Thursday, July 24, 2008Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times.
Yeah, I was doing it up. But not really.
See, the breakfast was sponsored by the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. In honor of the milestone, they invited alumni of their programs to this breakfast and conversation about the future of the industry with Sulzberger.
I ain't an alumni. But my boss is.
When I told her I was going to UNITY, she mentioned that she'd been invited to this breakfast and wouldn't be able to go. It sounded interesting so I asked.
"Do you think you could see if I could go in your place," I asked her. "Since I'll be there. I don't like mornings, but at conventions, I try to go to as many sessions and events as possible to take advantage of my time there. Just let me know if it is a possibility."
And the sausage, blueberry pastry and pineapple were mm mmm good.
That's one of the cardinal rules of internships, jobs, shoot, just life. Ask and ye shall receive. If there is an opportunity for you to even play a small part on a large project, or you see a reporter grumbling about a story you'd love to have, ask to help out. The absolute worst thing that can happen if you ask is that a person says no. At best, you'll have a great byline, or tagline on an important story and you'll build relationships with coworkers and gain reporting/interviewing/writing techniques by osmosis. So identify what you want, who might be able to give it to you, and see if they're willing to do so. You might be surprised at their answer.
To be honest, I almost didn't make it there this morning. Last night, we were out singing karaoke at a local club in the Sheraton lobby. I didn't make it to bed until 2:30 in the morning. So when that clock went off at 6:20 a.m., I pressed snooze.
And again at 6:45. And 7:00. In my head, I said no one would care if I missed this breakfast. And I'd get to sleep. But I'd asked and I really did want to go to the event. Plus, I was hungry.
So I dragged myself out of bed, threw together an outfit and hoofed it to the Sheraton. I found the room and hopped into the buffet line, figuring that by the time I got through it, everyone would have sat down and I'd be able to find a seat. I ended up standing behind Wil LaVeist, a former columnist at the Daily Press (the local paper in my college town) and we chatted it up about Hampton, his move away and back to the tidewater area (he now works for the Virginian-Pilot) and how I'm finding Providence. There was a vacant seat at his table, so we continued the chat over eggs and OJ.
The conversation, led by founder Dorothy Butler Gilliam (formerly of the Washington Post), centered on the changing industry and what our product and the journalists of tomorrow should look like. Among the highlights:
- In your newsroom, there should not be a newspaper division and a Web division, Sulzberger said. With the emphasis on the Internet as it is today, there should be one person coordinating the news and web postings for each section. Not one person coordinating the news and another posting it to the web. (Interesting because my paper is definitely set up with two distinct divisions)
- People have been predicting the death of newspapers for the last 10 years. But at the Times, Sulzberger said, the circulation has nearly doubled in recent years. While print readers have remained stagnant, the number of online readers has increased steadily.
- The average person spends 35 minutes a day with the paper; the average online reader spends 35 minutes a month on a newspaper Web site, he said. To survive, we have to find out how to make sites "stickier" so people will spend more time there.
- As we learn more about shooting video, writing stories and collecting audio, always remember the product. The tools are nice, but just remember you are using them to create quality work -- they shouldn't take away from that main goal.
- The Times is doing a great job with hiring minorities in its Web division, but those minorities are overwhelmingly Asian. They need a larger pool of qualified applicants from ALL backgrounds (hint: if you're trying to get in at the NYT, get your multimedia on).
I learned something else today, too. Sulzberger is pretty funny. He's a likeable guy -- at least from afar. Seems like it would be pretty cool to sit down to a cup of coffee with him.
Well, I at least got close to it today, just because I asked.continue...