This week, the nation’s best newspaper offered what it is calling, Times Insider. It’s pretty cool and may provide one of the keys for all of us going forward.
The idea is to give your most engaged readers unprecedented access to the journalists of the New York Times and a clear window into decisions that always seemed opaque before. The premium offer comes at a price. It costs digital subscribers another $10 a month.
Among other things, it promises question and answers with Times reporters:
This feature will try to put you behind the scenes at The Times. It will explore how we cover a war zone, how we launch projects, how we choose photographs — basically, how we work.
This is most fascinating for anyone who has been in the business more than, say, five years. Before it started to seem silly, we jealously guarded the “secrets” of the trade. We didn’t want readers to see how the sausage of journalism gets made. We wouldn’t have dreamed, for instance, of letting readers sit in on our editorial meetings. They might hear our snark and learn out biases. But that is one suggestion from Times Insider, and it’s something Digital First Media papers did several years ago.
The Times, like most newspapers, was sort of like Oz. You knew there was a wizard back there somewhere, but he was very well hidden from the commoners. …
Now, on Times Insider, in addition to interviews with reporters, there are also videos with newsmakers, called Times Talks, and tips for cultural things to keep an eye on. It’s all branded and unique and helps the bottom line.
Here’s why I like it, beyond the unique content and extra revenue. It invites a greater understanding of the terrifically difficult job of journalism. I think it is a good thing that we share our quandaries and questions with the people who consume our product. I think it just might make our readers more understanding of the sometimes difficult choices we face. Here’s an example. It’s an interview with Adam Nossiter, the Times West and Central Africa bureau chief.
Q. Coverage of Africa is generally so grim. Do you worry that your coverage tends to convey a picture of war and strife that’s not representational?
A. Every story has to be a balance. To me there is no such thing as a negative story or a positive story. My job is to cover the news, and the news, very often in Africa, is about conflict. The countries here are working out the basic questions of governance, and that does often include conflict. I don’t believe that one should sugarcoat the reality of what is often a very difficult place for people to live by reporting on yam festivals or some entrepreneur who has come up with a brilliant idea. I don’t think that would be a fair representation of what the reality of life for most Africans is like, and I think it’s ultimately not what we are trying to get across. I don’t think American readers are going to believe that either.
Imagine your own news organization doing that. … Explaining why you devote so many resources to elections, say, at the expense of something lighter. Imagine how readers might respond and consider that their very response is sort of the point.