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NYT.com City Room Blogger Sewell Chan on Newsroom Integration April 17, 2009

Posted by Kristin in symposium.
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Sewell Chan, blogger for the New York Times metro blog “City Room”  gave a definite yes answer to the question of “Is multimedia, multiplatform newsroom integration working?”  Or at least yes, it is working for the New York Times.

Chan quickly pointed out that he was a traditional print person until two years ago, saying that he was always known for being productive which is probably why he got kind of pushed into blogging.  This was a bit shocking to me, seeing as the switch from print to web and being able to correctly do both is a big controversy these days!

He said 2005 was the  year of integration for the Times and the year in which the first blog was produced.  The Times now has over 70 blogs, which might be a little too much, according to Chan.  2007 was when the Times moved into new headquarters, abling the print and digital staffs to operate under the same roof without separation.

Chan admitted that he was a bit hesitant to do the blog, saying that he thought blogs meant “short snippits of poorly edited information” and because of the “highly personal, gossip tone” blogs tend to have.  However, this is not at all the feel of the City Room blog.  The blog is group written, entirely reported and carefully editted.  But, it was not too easy to get people to integrate themselves into the blog or contribute to it Chan said.  Chan then addressed the popular myth that younger journalists are more web savy and  understand multimedia the best.  “Not the case,” Chan said.  Political reporters grasped the idea right away, he said, followed by others who saw the blog as a way to “answer questions they couldn’t in the print addition.”  He said this has created a development of new skill sets, mentioning the fact that the blog has live blogged many events.

Chan repeatably said how impressed he was with the Times flexability and ability of the staffers to work so “organically and well” together.  Chan said many of the web producers have become a vital link in meetings and that many story ideas are actually generated by the multimedia folks.  The work flow has shifted he said.  Stories are now competing for space on the digital front page rather than the print front page.

The blog has helped drastically with the “economy of the link,” Chan said, and the print reporters are constantly working to better understand this.  Hearing Chan speak on how important the blog’s blogroll is was very interesting.  He said they are “very proud” of it because it contains “dozens and dozens of the best blogs in NYC.”  Getting on it isn’t easy either.  The standards are high and you must update your blog often with original content to even be considered.  “People are constantly writing in to try to get on the blogroll,” Chan said.

Chan wrapped up by saying the latest way the Times is moving people from print to digital is by starting two new hyperlocal sites, one covering two neighborhoods in Brooklynn and the other covering three cities in New Jersey.

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