Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
With a scripted daily comedy news show, Mic looks to add a little late night TV to the social video mold
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 3, 2013, 4:10 p.m.
LINK: twitter.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   September 3, 2013

You may have seen Paul Farhi’s interview with Jeff Bezos in today’s Washington Post, the newspaper he’s buying for $250 million. If you saw it in print, you found it on Page A1, on the left below the fold. If you saw it on washingtonpost.com, who knows how you found it — Twitter? a Google Alert? an email newsletter? — but once you did, you saw a URL that started with /lifestyle/style/ and “Style” emblazoned on top of the page.

Since when is an interview with the new billionaire owner of a newspaper a Lifestyles/Style story?

Old newspaper hands know that the Post’s Style section has long had an unusual-for-American-newspapers relationship with the paper as a whole — sometimes covering the same political stories that an A-section reporter does, but from a different angle. Style has been a big Post asset. But that unusual divide isn’t really the issue here: It’s that the story in the print paper actually ran on A1, not in Style. So if it’s a business story on A1, why does it get a big Style banner?

Answering this question falls somewhere short of a national crisis, but it still got some smart people riled up. A cast of characters: Dan Sinker runs Knight-Mozilla OpenNews; Alex Howard writes from D.C. on nerdy issues; J. Freedom du Lac works at the Post; Jacob Harris codes for The New York Times.

So why’d it run there? Turns out the answer has to do with where Paul Farhi’s desk is:

Some folks didn’t like that explanation.

They’re arguing, in other words, that a print structure — and the system of “desks” and “sections” in the modern American newspaper evolved in a manner particular to its print-centric, production-minded context — shouldn’t constrain the needs of digital publishing. As in:

And, Sideboob aside, they mention another born-digital news organization that doesn’t stick to rigid, topic-based structure.

Again: The fact that a Jeff Bezos interview ran with a /lifestyles/ URL and a Style banner doesn’t mean much. I doubt it cost the story a single reader. But it’s good to be reminded that, as part of the newspaper industry’s sleepwalk into digital, it carried a lot of old habits/workflows/assumptions with it. And dealing with that fact — a fact that, again, is far broader in scope than a URL structure — will be one of the keys to how Bezos and his team can turn the Post around.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
With a scripted daily comedy news show, Mic looks to add a little late night TV to the social video mold
“We don’t just present a bunch of headlines and say what we think. Our videos are chock-full of facts and research.”
Hoping to redefine “trade publication,” Digiday launches Glossy, a vertical to cover disruption in fashion
“I hate the term ‘trade publication,’ because it implies being a boring cheerleader for the industry.”
The Wall Street Journal website — paywalled from the very beginning — turns 20 years old today
“From the very beginning it was very clear we needed to cover all the same concerns and sensibilities of the print Journal even though we were online and even though we were a young staff.”
What to read next
0
tweets
How Atlas Obscura helps its web audience discover the real world
Events like its upcoming Obscura Day are meant to help the site’s digital readers discover places they previously only read about.
0Inspired by “independent YouTubers,” wary of cable, Vox.com takes its explainer mission to video
“I made one rule starting out: No desks.”
0You can now get personalized Breaking News alerts on Slack
The NBC-owned company’s new Slack bot lets you follow more than 90,000 topics.
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 ➚
Bloomberg Businessweek
La Nación
FactCheck.org
Mashable
The Daily
GlobalPost
Bloomberg
MSNBC
National Review
Daily Mail
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Corporation for Public Broadcasting