Jerry: For writers, as for shortstops, the legs go first. Look, the Internet has made my job as a writer immensely easier in countless ways. It more than makes up for the marginal increase in time-wasting it facilitates. I’m working now on a story for Smithsonian about human evolution, and I needed a scientific paper from 1995, and I found it in under a minute. It cost me $8, admittedly, but I was happy to pay it. At Newsweek, I could have had a research librarian track it down, which might have taken two days. Working from home, 20 years ago, I would have had to find it in a library, which would have taken half the day.
Ben: Do you worry that interactive technology means young journalists will learn to game systems, from search engine optimization to getting attention on Twitter, instead of learning how to become better reporters?
Jerry: I was speaking to a college journalist at The New School recently who said the preferred strategy for his generation is to stay up late on Twitter and retweet comments from [established] journalists, hoping to catch someone’s attention that way. This guy applied for a job with a prestigious online news outlet and was told, “You have great clips, but we’re looking for people who know how to run a website—and if they need to learn journalism, we’ll teach it to them.”
Ben: How much do you consume news on your phone? You have an iPhone, right?
Jerry: I have an Android phone. As a subscriber, I get emailed news alerts from the Times when a story breaks. Not, actually, when it breaks—half an hour to an hour later, but that’s good enough for me.