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This former HBO executive is trying to use dramatic techniques to highlight the injustice in criminal justice
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May 1, 2018, 12:40 p.m.
Business Models
LINK: www.adweek.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Christine Schmidt   |   May 1, 2018

We’ve watched newspaper investigations unfold into dramas and learned about the values of journalism through documentaries. We might just watch a weekly show about Slack and Twitter drama in a modern-day journalism world. But would people watch a show about a crossword puzzle? (Where does it end??)

That was the tease from New York Times assistant managing editor Sam Dolnick at the Times’ 2018 Digital Content NewFronts presentation. (There are many more presentations coming throughout the week, and Digiday published this overview of the advertising industry’s mega-event.) AdWeek shared this exchange:

“What does The New York Times know about television?” asked [Times COO Meredith] Kopit Levien, somewhat rhetorically.

“Over the past decade there has been an explosion in TV. The Times hasn’t been a part of it and we should be,” said Dolnick.

He added: “We think (dating column) Modern Love should be a series on TV. The Crossword Puzzle. That could be a game show.”

Dolnick is charged with exploring other avenues for Times content after the gateway success of the 15-month-old The Daily podcast, so thinking outside the (crossword) box is helpful. The Times is already bringing its medical investigative column to Netflix, announced earlier this month: “Dr. Lisa Sanders, the creator of the long-running column in the New York Times Magazine, shares details of unsolved patient cases for you to diagnose. Whether you’re a doctor, a patient or an amateur medical sleuth, your ideas could potentially help save a life. Readers with the most promising suggestions may be included in an eight-part Netflix series that will air in 2019.”

The New York Times will also be featured in a film about its investigation into Harvey Weinstein and a Showtime behind-the-scenes documentary series about its reporting on the Trump administration, though neither of those projects are produced by the organization itself.

Where is the line between repurposing reporting for streaming or TV shows and showing behind-the-scenes production? Columbia Journalism Review’s Mathew Ingram was not enthralled with the idea of the latter when BuzzFeed’s weekly Netflix show was announced last month:

It’s easy to see why BuzzFeed would jump at a Netflix series — it could potentially give the site a higher profile with a different audience, act as a teaser for upcoming stories, and maybe even teach the public some “news literacy.” And it’s easy to see why the streaming service would be interested in doing it: Netflix has a desperate need for more and more content, and Follow This is a good way to experiment with the 15-minute format (which Facebook Watch is also going after). But is there any real demand for this kind of content, apart from journalists and their friends?

But back to crosswords. The crossword puzzle is over 100 years old and remains a print mainstay, but crossword apps are available (and have not always been perfect; see the Times’ crossword app circa 2014). The New Yorker just introduced a weekly online crossword, two decades after an earlier attempt. Are crosswords making a comeback in the digital age? Does that comeback mean we get a show about it?

Photo by waffleboy used under a Creative Commons license.

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