HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 20, 2009, 3:37 p.m.

New York Times wins Pulitzer for Spitzer coverage that evolved online

Back in the day — you know, five years ago — when a big news story had been written, edited, fact-checked, vetted, proofread, and anguished over one last time, an adrenaline-pumped editor would cry out, “Run it!” As in, the presses.

When The New York Times was ready to report that Eliot Spitzer, then governor of New York, had been implicated in a prostitution ring, managing editor Jill Abramson yelled 20 feet across the newsroom, “O.K., hit it!” As in, the button to publish the story on NYTimes.com.

The Times’ coverage of Spitzer, which just won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news, hit the web shortly after 2 p.m. on March 10, 2008. (Two minutes later, I instant-messaged a friend with a link to the article: “SPITZER HUH?!?!?!?!”)

Releasing the news in the middle of the afternoon meant the Times couldn’t control the story, but they certainly owned it, instantly becoming the go-to source for reliable Spitzer news. The Times website crashed several times that day before the servers were rejiggered to handle the crush of traffic.

The Times’ lede and headline initially reported, somewhat obliquely, that Spitzer had been “linked to a prostitution ring.” As two editors later explained, they added details about the precise nature of Spitzer’s “link” to prostitution as more reporting was conducted over the afternoon. Obsessive readers, of which there were millions, could watch the story evolve on the Times website — almost as good as actually being there to hear Abramson yell, “hit it!” That sort of transparent rewrite is why the Times’ Spitzer coverage, though lacking in multimedia bells and whistles, should be considered an online-native story.

POSTED     April 20, 2009, 3:37 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
The former chief content officer at NPR will be moving up I-95 to one of the most important digital positions at the Times.
Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
In Canada, newspapers’ attempts to experiment with ebooks haven’t seen much success
A number of papers across the country started ebook programs in the early part of this decade, repurposing their archives or producing new work. They haven’t been the moneymakers some had hoped.
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
502Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Tyee
Bloomberg
Next Door Media
Suck.com
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
AOL
Futurity
IRE/NICAR
The Daily
Groupon
The Wall Street Journal
Ann Arbor News