Sunday, May 10, 2009

Jacob Harris, NYT's Senior Software Architect, To NYTPicker: "Wow, This Is What You've Sunk To."

Last night, NYT's senior software architect Jacob Harris took to Twitter to denounce a NYTPicker post from yesterday morning -- the one about a planned "cash bar" party to commemorate the closing of the paper's regional sections.

Here's the Harris tweet:

@NYTPicker Wow, this is what you've sunk to. With no copy to tweak, you critique people you've never met via leaked memos. Great job.

We're reprinting Harris's tweet here because we don't have a letters page, but we think it's a good idea for our readers to hear objections to our coverage, and weigh them against our actions.

As for his comment -- well, we obviously don't agree. If you read our original item, you'll see that we weren't attacking Regionals editor Jennifer Preston. It just bothered us that the NYT (via Preston) would invite laid-off freelancers to a party to commemorate their loss of income, and not have the class to buy them a drink or two.

If we were a soon-to-be laid-off freelancer for a regional section, we'd be torn. Do we come to the party (which means a trip to Manhattan, parking, the cost of drinks, etc.) because we want to suck up to the editors who employed us -- in the hopes of possible future gigs? Or do we stay home in silent protest, sending a message that isn't likely to be heard?

It's a choice that Jennifer Preston probably didn't realize she was offering when she sent her email. And of course, Preston isn't the one who controls the NYT's psrty budget -- she's just the one sending the invitation. We're not suggesting that Preston pay for drinks out of her own pocket.

But the "cash bar" arrangement -- at a party being thrown by a newspaper for its laid-off freelancers -- speaks to the ongoing arrogance of the NYT. The paper has always paid freelancers a pittance on the assumption that just appearing in the paper has a value beyond money. That's a supposed truism that, with hard times getting even harder, becomes less and less true.

Still, Jacob Harris raises a reasonable point. Should The NYTPicker concern itself with these sorts of internal issues when there's an entire newspaper to examine? But we believe the answer is yes.

We work hard not to ridicule people here the way other media websites routinely do. But we do feel compelled to hold NYT reporters and editors responsible for their actions and statements. In this case, we feel justified in holding the NYT accountable for an event that reveals a lot about the institution itself, and its core beliefs and attitudes. That's part of our mandate, and we're going to continue that kind of coverage in the future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Should The NYTPicker concern itself with these sorts of internal issues when there's an entire newspaper to examine?"

Of course. Without the internal issues the Times would be an entirely different newspaper.