Monday, July 20, 2009

The NYT's Non-Salon Strategy

I've read and re-read Clark Hoyt's Public Editor piece in Sunday's New York Times several times now, and I keep coming away feeling like something big is missing. Some might call it a nut graf.

His column seems intended to explain why the Times is letting a freelancer use its name to solicit support on Spot.Us for a story about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Hoyt suggests that the collaboration is part of a broader trend among newspapers to seek outside support for newsgathering costs.

Hoyt then outlines what is clearly a deliberate strategy of partnering with the nonprofit sector, though he never says as much. In addition to the Spot.Us example, Hoyt also discusses the possibility of soliciting philanthropic support for the Times' science coverage, and he trumpets work done with ProPublica. But he never ties them together for us. When I'm done reading the piece, I'm still dying to know why the Times has chosen this path - what are the pros, the cons, the unknowns? Somebody somewhere in the Times' management must have had this kind of discussion. At least I hope they have.

Instead, Hoyt casts the Times' actions against those of The Washington Post and its marketing department's misbegotten plan to host pricey, off-the-record salons for lobbyists, administration officials and reporters. Why go there? It comes off as petty. And by implication, it puts the Times' nonprofit partnerships in the same basket of "new relationships" as the salon fiasco.

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