Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

I love the NYT redesign

In Design on March 3, 2017 at 9:13 am


I love the newly redesigned A2 and A3 in the New York Times so much that I dropped the paper and sat down to tap this out. If you are looking for a constructive way to fill space when your AP contract runs out, read on. This is it.

The idea, according to a note that appeared on the day the new look was unveiled, was to provide a “a quick and engaging roundup” of what is found in the Times that day.

Page 2, at least today, includes the masthead, a table of contents, a “This Date in History” pulled from past editions, and a 400-word column called “Inside the Times,” which tells some inside baseball.

Page 3 is one-paragraph summaries of inside stories, a quote of the day, a look at the most viewed stories online, something called “spotlight” that might be a couple paragraphs about something you posted on Facebook with a photo, and a small bite called “Here to help.” It is a tip riffing off something in the news. (Today, it’s a suggestion that you watch the film classic “All about Eve” in advance of a new television series about the acrimony between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.)

I could do something like this for our paper in an hour. Once the template was in place, I could paginate it in 45 minutes (because I’m slow.) … Read the rest of this entry »


What we are missing

In Media on March 25, 2016 at 8:49 am

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This is not a post about Donald Trump. This is a discussion about us, and the things we’ve been getting wrong.

David Brooks is making me write this. Well, not exactly. But my ruminations were spawned by his column last week, headlined, “No, not Trump, not ever.” As you might surmise from a headline like that, Brooks – an unabashed conservative who often explains the virtue in Republican positions – is not enamored with Trump.

Which is neither here nor there, and not why I’m writing this. It’s not the headline that stopped me, but rather something buried in the column:

… many in the media, especially me, did not understand how (Trump voters) would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it’s a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I’m going to report accurately on this country.

There it is. The rare admission that beltway journalists from from polite society are not well connected with the folks about whom they are endlessly squawking. The esteemed prognosticator Nate Silver made a similar acknowledgment recently when he called the Bernie Sanders’ Michigan victory an epic defeat for pollsters. … Read the rest of this entry »

Covering Google

In journalism on February 4, 2016 at 4:15 pm

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This week, The New York Times Insider featured reporter Conor Dougherty and his hunt for Larry Page. Dougherty is the NYT reporter assigned to cover Google, and people like company CEO Page.

The headline sort of says it all: “Try to interview Google’s cofounder. It’s emasculating.”

Today’s tech giants, companies like Google and Apple, are dedicated to sharing information, often information about you and I for which these companies pay nothing. Yet, they are some of the most closed ecosystems on the planet. Tech execs are famous for making maids sign non-disclosure agreements. They have state-of-the-art security and reporters rarely if ever really get a glimpse of what truly goes on behind the website. The New York Times asked to interview Page more than 18 months ago and is still waiting for an answer.

Being in Google’s figurative backyard, we run into this a bit at the Half Moon Bay Review. Recently, we wanted to interview Liv Wu. She is the director of something called the Google Teaching Kitchen. I’d like to ask her what that is, but she is sworn to secrecy. Even though she is a “local” who lives near the Review, was once a newspaper reporter like me and we were specifically guided to her with her email and phone number by a publicist. We wanted to ask her about her completely non-Google work as a member of a committee putting on a local festival.

Such requests had to go through Google, we were told. So we chose someone else to feature.

I mention all this because today’s business titans are more inaccessible than ever before. They rarely consent to interviews with journalists, preferring to issue their own unchallenged statements via social media. It’s so much easier that way. None of those pesky questions. … Read the rest of this entry »

Virtual reality changes everything

In Innovation on November 12, 2015 at 6:23 pm


The New York Times completely rocked my world on the morning of Nov. 8. I waddled to the driveway, cup of joe in hand, and picked up the thick wad of newspaper that always greets me on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t until I got inside and unwrapped the thing that I noticed the cardboard box.

What’s this?

