I, like many curmudgeonly bloggers, often find fault with the New York Times, from its management, to its online pricing strategy, to the inaccuracies of some of its writers (yes, you Alessandra Stanley). However, the Times does have the best newspaper website in the country and still has, overall, the best content and writers/thinkers of any newspaper in America.
And the Times website just got even better with TimesCast.
Here's how the Times describes it:
The program, called TimesCast, lasting a few minutes, will appear on the nytimes.com home page at 1 p.m. each day; after 2 p.m., it will move to a less prominent position on the site. (It can always be found at nytimes.com/timescast.) It features interviews with editors and reporters who are covering the major stories, and scenes from meetings among the paper's top editors discussing events that might go on the front page.
"It's not just straight, breaking news, it's talking about the way the New York Times is looking at the story -- our analysis, our particular take on the story," said Ann Derry, the paper's editorial director for video and television. "We already produce a lot of video to go along with stories, but we felt the need to have a regular video news overview on the home page."
The first three TimesCasts opened with the noon page one meeting in which the editors and reporters discuss the stories that will appear on the front page of the Times. It's fascinating. It's what is called "news as process."
I first heard this term of art in the 1980s when WOR-TV in New York (now WWOR-TV, Channel 9) opened its 11:00 p.m. newscast with a meeting of its newsroom managers, producers, and anchor Roland Smith. I asked my friend Willis Duff at that time the managing partner, I believe, of television news consultancy AR&D about the newscast and he said that several stations around the country were using this news-as-process approach because research had shown that people were fascinated with how the news sausage was made.
Of course I don't know if the Times is familiar with the research, but it has done it right in starting with the page one meeting. The segment is well edited and shows a heterogeneous group of editors intelligent discussing why a news story belongs on the front page. Associate managing editor Jim Roberts runs the meeting and asks smart, informed questions as the editors pitch their stories.
The graphics are excellent because there are banners that show what the three or four main stories are and banners that fade in out that tell who the editors and reporters are. The editors and reporters have faces, they can walk and talk and ask and answer smart questions.
Some, like Executive Editor Bill Keller and editor Jim Roberts are attractive enough to be anchors on a New York TV station or on a major network -- but obviously much too smart to stoop to that. They really know what they are talking about and communicate concisely and intelligently about the stories that are being covered; they are not merely news readers or hollow personalities.
Then the editors and reporters that are involved in the three top stories talk about these stories and give some insights, and they are good teases for the more in-depth and complete stories on the site. Smart promotion as well as great information.
The Monday TimesCast ran 6:21, the 23rd it was 6:50, and the 24th it was 6:30, which is cool because it doesn't have a set time to fill and isn't interrupted by commercials like a TV newscast is.
The time for the big-three network evening newscasts is set in granite at a half hour and can't deviate for a second regardless if there is worthwhile news to fill the time. That half hour contains 22 minutes of news and eight minutes of commercials. Of the 22 minutes some (more and more) are "human-interest" stories or celebrity crap, and there is typically a silly kicker story that is supposed to leave you smiling.
So, typically, in a network newscast you don't get as much brain food in 22 minutes as you get in an average of 6:30 in a TimesCast. Plus, you get the TimesCast at 1:00 p.m., so you know five and a half hours ahead of time what the networks will be featuring at 6:30 p.m., because they all follow the lead of The Times nine times out of ten anyway.
I'm putting a reminder in Outlook to ping me at 1:00 p.m. from now on so I can watch TimesCast, and if I miss a showing I can go to http://nytimes.com/timescast and watch the ones I miss or re-watch ones that are particularly interesting with an easy click of my mouse.
The Times has hit a run home with its TimeCast, and I'm here to cheer.