Demanding Articles

Oh my God:

During just the first three days of this week, seven long stories from various series appeared on the front page of the paper, my assistant Joseph Plambeck has found. Readers who move along at 250 words a minute would need to spend an average of 20 minutes each morning just to get through the approximately 15,000 words from those articles in the past three days.

Why this deluge of fine journalism just when many readers are already busy with holiday activities? I’m fairly certain it’s because Dec. 31 is a deadline for the most significant journalism contests. Editors at The Times, like those at many other newspapers, probably are rushing out the final installments of important series so they can be included in the entry package in various contests.

Are readers well served by such an abundance of demanding articles?

Oh, hell no. By all means, let’s keep things short right about now because people are trying to shop. I mean … I’m sorry … I just … don’t mind the mess, just my head exploding.

When precisely is the right time to challenge our readers? Should we suck throughout December and then ramp things up in July? But people are on vacation then! What about in March? St. Patrick’s Day might distract them. Hmm, October? Back to school madness. It’s so hard, isn’t it? Everybody’s just too busy right now to read.

Yeah, that’s a lot of stories and a lot of words and a lot of attention being asked of people. But I assume they wouldn’t be picking up the New York Times if all they wanted was a quick check of the inujury reports before heading to the OTB. And I don’t think discouraging serious and detailed journalism at ANY time is something the public editor of a newspaper really ought to be doing.


7 thoughts on “Demanding Articles

  1. Not only do I agree with everything you already said, there’s this:
    “Why this deluge of fine journalism just when many readers are already busy with holiday activities? I’m fairly certain it’s because Dec. 31 is a deadline for the most significant journalism contests.”
    So what are they doing the rest of the year? Is their “fine journalism” simply a reflection of their competitiveness?

  2. Well, at a paper the size of the Times I’m sure there are many more stories than the news hole has room for, and internal pressure along the lines of “Okay, you ran HIS series, now run mine!” kind of thing. So that mighte account for some of it. But Calame’s cynicism on the subject gives rise to exactly the same type of questions you’re asking, and he should be more than “fairly certain” that’s the reason before he shoots off his mouth, for fear of leaving exactly the impression that you got.

  3. well, it’s been said by smarter people than me, but Calame doesn’t have enough to do if this is what he thinks he needs to spend his time on.
    And even if the stories are appearing because of competitions, so the fuck what? I’ve got news for him, most things outside your control are happening because of agendas other than yours and likely not for your direct benefit. The “special” at the restaurant? It’s what’s cheap for the chef to buy right now. The soup? It’s what’s left over from last night’s prep work. Do you complain because you’re not being well served, or because your plate is too full?
    Do you even own a television or live near a movie theater? There are huge amounts of special programming right now, and the average viewer would have to spend a week to see it all, right now in the middle of all their shopping. Do you think anyone other than you gives a shit that theres’ too much?
    And besides, you’re a public editor, fer chrissakes. One would imagine you might have some insights into the way people utilize newspapers. The reader who sits down and reads the paper from from to back is virtually non-existent. People pick and choose, and you know what? Most of them have the capacity to start an article, go shopping, and come back and finish it.
    God forbid a fucking newspaper should deluge it readers with journalism.

  4. I’ve got to say I sympathize with this issue. The San Jose Mercury News has run what I assume was an excellent series of articles on a very important topic – the injured soldiers returning from Iraq. But instead of covering this topic regularly, with stories the average person can read, what they had was 3 days of multiple full page articles detailing the story of one guy who had part of his head blown off in Iraq. As I said, this was no doubt an important topic, but my god, who’s got time to read that much detail about this unfortunate person and his struggle? There’s no doubt this does relate to journalism awards. If they were interested in just plain good journalism, they would cover this topic as regularly as they do the San Francisco 49’ers, i.e., every day. But not with an intimidating multipage article that no more than a few percent of their readers likely made it through.
    Eli Stephens
    Left I on the News

  5. Whoopee — so in 5th grade I would have spent 10 minutes on them, and by 7th grade less than 5 minutes. I assume this makes it impossible for Mr B to get thru them by lunch time.

  6. If his question is “why not do this level of journalism throughout the whole year” then I can agree with that. Not knowing this commentator or his past work, I have no clue if that’s what he was driving at.

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