Nathaniel Gaynor

The Times must Evolve, not Devolve

There is no question that the Internet, social media and the digital age in general have turned newspapers on their side and then rolled them down a hill. People no longer have to turn to The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal for all of their news when they can pull up Twitter on their phone or Facebook on their laptop to get a quick glance of everything going on in the world.

Papers like The New York Times must find ways to innovate. The Times has done this actually very well with its app: New York Times Now. I’ve been using the app since I heard about it in this class and it is extremely useful. It could arguably be the go-to news app as it grows. However, it still doesn’t replace the easy use of social media.

Therefore, The Times has had to cater to social media. The Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, assailed NYT for wasting resources on trivial social media stories. For example, the paper compiled an article that put together links to all of its coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial back in the 90’s. The Times wanted to capitalize on the rejuvenated interest in Simpson following the release of the new miniseries American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. 

I see nothing wrong with the paper have a social-focused reporting team in theory. Putting together a list of NYT articles on O.J. for a new generation is not a big deal. It is not much different from The Boston Globe recompiling all of its stories on the Catholic church scandal following the release of The Globe‘s biographical film Spotlight. 

Chasing social media news for the sake of chasing social media news though could be damaging to the brand in the long-run. The New York Times is not Buzzfeed or The Huffington Post and it should not be. Newspapers need to learn to evolve with social media – taking what they succeed at doing and finding ways to spread it in the digital age. What it should not do is devolve into a “hot topics” blog.

A good idea to continue integrity but still capitalize on some of these social stories would be to write opinion pieces and analysis about them rather than cover them like hard news. It shows that papers have their fingers on the pulse while not stooping to a level that is well below them.

Social media is a scary thing – especially for company’s that have had trouble adapting over the years or are very set in their own ways. These papers should seriously look at any social-based pieces before they post.

 

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