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Some of the New York Times’ best stories aren’t in the Times — they’re on Twitter

Which is great for you, and me, and Twitter. What about the Times?

Donald Trump Holds Meeting At The New York Times
Donald Trump, in the New York Times’ lobby.
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman had a great story yesterday: On Saturday, Donald Trump, operating on less than four hours’ sleep, flew into a rage because of a National Park tweet that a fellow Times reporter had retweeted.

Trump’s anger led to White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s preposterous crowd size statement. “Trump’s worst impulse control is when he's tired or overstretched, or in an uncertain situation. All three took place Saturday,” Haberman wrote, and followed that up with insight into Trumpland’s inner circle.

It’s must-read stuff.

But you couldn’t read it in the New York Times on Wednesday. Instead, Haberman published it as 9-part tweetstorm. Here’s the opener:

Haberman did have another great story in yesterday’s Times — an account of Trump’s first few days living in the White House, which Trump told her had “a lot of history,” even though it might not have “pure elegance and room size.”

This isn’t the first time Haberman has taken to Twitter to share reported insight into Trump that isn’t in the paper or on its site. One that sticks in my mind is from November, about the power dynamics between Trump, Kellyanne Conway and other players in Trump’s inner circle.

And she isn’t the only Times reporter who uses Twitter as a real-time publishing platform. For instance: Rukmini Callimachi, the paper’s excellent al Qaeda and ISIS expert, frequently jumps on Twitter to publish real-time updates in the wake of a suspected terrorist attack.

She’ll also use the platform to tease out stories she’s already written, or do deep dives on source documents, like the transcript of conversations between a mass killer and Orlando police last fall.

And my old colleague Mike Isaac, of course, tweets about everything, all the time. Except when prevented from doing so by an officer of the court.

All of which is to say: If you want to get as much out of the New York Times’ reporters as you can, you can’t just read the New York Times. You have to read them on Twitter, too.

That’s a good thing for Twitter: It gets free, useful content from the world’s best newspaper — stuff you can’t even find in the world’s best newspaper. I don’t think there’s any argument that it’s good for both New York Times readers and people who don’t read the Times, either: More information is better.

Is it good for the Times? I think that in the past, this would have been a question for the paper, which might have been inclined to tell its staff to keep its content confined to the Times, where the Times can get some kind of compensation for the work.

Now it’s fine, says Times rep Eileen Murphy, who describes the tweeting that Haberman and others do as “supplemental.” “Several journalists use Twitter as a reporter's notebook, especially when covering live events,” she said via email. “It's a useful tool for the journalist and it pulls back the curtain a bit on the reporting process for our readers.”

Still, I’m told New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet and other leaders do ruminate about ways to bring some of their reporters’ Twitter work onto the paper’s platform. Not to confine it there, but to make sure its readers can see it without having to go to Twitter.

Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton, who also loved Haberman’s tweetstorm, flicked at the same idea yesterday:

And there probably is a way for the Times to do this — I’m sure a clever product person or three could figure this one out in shortish order.

But meanwhile, I’m glad the Times isn’t trying to keep its staff from doing their jobs — delivering news and insight to as many people as they can. No matter where that happens.


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