughty words,” says one dissenter named Mithras. “It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.”

One “naughty” incident Hoyt took umbrage with was a reader of the Cityroom blog that used the word “crap.” (Gasp!)

To handle the volume of comments, the Times is creating a comment desk to moderate them, which the public editor notes is “an investment unheard of in todays depressed newspaper business environment.”

Another example of the editorial hand in its web presence is the human touch gracing the newly revamped technology section‘s aggregation of links from other publication’s news stories. Rather than have a computer do all the work to find relevant articles, editors add and subtract to the links the robots provide. “We arent trying to prove machines can be better editors than people. We have a hybrid model, with Web Crawlers and Editors both helping find and ranks posts, Saul Hansell, the tech section editor, told PaidContent.org (via NYConvergance).

“We link equally to mainstream media and small blogs. Our job is to help people find the good stuff fast, both what we write and from others,” he wrote on his BITS blog.

At least one of his commenters (that was on topic) liked it. “People-edited feeds are best!” raved chewbee.

By on November 8, 2007, 9:12 am
In category: nextNY,Tech | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “The New York Times Keeps Up with the Times”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    November 8th, 2007 at 9:34 am

    The bigger story at the Times is the publication of photo essays backed by narration on its web site, along with improved graphics and maps (including an occasional interactive cartogram). You can’t do that in a traditional newspaper format.

    This is potentially revolutionary, and to judge by the voices in narration, it appears to be young journalists who are doing it. It may be that in a few years, the specialization between print, magazines, radio and TV journalists will be much diminished.

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