The New York Times


Instagrammer: ‘I am very happy my photo was selected’

Thursday’s post about The New York Times’ audience-submitted Instagram front page created quite a debate among journalists about the rules and ethics of user-generated content.

Many of the answers to those questions – how copyright works when a user tags a photo on Instagram, for example – are unclear and deserve future examination.

Right now, though, I want to share an update on the experience of an Instagram user whose photo was one of nine featured on the Times’ front page. Jeca Taudte, who was quoted in yesterday’s story, added additional thoughts in the comments:

As someone quoted in this story, I want to set the record straight: I uploaded my Instagram photo to the NYT website fully aware of their terms, which I could access on the upload page. I wanted them to use the photo. Nothing was stolen. They credited me accurately and as part of the submission process, they had my email. And although I was surprised they hadn’t contacted me the day they used it – it’s the NYT after all – I was not upset.

But more importantly, the NYT contacted me very early this morning Thursday, January 29 before this story ran, letting me know the photo had been featured on the front page and offering to send me copies of the paper.

That point is not included in the story, but should be. Maybe it would have been if I had known Katie was writing about this and could have alerted her. But I didn’t, because our entire interaction took place in the comments section of one of her Instagram posts that a mutual friend tagged me in.

I am very happy my photo was selected and I have no complaints about the NYT process, except perhaps that my Instagram handle and the handles of the other Instagrammers who submitted such great photos would have been included.

I also received an update from Taudte through my Instagram page.

There are a few important items to address here based on Taudte’s comment:

  • It’s great that the Times contacted Taudte the day after publication, Thursday, to thank her and offer copies of the paper (and I’m assuming/hoping they contacted the other photographers, too).
  • I contacted the Times on Wednesday evening asking whether users were contacted prior to publication.
  • I still have not heard back from the Times’ PR representatives. I’ll continue to follow up with the NYT in hopes of getting some answers.

I’ve mentioned this a few times now – in my article and throughout various replies on social networks – but I’m happy that the Times is experimenting with user-generated content. Overall, I was thrilled to see the Instagram front page. The photos were great, and it was an appropriate way to incorporate UGC.

That said, there are a few remaining concerns and unanswered questions:

  • Did all of the nine featured photographers submit their photos through the upload form, or did some of them just tag #nytsnow? If it’s the latter, did the Times obtain permission from those users before publishing their photos?
  • As Tautde pointed out, everyone’s Instagram handles should have been included in the photo credits. It was difficult to find the photographers on Instagram (and I haven’t been able to determine everyone’s usernames). My suggestion: Jeca Taudte/@taudte.
  • Even if users submitted through an upload form – and therefore accepted the site’s Terms of Service – are journalists still legally obligated to contact those people for permission before publishing their images in the newspaper?
  • What exactly are the legal rules surrounding hashtags like #nytsnow?

The rules and ethics of user-generated content are tricky and, in many cases, it seems newsrooms are making them up as they go along.

I’m glad my article struck a nerve and hope to continue exploring these issues. If you have other questions about this case study, feel free to share them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to follow up.

Related: News University course: Copyright Law and Fair Use for Journalists Read more


Dean Baquet still unsure about future of national race beat

New York Times

New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet hasn’t yet decided what will become of The New York Times’ national race beat now that Tanzina Vega has been reassigned to cover the Bronx courthouse, public editor Margaret Sullivan reported Thursday:

At this point, he said, “I haven’t decided what to do about the beat, but I know that it has to be covered paper-wide.

Baquet told Sullivan that although the future of Vega’s beat is uncertain, The New York Times will provide “paper-wide” coverage of race. Deputy Executive Editor Susan Chira told Sullivan that because issues of race are of critical importance, covering them shouldn’t be confined “to one reporter or beat.”

Sullivan also called the timing of Vega’s reassignment “odd” in light of the recent news surrounding the death of Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Tamir Rice. Read more


Instagrammers discover front-page NYT placement by chance

Follow-up story: Instagrammer: ‘I am very happy my photo was selected’

New York Times front page on Wednesday, January 28. (Photo by Katie Hawkins-Gaar)

New York Times front page on Wednesday, January 28. (Photo by Katie Hawkins-Gaar)

It was an exciting moment for user-generated content. The New York Times featured nine Instagram photos on the front page of its Wednesday edition.

As far as I can tell, it was the first time audience-submitted Instagram photos landed on the front page of the printed edition. Poynter reached out to The New York Times for comment, but did not receive a response by time of publication.

