Recently Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, gave an interview to the German newsweekly magazine, Spiegel.
It is full of great behind the scenes of the Times operation and provides for much enlightening reading.

One Baquet statement that resonated with me sums up our own philosophy, stated in this blog often, about the importance of the story, regardless of platform.

Here is what Baquet said:

I always thought that digital first was a simplistic notion, and I am not even sure quite what it means. It should be stories first. Let's take the Paris story: We covered it all day, we held nothing back. Everything we learned, we published online. Then, when you approach your print deadline, you have to do two things. You have to polish those stories that are online because print is less forgiving of mistakes. Secondly, in an ideal world, you pick one thing that will feel fresh and compelling to people in the morning when they pick up the print paper.

I agree. Not only is the popular phrase “digital first” simplistic, it is also not realistic, not now and not ever.

Digital first may be a state of mind, but it is a heck of a difficult strategy to implement, and I have seen many attempts to achieve it, which usually begin with changing the architecture of the newsroom.  For many news organizations, digital first is when a group of digital editors sit side by side with the print editors. As it happens, physical proximity does not mean that communication happens about how stories need to be treated in specific platforms.

A more organic approach is a “story first” philosophy, and one that the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, under the direction of editor Espen Egil Hansen, seems to follow daily and with much success.  For Espen, it is all about quality now: get that story out there, in whichever platform, then see how it develops through the day, exactly what Baquet summarizes here when he uses the Paris terror attack as an example.

Perhaps Baquet’s statement, coming from such a respected editor of one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers, will make us all think about a story first approach that is a win win for  both editors and readers.

Previously in TheMarioBlog about story first concept

It all begins with meetings that emphasize digital first

Story first morning meeting energizes the newsroom

Storytelling in the digital age: some essentials endure

The Elements of Journalism: it’s still all about the story

TheMarioBlog post # 1662
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