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How the media is responding to New York Times' innovation report

What happens when the media talk about the media?

Last week was stuffed deep with news of The New York Times and how its then-executive editor, Jill Abramson, was let go. Twitter spat out in fury, critics and pundits claimed it was sexist and some questioned whether it was about pay.

“It is one thing to gossip or complain about your boss, but quite another to watch her head get chopped off in the cold light of day,” wrote David Carr for The Times. “The lack of decorum was stunning.”

It was messy.

But the Times was also in the news for its innovation report, which was leaked to the masses.

The American Journalism Review looked at the report and published its own look into the state of digital journalism. Mark Potts wrote the piece for AJR and said the Times had a lot to do with its own problems.

“As has been the case elsewhere, most of The Times’s biggest, deepest wounds were self-inflicted, as attempts to graft a digital future onto a legacy print news operation have been hindered time and again by the shackles of 150 years of print-centric culture and processes,” Potts wrote.

Potts also acknowledged that the Times shifting its focus is a telling sign of what the rest of the nation’s news institutions are going through. And it shows a lot about what the current state of journalism is, since some institutions, like one as illustrious as the Times, haven't adapted yet.

“Two decades into the digital news revolution, we still seem to be fighting the same old battles, trying to overcome deep-seated cultural issues that have stymied true innovation,” Potts wrote. “Even more damningly, The Times and Duke reports are full of envious references to good work being done by more agile startup news organizations such as Vox and BuzzFeed, Quartz and Huffington Post that aren’t encumbered by the same legacy issues — or the need to tailor their newsroom processes to print production requirements.”

In fact, that’s some of the irony to come out of this report, wrote Kashmir Hill of Forbes. Because the innovation report was leaked on news sites like BuzzFeed, the Times lost its traffic to these newer sites.

“Free innovative advice for the New York Times: publish your own innovation report along with some commentary about it, and stop letting Buzzfeed and Mashable steal all of your traffic,” Hill wrote.

The Times’ report also delves into disruptive innovation and how it's already finding itself behind. Timothy B. Lee wrote for Vox Monday that this could be a worrying sign for one of America’s, and the world’s, leading newspapers.

“[T]he reality is that most businesses threatened by disruptive innovation don't survive,” Lee wrote. “So even if the senior leadership of the Times accepts the findings of the Times innovation report, they're going to find it a huge challenge to make the kind of dramatic changes that will be required for the Times to master the web.”

If that was all a little grim, The Atlantic published a nifty list of journalism articles from 2013.

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @herbscribner

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