June 2, 2011

“It’s been a fair amount of that — every kind of crisis you can imagine, starting with a crisis of morale and credibility that I inherited, then going through one [m—–f—–] of a recession,” Bill Keller tells Scott Raab. “It was pretty brutal, more brutal in the news business than in the average business.”

Plus, there’s a sort of existential question about the whole business model of news brought on by the digital revolution, and in tandem with that there’s the question of how you adapt a newsroom of people who grew up doing print to the audience and opportunities of the Web. There’s also reporter-in-danger crises, of which I’ve had a fair share. Then there’s other stuff that I sometimes think of as an in loco parentis role. You have these people who work for you, but they’re also people. They have families and people in their family get cancer and die, and there’s a lot of being there for people. That was not something I had anticipated.

Keller talks about….
* His relationship with publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.: “[We’ve] developed a great deal of trust and mutual respect. … As time goes on and I look around the country, I can’t see another publisher on earth that I’d trade him for.”
* Meeting Rupert Murdoch for the first time: “I couldn’t understand a damn thing he was saying. A whole bunch of people were meeting and greeting, and he’s got a very thick Australian accent and he kind of mumbles, and so we had about 15 minutes of incredibly awkward conversation.”
* The Times being a Fox News punching bag: “There are commentators on Fox News who, if they didn’t have The New York Times, would be selling exercise equipment on late-night TV.”
* The “Page One” documentary: “I found it kind of boring. …Then I realized that one reason I found it boring is that it seems very familiar.”
* His worst moment on the job: “I remember getting the phone call one morning that David Rohde had been kidnapped by the Taliban. And this was the stage when the Taliban tended to cut the heads off people they kidnapped.”
> “Nice job, Bill Keller,” writes American Journalism Review’s editor
> NYT newsroom changes draw jokes, congratulations on social networks

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From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August…
Jim Romenesko

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