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The New York Times wants to show readers what its reporters look like

“I want people to understand who those writers are,” says top editor Dean Baquet.

Dean Baquet, New York Times, Code Asa Mathat
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.

The New York Times is trying to adapt to the internet by changing the way it distributes the news.

It’s also trying to change the way it makes the news. It wants New York Times stuff to look, read and sound a bit more like the way other stuff looks, reads and sounds on the internet.

But saying you want to do that is easier than doing that, especially at an institution like the Times, which is ... an institution.

Example: Times managers want to tell readers more about the reporters who are writing Times stories, and want to include photos of the reporters alongside their bylines.

Some Times reporters have pushed back against the idea. One of the arguments, which makes sense, is about the safety and security of some of its employees.

But here’s the case for making that kind of change, relayed by Dean Baquet, the Times’ executive editor at the Code Conference on Tuesday night.

“I want pictures and personalities,” he said. “I want people to understand who those writers are, what they look like.”

Baquet used the Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Alissa Rubin as an example of someone he’d like to tell readers about. When Rubin reports on a story with a Kabul dateline, he said, Times editors have previously thought that means, “Alissa Rubin knows all kinds of stuff. She’s in Kabul, right?”

“We’re only now understanding that’s not what [readers] know,” he said.

But a picture, paired with a biography, “gives that story so much credibility, so much value to the New York Times,” Baquet said. “People will believe it. If we tell them ... ‘This is Alissa Rubin. She almost lost her life covering war, and she’s been covering war from the very first time bombs fell on Afghanistan.’”

“If you read that, and somebody in the White House wants to attack that story, I win.”

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