Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Hot Pod: Macmillan’s new network shows how podcasts can be a logical next step for book publishers
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.
Hot Pod: Macmillan’s new network shows how podcasts can be a logical next step for book publishers
Plus: “The number of potential distribution points for on-demand audio is kinda getting out of hand.”
Newsonomics: The New York Times is setting its sights on 10 million digital subscribers
The branded content business, meanwhile, isn’t growing as strongly as projected.
Voice of San Diego is spearheading a team to help other smaller news outlets build membership programs
The centralized News Revenue Hub is helping a pilot group of five news organizations — Honolulu Civil Beat, InsideClimate News, The Lens, NJ Spotlight, and PolitiFact — with everything from technical installation to email targeting.