It turned out to be a virtual reality machine, for lack of a better term. The result of a partnership with Google, the box unfolded to form something that looked a lot like the Viewmaster from my childhood. A sheet that came with it instructed me to download the NYTVR app on my cellphone. After that, I clicked a link to a video – a 10-minute documentary really. I put the phone in the cardboard and …

There is really no way to describe the experience, but here goes: The New York Times, through a phone app and a piece of cardboard, transported me to war-torn Africa, a Syrian refugee camp and into the ravaged Ukraine. I was alongside three of the 30 million children worldwide who have been displaced by war.

I will never think of video or news the same way again. Period. Here’s the Times announcement.

Of course, I knew about virtual reality. I was vaguely aware that it was being used for gaming and all sorts of training purposes. It seemed to require big, bulky headsets, fancy cameras and who knew what all. It just didn’t seem like something I would be interested in. And I wasn’t alone. … Read the rest of this entry »

Body image and the press

In journalism on July 16, 2015 at 12:56 pm

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Boy, did The New York Times step into a swamp with what I at first thought a fairly benign story on Serena Williams, female athletes and body image.

The story quoted several professional tennis players who said they refused to lift weights and work on greater strength training necessary to combat the juggernaut that is Williams. Williams, of course, is perhaps greatest tennis player of all time. She has a famously powerful build and it’s easy to assume that build has something to do with the power she generates. So why don’t her competitors take steps to increase their own power through weight-training and so on?

It turns out that at least some of them are afraid they will lose their girlish figures. That is quite a statement from enlightened professional women in the year 2015.

The Times story appeared below the fold, buried in sports. It wasn’t a long story. It felt kind of perfunctory, to me. The response was vitriolic, however.

Hundreds of readers took the newspaper to task for failing to challenge the stereotypes or that a female athlete should be some kind of delicate flower. … Read the rest of this entry »

He didn’t take crap

In Writing on February 20, 2015 at 9:49 am

We lost one of the greats when New York Times media writer David Carr died over the weekend. I guess, given his obvious frail condition and history of personal abuse, I’m not surprised by his untimely death. But I am really, really sorry to hear of it.

There was a time when newspaper newsrooms were filled with characters like Carr. Jimmy Breslin, Hunter Thompson, Jim Murray, Molly Ivins – these were people who “stomped the terra,” has Lord Buckley put it. They did not take crap; they gave it. They believed in the power of their news organization and they used the bully pulpit afforded them to full effect.

For the sake of our business, I hope Carr wasn’t the last of the breed.

His was a story of redemption. His memoir, “The Night of the Gun,” is one of the most harrowing things I’ve ever read. It chronicles his time as a crack addict and alcoholic on the streets of Minnesota and his subsequent rise to become one of the leading lights of New York journalism. In the book, he writes of his nadir – leaving his young daughters in the car, in the winter cold, for hours on end, while he went into a crack house to get high. “I decided that my teeny twin girls would be safe, that God would look after them while I did not,” he wrote. By the grace of god, those girls, now in their 30s, lived to deliver their father’s eulogy on Tuesday.

Carr didn’t suffer fools, including himself. A passage from the book:

If I said I was a fat thug who beat up women and sold bad coke, would you like my story? What if instead I wrote that I was a recovered addict who obtained sole custody of my twin girls, got us off welfare and raised them by myself, even though I had a little touch of cancer? Now we’re talking. Both are equally true, but as a member of a self-interpreting species, one that fights to keep disharmony at a remove, I’m inclined to mention my tenderhearted attentions as a single parent before I get around to the fact that I hit their mother when we were together. We tell ourselves that we lie to protect others, but the self usually comes out looking damn good in the process. …
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What do you slug your story?

In journalism on November 28, 2014 at 11:31 am

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In the Times Insider last week (it’s a premium online deal and behind a paywall), New York Times Assistant News Editor Kyle Massey explained the thinking behind the slugs used by the newspaper of record.