This wasn’t the first occasion that the Times featured an Instagram shot on its front page. In March 2013, the paper published an Instagram portrait of Alex Rodriguez. Sports portraitist Nick Laham shot the photo, which was licensed by Getty.

Overall, I was thrilled to see the placement. Prior to joining Poynter, I was the editor of CNN iReport, the network’s citizen journalism platform. Throughout my tenure, I often made the case that user-generated content could stand alongside professional reporting – given the necessary context and verification, of course.

The Times’ Wednesday layout, which placed audience snow images alongside the paper’s own reporting, was an excellent example of how to properly incorporate UGC. The Times invited their audience to share images earlier in the week. (I didn’t note this in an earlier version of this story. Thanks to everyone who pointed it out.)

Unfortunately, there were a few missteps in the front-page placement. For starters, they should have put users’ Instagram handles in the photo credits, at least in the digital version. To be fair, the Times does get points for crediting their readers by full name.

More egregiously, though, the paper did not inform users that their photos earned front-page status. Based on the comments on their Instagram posts, most of the photographers found out thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers.

Jeca Taudte, one of the Instagrammers featured, said the Times didn’t contact her prior to publishing her photo. “Another gracious Instagrammer [commented] on my photo, which alerted me to the fact that me submission had been selected for the online slideshow,” she said. It wasn’t until a Facebook friend posted a photo of the paper that Taude realized that her shot made it on the Times’ front page.

Essential blizzard prep: Move the boat. #Juno #nyc #vsconyc #VSCOcam

A photo posted by Jeca Taudte (@taudte) on Jan 26, 2015 at 11:17am PST

Taudte later passed on the favor, notifying Terrence Liew, Betina Schmitt and Travis Chantar via Instagram that their photos were also among the nine chosen images.

Wouldn’t you want to know in advance if your photo was going to be on the front page of The New York Times? Taudte said she was “very much” excited when she heard the news.

Audience development – including how to approach UGC seriously – was one of the main areas of focus in The New York Times Innovation Report, which created waves in the journalism world after it was leaked last May.

“Our readers are perhaps our greatest untapped resource. Deepening our connection with them both online and offline is critical in a world where content so often reaches its broadest audience on the backs of other readers. And many readers have come to expect a two-way relationship with us, so they can engage with our journalism and our journalists. This means the newsroom as a whole must take the reins in pursuing user-generated content, events and other forms of engagement in a way that reflects our standards and values.”

An important part of that two-way relationship includes informing users when you run their content.

“Closing the loop” has long been a mantra for the CNN iReport team. Whenever we quoted an iReporter in an article, featured someone’s photo in a gallery, or posted a user’s video on our Instagram feed, we would always make a point to let that person know. When possible, we’d also link to their profile on social networks.

I’m not claiming iReport is perfect, but those simple emails or phone calls went a long way towards building relationships with our community and ensuring that users would continue to contribute valuable content.

The ethics of using user-generated content are constantly transforming and there’s a healthy debate within the industry. Do you pay contributors? Ask for permission first? What happens if someone is in a dangerous situation? It’s a complicated and fascinating discussion.

UGC rules often need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. That said, I believe that there are two basic things all media organizations can and should do: Properly credit user-submitted photos and videos and let people know when and where their content is being featured. Those are easy and effective ways to build a relationship with your audience.

The Times got one of those things right. Here’s hoping they fully follow their own advice next time.

Correction: An earlier version of this story spelled reins incorrectly. It has been corrected.

Follow-up story: Instagrammer: ‘I am very happy my photo was selected’

Related: News University course: Copyright Law and Fair Use for Journalists Read more


Career Beat: Clark Gilbert leaves Deseret News

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Clark Gilbert will be president of BYU-Idaho. Previously, he was CEO of Deseret News and Deseret Digital Media. (Poynter)
  • Peter Kendall will be managing editor at the Chicago Tribune. Previously, he was deputy managing editor there. Colin McMahon will be associate editor at the Chicago Tribune. Previously, he was cross media editor there. Joycelyn Winnecke will be president of Tribune Content Agency. Previously, she was associate editor of the Chicago Tribune. (Poynter)
  • Tanzina Vega will be the Bronx courthouse reporter at The New York Times. Previously, she was a race reporter there. (Poynter)
  • John Reiss is now executive producer at “Meet the Press.” Previously, he was acting executive producer there. (Politico)
  • Darcie Conway is now an editor at Previously, she was a content curator at Upworthy. (PR Newswire)
  • Tim O’Connor will be publisher of Shape. Previously, he was a managing director for Meredith’s corporate sales group. Eric Schwarzkopf will be associate publisher at Shape. Previously, he was publisher at Fitness. Betty Wong will be vice president of brand development for Shape and Fitness. Previously, she was editor-in-chief of Fitness. (Email)

