August 26, 2016

The New York Times appears to be getting further away from its print roots in a bid to cover the news on a variety of platforms.

That’s the impression one comes away with after a close look at three new job ads from The New York Times posted Friday morning. The ads, which seek editors for education, gender and climate change coverage, are all looking for editors with skills that go way beyond those required to put out a daily newspaper.

And they come just a few months after Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, pledged to distance assigning editors from the burden of producing the Times’ print edition.

In a memo to staffers Friday, Baquet said the editors will lead teams “organized above all to serve our rapidly growing online audience.”

“We already have a few digital-first departments, but none of them has primary responsibility for covering major news,” Baquet wrote. “These new teams will have such responsibilities and, as a result, will become models for the newsroom of the near future.”

Reading between the lines, here are a few key passages that show how the Times is thinking about the way it approaches beat coverage going forward.

No newsprint required

All three ads clearly state that the editors won’t have to worry about ordering space for the Times’ various print sections. The jobs will also be free of the Times’ notoriously bureaucratic department structure, which will presumably give them latitude to work with journalists possessing a wide variety of expertise and skills:

The education editor will collaborate with many others throughout the newsroom, but will operate apart from the current department structure, with no print obligations.

Hints of a vertical strategy

Each of the ads indicates that editors intend to turn coverage topics into standalone brands, as The New York Times has done in the past with Dealbook (business coverage), Well (health coverage) and Watching (entertainment coverage).

The ad for a climate change editor, for example, asks prospective applicants who they have in mind to serve as “a signature voice” for coverage — calling to mind a single journalist who might curate a newsletter, report marquee stories, hold events and appear on live video.

And the ad for the Times’ gender editor mentions a standalone product outright by seeking “a creative, passionate leader to guide a cross-platform, global coverage vertical on the topic of gender and identity.”

A voice on all platforms

Lastly, it’s clear that these editors will be responsible for more than text. Each job ad notes that editors will be required to think about how news should be presented on a variety of platforms. Here’s an excerpt from The Times’ education editor job:

The coverage should include journalism in a variety of formats: video, photography, newsletters, data visualizations, podcasts, conferences and more. The unit should make strategic decisions about which forms are top priorities and which are not.

Reading through the ads, one thing is becoming clear: As The Times’ ongoing effort to reimagine its news report continues, these positions are part of a new news organization that is trying to eschew bureaucracy and embrace collaboration across a variety of teams and formats.

Here’s Baquet’s full memo:

The digital tools at our disposal allow us to tell stories in new, exciting ways – as you all demonstrate every day. Rather than relying only on traditional news stories, we can also write in a different voice, and we can present our journalism much more visually than in the past.

In recent months, the masthead and I have announced several initiatives that show how the newsroom is moving forward. The marriage between great reporting and innovative storytelling is why we’re so excited about today’s announcement.

We will be creating three new coverage teams that, from the start, will be organized above all to serve our rapidly growing online audience. We already have a few digital-first departments, but none of them has primary responsibility for covering major news. These new teams will have such responsibilities and, as a result, will become models for the newsroom of the near future.

The new teams will be Climate, Education and Gender, three vital subjects on which readers look to The Times for authoritative coverage. The climate story is arguably the most important in the world today, and education and gender are not far behind, given the role they play in so many other stories, including economics and inequality and race, and politics. Lots of places write about these topics, many very well. But few are able to bring our level of on-the-ground reporting and digital storytelling prowess to these subjects.

We expect these teams to function on their own, apart from the current department structure, reporting to me and the masthead and overseeing all reporters and editors whose primary focus is climate, education or gender. The Print Hub helps makes the creation of these teams possible, and it will decide where the stories will run in the newspaper.

I expect these teams to look different from most newsroom departments, with a richer mix of writers and visual journalists. And the search for the leaders of these three departments is open to journalists with different backgrounds, including people who did not begin their careers as writers. There are no leading candidates. In fact, we are conducting an open search for the three leaders, considering both internal and outside candidates. I welcome applications from all parts of the newsroom.

We will be conducting this search in a different way from past searches, and it too will be a model for the future. Any interested candidate should submit a detailed vision for the coverage they plan to lead directly to me, or Sam Dolnick. This vision should define the group’s mission and its goals: What audiences are we trying to reach and how will we serve them? Who are our main competitors, and how will our coverage stand out? Which stories are a priority – and which are not? Which journalistic forms, including video, are a priority — and, just as important, which are not? What should be the team’s staffing mix, and how will it work with other parts of the newsroom? How will we know whether the team is succeeding and whether it should grow in the future? And of course what are the biggest news stories and investigations in these subject areas. The masthead will be choosing the new leaders based in large part on these visions and on follow-up conversations. I will be setting up a group of Times journalists from various departments to help with this search.

As I’ve said before, this moment is an exciting one for The Times. We have the ability to make our report even better than it already is – and to put it in front of even more readers. I look forward to hearing from people who want to make that happen on three of today’s most engaging subjects.

— Dean

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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