The strategist was less hopeful, however, about monetizing journalism within its current corporate infrastructure. The real problem facing news organizations—and newspapers in particular—Sands noted, “is that there just aren’t models that will [finance quality journalism] while paying for printing presses and union costs—and compensating executives in the way they’re used to being compensated.”

Thus, the particular challenge facing the Times and its fellow papers: innovating upon a platform of legacy assets. As far as that goes, the mood on 41st Street is “determined,” Frons said. “I think a lot of the folks in our newsroom have never worked harder,” he declared, “and are proud of the product we turn out every day.”

At the same time, the Timesman noted, a question hangs over his newsroom’s sense of purpose. “How do we evolve faster, so that we can continue to evolve and keep creating the kind of journalism that we do?”

It’s a question that this panel of high-level strategists left unanswered.

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.