Job of the day: The New England Center for Investigative Reporting is looking for an investigative reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


4 reasons the New York Times Company won’t be sold anytime soon

New York Times Sales
We learned last week that Michael Bloomberg would like to buy the New York Times Company. He even spoke to Chairman Arthur Sulzberger about it a couple of years ago. So what else is new? Rupert Murdoch covets the Times as well.

The only live question is whether the Sulzberger family would sell.  Through a spokesman Sulzberger said Friday, as he has many times before, that the company was not on the market whatever the offer.

Case closed?  Not quite.  The Wall Street Journal was not for sale until Murdoch’s News Corp. made the Bancroft family an offer — 67 percent above their shares’ trading value — they felt they could not refuse.  Nor did any but the inner circle know the Graham’s Washington Post was for sale until Jeff Bezos bought it in August 2013. Ditto, the Chandler family’s late-1990′s surprise decision to sell Times Mirror to Tribune.

With that one qualifier, I think the Times’ and the Sulzbergers’ situation are so different that a sale anytime soon would be extraordinarily unlikely.

For a seconding expert opinion, I checked by phone with Alex Jones, executive director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, and co-author with his late wife, Susan Tifft, of the definitive book on the Times, The Trust.

“If anything has changed, and some members of the family (are willing to sell), I’m not aware of it,” Jones said, “and I think I would be aware of it.”

The structure of the family trust is the heart of the matter, he added.  “It would be almost impossible unless there was unanimity” among family shareholders to sell the company to an outsider.  Even were there a block of dissident family members, Jones said, stock in the Trust would have to be offered first to the other Class B Trust shareholders before it could go to anyone else.

So that’s a big difference.  The Bancrofts were divided on whether to sell in 2007 but those in favor persuaded some holdouts and outvoted others to accept Murdoch’s offer.

Also no Bancroft family members were still working in management.  The opposite is the case at the New York Times Co, where Sulzberger’s cousin Michael Golden is vice chairman.  Spokesperson Eileen Murphy told me that besides Sulzberger’s son, Senior editor for strategy Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, five other cousins of his generation are in management track jobs at the company.

Circumstances were very different at the Washington Post as well.  The newspaper was losing money with fast-declining revenues.  It had become a small part (about 14 percent) of a much larger company with several very profitable divisions.  Chairman and CEO Donald Graham said he could not justify to shareholders carrying the Post, and making big investments in its digital reinvention, at the expense of the rest.

So Graham and his niece, Post publisher Katharine Weymouth, concluded that the paper needed the infusion of capital and new ideas that Amazon tycoon Bezos could provide — “runway” as Bezos later described it.

The Times as a company is practically the reverse.  As a strategic decision, it has sold all other holdings to concentrate on the New York Times, its digital versions and its international extensions.

Public New York Times shareholders know the score, and while the stock has fallen after a rocky third quarter earnings report, it trades up slightly from its value when the Post was sold 18 months ago.

The newsroom buyouts and layoffs late last year were read in some circles as a sign of major trouble. But the impact of a shave of less than 10 percent of the newsroom budget is not a huge event financially for the company.   Further, the Times has indicated a number of those positions will be reallocated to hiring for digital expansions.

With fourth quarter and full-year results due February 3, the company’s prospects as a business are mixed. Through three quarters, it was showing a 1 percent revenue increase and operating at a tiny net loss (though quite profitable on a cash flow basis).

The Times has shifted its revenue balance away from print advertising, booking big increases in circulation revenue with its digital paywall and smaller ones by growing digital advertising.  Its balance sheet is healthy with $300 million more in cash on hand than debt.

Management’s discussion of the third quarter results did indicate slowing in the potential for another wave of circulation revenue growth and a dilemma as the Times experiences  lower revenue per customer as the reader/subscriber base shifts from print to digital and now to mobile.  But those are challenges are way less severe than the company faced in 2009 when it sought a high-interest loan (with options to buy company stock) from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu.

After the fact of the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal sale it came out that Dow Jones CEO Rich Zannino, while putting a positive spin on results and strategies publicly, was advising the Bancrofts privately that they would never get a better offer and should take it.