Slugs, of course, are the file names used in the editorial department of news organizations everywhere. A story about a deadly shooting in Roanoke Rapids or Lake Havasu might be slugged MURDER. In general we try to use slugs that are brief and to the point and not easily confused with other stories.

The term “slug” harkens back to earlier print days, when characters were strung together in cold-type sticks or in single lines for Linotype machines. Those individual lines of type were called “slugs” and that term apparently appealed to editors who quickly adopted it.

We all have various conventions for slugs. Massey reveals that, at the Times, stories about the president are slugged either OBAMA or PREXY, the later being the habit used by the newspaper’s international desk. Country names are only used as slugs by the international desk.

I sometimes worry that a slug like CITY COUNCIL will cause production to incorrectly pull up the wrong CITY COUNCIL story. There are surely hundreds of old ones on our server. For that reason, I slug my next opinion piece “EDITORIAL FOR 12-3” and so on. But we don’t always do that. … Read the rest of this entry »

‘It’s about individual stories’

In journalism on October 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm


I was over the moon when my daughter asked if I would cart her and a friend to The Castro Theater in San Francisco to hear Nicholas Kristof speak. I mean, can it get any better than that for an old newspaper editor? For one night at least, my teenager was interested enough in the intersection of global politics and journalism to risk being seen with her father on the streets of the big city.

I am a great admirer of Kristof. The New York Times columnist has earned two Pulitzer Prizes. His reporting from Africa and Asia and others corner of the world has shed light on problems that can use all the illumination they can get. It is some kind of collective international hypnosis that allows us to sleep at night amid genocide, sex trafficking, child soldiers and myriad other unthinkable maladies worrying our world.

On Tuesday night, Kristof spoke of the moral duty of journalists to report on the big stuff that almost by definition isn’t news simply because it isn’t new. He mentioned a UNICEF report noting that 17,000 children under the age of 5 die of preventable diseases every single day. He told us when he was writing about a true humanitarian crisis in Darfur in 2004, during which nearly a half a million people were killed, New York City was fixated instead on a pair of red-tailed hawks. Someone removed their nest from a tony Manhattan residence, sparking, Wikipedia says, an international outcry and a series of impassioned protests organized by New York City Audubon Society and the Central Park birding community. (In case you are wondering, Mary Tyler Moore protested the removal of the nest, not genocide in Africa.) … Read the rest of this entry »

Go inside the New York Times

In Innovation on April 3, 2014 at 12:46 pm

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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. … Read the rest of this entry »

Point out the good stuff

In Editing on March 28, 2014 at 8:00 am


Copy editors are a crotchety set. There are far fewer of them than there used to be (and it’s not because we all suddenly absorbed the lessons of the AP Stylebook and Mrs. Sutton’s seventh-grade English class) but those who remain are upholding the long tradition of curmudgeoning, hurrumphing and tsk-tsking. (I just did that to give the copy editors among us something to do…)

That said, they are nearly always right. Such is the case with Philip Corbett, the associate managing editor for standards at the New York Times. The newspaper’s writers may get tired of hearing his critiques, but I doubt they find much fault with those critiques.

Corbett keeps a blog called After Deadline and it is very much worth following. It’s a collection of things he sees and corrects in the daily newspaper and a regular reminder to the rest of us that Times reporters also sometimes have trouble stringing together words in intelligible ways.

I found one particular post most refreshing in the wake of so much stuffiness. (Go to the blog and scroll to “Bright Passages.”) This time, Corbett used his bully pen to note some fine writing. An example:

ATLANTA — The fountains turned into crystal still-lifes in Savannah, Ga. Ducks walked forlornly on iced-over swimming holes in southern Arkansas. School bus doors froze open in Beaufort, S.C. And pipes froze all over as Southerners, who are not born or made for temperatures in the Minnesota digits, had to consider things they typically take for granted. …
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