This past summer I was given the opportunity to visit The New York Times with a friend of mine, Ben Harris, and sit in on the paper’s evening Page One meeting. It was pretty interesting and I was just blown away by the entire experience. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be sitting in on a meeting at the Times. What stood out to me the most when I first arrived was that every cubicle in the newsroom seemed to be filled, slightly different from the visits I’ve done with the Philadelphia Inquirer or Philadelphia Daily News. I know there have been layoffs at the Times but it didn’t seem like it to me. You could really feel confidence in the room, if that makes sense.
Michael Slackman, who was then Deputy Foreign Editor and now Head of the Foreign Desk, was our tour guide for the day. Michael is a pretty awesome guy and knows his stuff about the journalism business. I wish I had more time to pick his brain a little more, but he was on a tight schedule and I really didn’t know at the time what to ask him. My mind was just buzzing and trying to take in the tour and everything that I had just seen.
To start, the view of New York City from the NYT building is spectacular and I wish I had taken pictures. The 1.5 million-square foot building rises 1,046 feet from street level to the top of its distinctive mast. It was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop in association with FXFOWLE Architects.
At the Page One meeting all of the Times editors came together, including Executive Editor Dean Baquet, to discuss stories that would appear in the next day edition of the paper. Not too much different from the meetings that I’ve sat in on in Philly, except that I and Ben were introduced first by Deputy International Editor Lydia Polgreen. All of the editors said hi and then it was right to business with the meeting.
After, Michael finished giving me and Ben a tour of the place. We saw the cafeteria (where I saw David Carr talking to another reporter), the “Pulitzer Hall” where every Pulitzer Prize that the Times has won since 1918 was displayed along a wall.It was very impressive and you can see why the Times carries itself in such high regard. According to Michael even if a reporter wins a Pulitzer twice they still are eligible to have recognition on the wall, which includes the reporter’s picture and their article framed. Again, I wished I had taken some pictures. I think the actual Pulitzer Prize is also included in the frame or on the wall next to the reporter. Maybe someone out there in the interwebs can correct me?
The Times Executive Board Room was the next and final stop of our tour in the building. It was pretty huge and had a nice view of the city. At the head of this room was a desk with a picture of President Barack Obama, Michael told us that each residing president’s picture is always displayed. Along the walls of the boardroom were pictures of important dignitaries and political figures, some leaving a little message scrawled on their photo that they gave to the Times. My favorite was of President Nixon who said something along the lines of “…Some people read it and don’t like it, some people read it and like it, but everyone reads it.”
I left the New York Times that day with the same feeling that I felt a few weeks prior when I visited the Philadelphia Daily News, that I could actually write for the publication some day. And I think that’s a great feeling to have as the field of journalism continues to change, especially in print. Anything can happen and hopefully one day I will get the chance to write for one of these publications.