I kind of assumed that “Why Quality Journalism Matters,” the title of last night’s Gallatin/NYTimes lecture by Jill Abramson, was the reductive creation of an uninventive event planner. The possibility that Abramson, The Times’ managing editor, would spend an hour and a half talking about decades old common knowledge didn’t cross my mind until she spent an hour and a half doing exactly that.
Nary a forward-looking word was uttered during the lecture, which was instead rife with statements like “there isn’t anything I’m not proud of” and endless listing of award winning articles. The thing is, investigative reporting sets The Times apart and is a legitimately important part of journalism, we get it. But the fact of the matter remains: everyone’s favorite behemoth of in depth reporting can’t really afford to fund it’s habit and that needs to be addressed. But when I asked how The Times plans to pay for their much loved investigative reporting with their growing debt and shrinking revenue, Abramson took five minutes to extol the virtues of investigative reporting. Again.
It was a sidestepping of epic proportions, the sort of proportions that make it impossible not to wonder whether the reason behind it was a complete cluelessness about the answer. Ambramson was right in saying that The Times’ enormous debt isn’t terribly unusual for a company of that age and size. But her apparent unwillingness to even acknowledge that the debt cannot possibly remain static and expenditure should be, i dunno, reconsidered a little bit, created some palpable awkwardness.
But lest we should think that her beloved vessel of well-reported stories is behind the times, questioned about how the paper taps into reader knowledge, Abrams informed us that they allow comments and upload hundreds of pages of reporter-culled documents. If that read a little odd to you, it’s because all it means is that, much like almost every other news site on the internet, users can comment about the content. And they can also read more information found by reporters. More even than in the print edition! Here she is talking about the glories of print to a room illuminated more by screens engaged in Twittering and Liveblogging than by actual light bulbs, and she’s going to ignore the possibility of cost cutting new media tactics like user forums and crowd sourcing almost entirely?