I’m on the front of Sunday Arts & Leisure, which is very important to me – that I’m seen as someone who can do that. And I’m working on a magazine story that we will only hint is about a famous Canadian.
Okay, so this is going to sound like I’m being a lifestyle reporter but: Is it too much sometimes?
Everything suffers. Everything suffers. My magazine story will not be as good as if it was written by somebody who is only doing magazine stories. The Arts & Leisure story, it involved going to see Errol Morris – could I really afford to go to Boston for the day, or not? I used to be blogging a lot more than I am – now I’m in there, I try to be in there once, sometimes twice a week but have it mean something. But – the Yahoo item. Right when it came down, I walked by [Brian] Stelter and he said, ‘Well that’s a three-minute post,’ and I thought: Not in my hands it’s not.
And the intrusiveness of the multiplatform existence, in terms of concentration. I think there’s going to be an erosion over time in your ability to think long thoughts.
I’m totally grateful I have a job, but when the way you’re judged on your job changes from quality and efficacy to durability and chronicity, I think that that’s sort of scary, especially for journalists like me who are sort of on the back nine of their professional life. Even if I’ve done a good job of adapting. Friends of mine who are not on Twitter, who turn down all manner of public speaking, who don’t go video – I never argue against them. I think that’s completely understandable, and you could say: Well, they won’t last long. But maybe I won’t, either.
Sure, but they’ll be thinking deeper thoughts than I do. So, when you come up to the CJF, people see you as a real insider. A few months ago there was a blog post which suggested you’re the ultimate insider who, as this writer had it, may have lost a sense of true north.
I think it was [Columbia Journalism Review] – ‘The two David Carrs’? That thing? Yeah, it was one of those moments: Was it worse that they said it, or worse that part of it was true? The case-building that went with it – the one thing in it that got me going was, the writer said I didn’t even try to find out if Huffington Post made money and that’s a dead-wrong assumption.
But the other part about knowing people is great for getting your phone calls picked up but when you can picture somebody, when you picture their face and that’s a face you’ve air-kissed or hugged or clinked glasses with, do you swing less hard, do you swing less ferociously? Yeah, I think so.
I can remember, I wrote about Tina Brown in my first column, ever – not a very kind column. And then I wrote about Tina Brown lately, and two things make me less prone to gratuitously or appropriately go after her: One is, I know her as a hard worker, somebody who’s, like – she is trying really hard to make it better, that is over and over, and that is an impulse in journalism that I respect and regard – so I’ve gotten to know her well enough to know that about her – and then the other thing is – she’s aggressively moved to continue to produce journalism in sustainable ways, and what would people have her do? Would they have her go away and sit at a table at Michael’s and talk about the days back when she ruled the world? No, she’s in there and she’s working.
Every once in a while I’ll read something by Hamilton Nolan in Gawker. Hamilton goes to nothing, or goes to very little – he will just step up and fill somebody with ack ack – and I think to myself: Hmm, whether it was true or not, it was executed with a great deal of vigour, in a way I probably do not do any more. When you work for a big institution and you have the same job for a long time, are you in danger of becoming what you once assailed? Absolutely.
So: The Sweet Spot [this weekly video on the Times website] that you and A.O. Scott are doing. It’s confusing me because you seem to be trying to make the point that smart video can make it on the Web, and I almost thought: How dare you? The conventional wisdom is: 1, 2 minutes, say something funny and be gone.