Years down the road, Times CEO Mark Thompson or a successor might make a similar recommendation to Sulzberger, Golden and the rest of the family.  But not now.

Disclosure:  Arthur Gregg Sulzberger is a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board, and I spoke with him at some length at the group’s annual meeting here earlier this month. He struck me as smart, current, grounded and fully engaged in the next steps in transforming the company.  As his responsibilities increase, all the more reason to think family control is here to stay for the long haul. Read more


Patricia Smith’s new life as a poet

The New York Times

In The Working Life, Rachel Swarns’ column for The New York Times, Swarns reintroduces readers to Patricia Smith, “Staten Island’s literary sensation, a poet, an English professor and a star on the national stage.”

She’s the same Smith, Swarns writes, who left The Boston Globe in 1998 after admitting to fabrication. Smith doesn’t talk much about that time in her life and asks, basically, to be allowed to move on.

“It’s been 16 years, you know,” said Ms. Smith, 59. “People have to give you a chance to be who you are now.”

Some people who claw their way out of the abyss turn their fall into a strand of their personal narrative. But Ms. Smith does not aspire to be the star of anyone’s tale of reinvention.

Swarns writes about Smith’s work now and the awards she has won. Swarns also spoke with one of Smith’s former colleagues at the Globe.

Walter V. Robinson, who discovered Ms. Smith’s fabrications in the 1990s and is currently The Globe’s editor at large, said that he marvels at her transformation.

“The fact of the matter is that in life, for all of us, we are judged very much by how we bounce back from adversity,” Mr. Robinson said. “In that sense, I’m really heartened by what’s happened in her life.”

Other former journalists who’ve moved on, or tried, have made news again recently, as well. In November of last year, Hanna Rosin wrote about confronting Stephen Glass for the New Republic. In May of last year, Manuel Roig-Franzia wrote for The Washington Post about discovering an instance of plagiarism by Jayson Blair. Read more


Why The New York Times avoids swearing

The New York Times

The New York Times tries to limit its use of profanity to “situations where the specific language is crucial to the story,” New York Times standards editor Philip Corbett told Times public editor Margaret Sullivan for her column Friday. He adds:

If we were to print vulgarities every time a politician, or a sports figure, or even a newspaper editor uttered one, we would print quite a lot of them. Some readers think that would be fine; others might find such a barrage off-putting, distracting or offensive.

Corbett — and Sullivan — were responding to reader criticism of a recent Times story in which New York Times political correspondent Jonathan Martin altered a quote to avoid using a swear word, presumably “shit”:

We settled on George Bush way before the campaign,” said Rob Gleason, the longtime Pennsylvania Republican chairman. With a word more pungent than “slop,” Mr. Gleason recalled, “Everybody was happy: He flew us all down to Austin, and we were like pigs in slop.”

Times copy editors didn’t harangue Martin for changing the quote, Sullivan reports.

News organizations’ adherence to strictures preventing the use of profanity has been questioned in the pages of The Times before. In 2014, the paper published an op-ed by Jesse Sheidlower arguing that journalists should “print exactly what we mean” in cases of profane language.

Also last year, Wall Street Journal standards editor Neal Lipschutz explained how the paper had loosened its rules against using profanity in print after a story containing the word “ass” appeared.

Use of impolite words should still be rare, but there are certain words that we’ll publish now that we wouldn’t have used a decade ago. There still has to be a compelling reason to use the quotation, including demonstrating insight into someone’s character by his or her word choices, but there are times when ass, jackass or yes, suck, may be allowed to appear, in cases where they might have been “Barney-dashed” before.

Whatever your rules on profanity are, anecdotal evidence indicates that cursing improves engagement on social media. Read more


Career Beat: Alexander Burns joins The New York Times

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Alexander Burns is now a metro political correspondent at The New York Times. Previously, he was a senior political reporter for Politico. (Washington Post)
  • Zanny Minton Beddoes will be editor at The Economist. Previously, she was business affairs editor there. (Poynter)
  • Gene Ramírez will be a morning anchor for WFLA in Tampa. Previously, he was a general assignment reporter for WSVN. (Media Moves)

Job of the day: The Wall Street Journal is looking for an economics reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: Read more


6 actual datelines that are almost as good as The Onion’s

In the decades since it was founded, The Onion has taken readers to places no reporter has yet been able to visit. The satirical news organization’s enterprising journalists have filed copy from the vast reaches of space, the fictional world of Sesame Street, the bowels of hell and the zenith of heaven.

