For the top editor of the New York Times to acknowledge that a part of his job is to consider the business of the paper is interesting. To say it’s also important for the rest of the masthead to think about the paper’s enterprise is unprecedented.
“I do think of myself primarily as the executive editor, but also as someone whose job it is to think of it as a business,” Dean Baquet told Re/code Executive Editor Kara Swisher and Senior Editor Peter Kafka tonight at an Evening with Code/Media at Steelcase WorkLife Center in New York. “I want everyone on the masthead to think of the New York Times and its survival. … I think you can do that without crossing a line.”
That’s a far less controversial stance among digital publishers, but for the Times it’s a leap. It is also a necessary approach, especially for an editor of a paper whose total business has eroded quarter to quarter.
“In the era I grew up in, editors did not have to think about the company as a whole,” he added. “They didn’t have to think about the success of the company as a whole, and I think that went on too long.”
The Times’ revenue has indeed been lagging. Total sales in the first half of the year dropped 1.5 percent to about $767 million, worse than the same period a year ago, when they rose 1 percent to $779 million. The newspaper has lost a fifth of its revenue since 2004.
Still, Baquet is sanguine about the paper’s prospects, citing its digital revenue — subscription and advertising — at around $400 million.
“And a lot of those gains are the result of the quality and of us being vibrant and competitive,” he said, spotlighting the value of good, traditional journalism.
Even so, that hasn’t stopped the newsroom from attempting to transform itself to appeal to a digital audience. The Times’ morning Page One meetings, for example, are less about what should appear on the front page — a process that once was all-consuming — and are now discussions about how the day’s news should play minute to minute, across its website and on Twitter and Facebook and Google.
“That was a big change for us,” he said, adding that move was more a transformation of the newsroom’s mentality than it was of process.
And despite the onslaught of digital publishers like BuzzFeed and of the Web in general, Baquet said the quality of the Times’ journalism will always sell.
A large part of that emanates from the Times’ 1,300-person newsroom, a level that hasn’t changed too much since the 1990s, according to Baquet. It’s unclear, however, if that figure might actually be lower, since the Times merged its news and digital operations into a single unit, and the actual number of core reporters and editors might be lower.
“I’m not a Pollyanna, but I’m actually pretty confident in the business of the Times,” Baquet added. As to whether the newsroom may face more layoffs, he responded, “I don’t know if we’re going to make any cuts, but any modern editor who says they won’t have to make cuts is kidding themselves.”
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.