Dean Baquet: NYT will retire 'system of pitching stories for the print Page 1'
New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet announced Thursday The Times is retiring its system of pitching stories for Page 1 of the print edition in a memo to staff that outlines the paper's growing emphasis on digital journalism.
The Times will continue to have its distinctive morning meetings, Baquet writes. Rather than being focused primarily on which stories will make the front page of the next day's print edition, the paper will "compete for the best digital, rather than print, real estate."
Under the new system, each desk at The New York Times will pitch stories to be considered for "Dean's list," a list of stories that get "the very best play on all our digital platforms," including Web, mobile and social platforms. Under the new system, there will be two Dean's lists — one compiled after the morning meeting, and one after the afternoon meeting. Both lists will have "three or four enterprise pieces."
Enterprise stories, rather than news pieces, will be considered for the lists, Baquet writes.
In the memo, Baquet emphasizes the importance of The Times' editorial meetings, calling them "an important venue" for deciding how the organization should cover stories. The paper will still pitch stories for A1 at the afternoon meeting, but "that process will play a less prominent role," Baquet writes.
In May, Peter Lauria wrote for BuzzFeed that one of the most surprising pieces of advice to come out of The New York Times Innovation Report was warning against putting too much emphasis on page one meetings:
Culturally, the Times’ institutional identity is so tied to Page One that its daily meetings and even a documentary about the paper go by that name. For reporters, being on Page One has long been not just a point of pride, but also a potential career-defining stake in the media ground. Readers remember the bylines under the stories that appear there.
In response to the innovation report, The New York Times has taken steps to bolster its digital footprint, including creating an audience development team and hiring a cadre of digital deputy editors.
In May, Nieman Lab's Joshua Benton wrote that Baquet planned to de-emphasize print in future page one meetings. Reporting on a Times Insider post, Benton noted the shift was "a step" towards the digital-first strategy outlined in the Innovation Report.
Here's the memo:
I’m excited to announce a small but significant step in our digital transformation.
Next week, we’re going to revamp the structure of our daily meetings and adopt a new system for pitching major enterprise.
These changes are intended to ensure that our digital platforms are much less tethered to print deadlines. We need to be posting more of our best stories not in the late evening, but when The Times’s digital readership is at its height:between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
This new system will, in particular, give us more flexibility in targeting readers on mobile (which now receives more than half of our traffic) and on platforms like Facebook (where we are rolling out new strategies for presenting our journalism).
In short, our goal is to further elevate the primacy of our digital platforms in the daily life of the newsroom.
Here are the changes:
• We’re retiring our system of pitching stories for the print Page 1.
• Desks will instead pitch their best enterprise pieces for digital slots on what we’re calling Dean’s List. (I didn’t come up with that name, but I like it!)
• Stories that the masthead selects for Dean’s List will receive the very best play on all our digital platforms – web, mobile, social and others yet to come.
• There will be two Dean’s Lists: one designated after the morning meeting, and one after the afternoon meeting. Each list will typically contain three or four enterprise pieces.
• In general, stories on the lists must be ready for posting shortly after the meeting. In other words, if a desk pitches an enterprise piece for the morning Dean’s List, it must be available for posting by noon or so.
• It’s worth noting that the tradition of selecting Page 1 stories under the old system has long made The Times distinctive. We are seeking to preserve the rigor of this process, but update it for the digital age. Desks will compete for the best digital, rather than print, real estate.
• Desks will continue to pitch news for major digital play at both meetings. Dean’s List slots do not include news – only enterprise.
• In fact, I want to emphasize that I believe that the meetings are an important venue for talking about how we are going to handle the major news of the day. We want to have a robust discussion about lines of coverage and about how our journalism will be presented on different platforms.
• We’ll still select stories for the print Page 1 at the afternoon meeting, but that process will play a less prominent role.
I realize that it will take time for all of us to adjust to this new way of doing things. We’re going to follow up shortly with a memo to the desks about the details and logistics of the new system.
Still, you’ll undoubtedly have questions. Please feel free to reach out to me or other masthead editors.