But The Onion doesn’t have a monopoly on unusual datelines. Non-fictional reporters have reported stories from exotic and newsworthy locales around the globe. Here are a few we found particularly interesting:

His name was actually Frank Kluckhohn.

His name was actually Frank Kluckhohn.

Aboard President Roosevelt’s funeral train: This dispatch comes “special to the times” from Frank Kluckhohn, who was a foreign correspondent for the paper. According to journalist Robert Klara, many articles filed from the train carried this dateline, regardless of which state the train was in at the time.

Throughout the story, Kluckhohn describes the objects and people in the train with literary and cinematic detail: Roosevelt’s coffin (copper-lined and mahogany, covered with the stars and stripes); the spectators (crying openly and mute); and the time of day (“the black silence of this Southern night”).

Definitely one for the clip file.

On board the Charles de Gaulle: Julien Ponthus reports this story from a French aircraft carrier named for the legendary president of France. Thanks to Ponthus’s perch on the carrier, we learn that it’s stocked with 800 troops and nine fighter jets.

Aboard the Papal Plane: This dateline comes from Associated Press reporter Nicole Winfield, who tells us Pope Francis threw “a pretend punch” at a Vatican functionary. He was trying to demonstrate that mocking subjects of reverence, such as the Prophet Muhammad, can draw a rebuke from the faithful.

"No Santa's workshop," the writer laments.

“No Santa’s workshop,” the writer laments.

Over the North Pole: Associated Press correspondent Charles Campbell gets a much deserved byline for a story filed from the first commercial airliner to visit the top of the world. Campbell’s story, like Kluckhohn’s, has excellent detail combined with a voice suited to the topic at hand. He describes the passengers as “provisioned with champagne and filet mignon” and provides this lighthearted account of the journey’s climactic moment:

For a few minutes, the clouds parted to show the Arctic Ocean ice cap at mid-summer, the white sheet laced by cracks of open water.

But by the time the arrival at the pole was announced — to a chorus of cheers and applause — there was nothing to see but cottony clouds. No red-and-white striped barber pole. No Santa’s workshop.

Aboard the Sosi Inspector: New York Times correspondent Seth S. King reports this detail-rich story from a vessel hunting for sunken treasure off the coast of Massachusetts. The ship, he says, is “crammed with underwater surveillance equipment” and ” carries a huge pressurized chamber” that divers live in for three weeks at a time:

If their several years of research and their assumptions based on it are valid, they should find up to 75 wooden boxes in that hold, each of which, they are convinced, held $40,000 in gold coins, which today would be worth many times that amount.

Absent is any description of the treasure — the expedition was a bust — but if the explorers had struck the jackpot, King would have had the opportunity to witness their jubilation firsthand.

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 9.26.08 AM

Aboard the fishing vessel Al Mulahi: This dateline is accompanied by a description from New York Times senior writer C. J. Chivers of an Iranian fisherman “huddled under a blanket” on a vessel in the Gulf of Oman. Chivers also describes the reaction from Somali pirates when confronted by the U.S. Navy: “six men in T-shirts and tank tops in a small white boat, bobbing on the waves.”

Hat tip to Ronan O’Beirne (@rpobeirne) for that last article.

Know of any great datelines I should add? Send them to and I’ll add them to the list!

Correction: The original version of this story misspelled the name of Times correspondent Frank Kluckhohn. Read more

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NYT should have published Hebdo cover, public editor says

New York Times

New York Times readers “should not have had to go elsewhere” to find the controversial cover from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote Wednesday morning:

Here’s my take: The new cover image of Charlie Hebdo is an important part of a story that has gripped the world’s attention over the past week.

The cartoon itself, while it may disturb the sensibilities of a small percentage of Times readers, is neither shocking nor gratuitously offensive. And it has, undoubtedly, significant news value.

With Charlie Hebdo’s expanded press run of millions of copies for this post-attack edition, and a great deal of global coverage, the image is being seen, judged and commented on all over the world. Times readers should not have had to go elsewhere to find it.

On Monday, BuzzFeed reported The New York Times was one of a few major American newspapers not to publish the controversial cover, with The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal both including the image.

The Times has taken significant flak for its decision not to publish cartoons from the magazine depicting the Prophet Muhammad, whose likeness is sacrosanct among Muslims. Last week, Executive Editor Dean Baquet lashed out at a critic on Facebook, calling him an “asshole”.

Previously: Several publications talked to Poynter’s Kristen Hare about their decision to publish the covers.

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