A Culture of…Integration

So, hot on the heels of Sam Sifton’s strange-yet-also-strangely-obvious shift-of-roles from The New York Times culture editor to its restaurant critic…comes another SYASO move: this one, concerning Jon Landman. The paper’s current deputy managing editor—who, in that capacity, has overseen the Times’s digital innovation—will take over, the New York Observer reports, Sifton’s vacated spot as editor of the venerable culture desk.

It’s a good choice—as Bill Keller points out in his memo announcing the change, “I doubt anyone will question that Jon brings to the Culture Department a strenuous intelligence, an inspiring vision, a gift for getting the very best from people and…a keen appreciation of what culture journalism can be on the Web”—but it begs a very big question: what will be the consequences for the digital side of the Times?

Apparently, in a word: integration. (Actually, in a couple more words: long-overdue integration.) Here’s more from Keller:

We have, of course, given intense thought to what this means for our digital journalism, which is so vibrant a part of our present and so central a part of our future. Our belief is that this is a moment to complete the integration of the newsroom we began five years ago.

As the deputy managing editor for digital, Jon has worked to bring down the psychological barriers, bureaucratic impediments, and we-don’t-do-things-that-way attitudes that separated the cultures of new and mainstream newsgathering. He has been a tireless champion of new ways to reach and engage our audience — journalism by unconventional means. He has advocated the full partnership of digital and print, journalism and technology. He has brought us an enormous distance toward the goal of a single, versatile, journalistic multiplex.

But not quite all the way. In proposing this change, Jon made a strong case that, in the next stage of integration, the support and promotion of this new kind of journalism must become more fully the responsibility of the newsroom’s top leadership — me, Jill and John. He reminded me that in the original proposal for an integrated newsroom — May, 2005 — I insisted that it is not enough to create new advocates for Web journalism within the NYT newsroom; the newsroom would be truly integrated only when the top editors took as much responsibility for our digital journalism as they do for the more traditional kind. We’ve stopped a little short of that ambition, in large part because we had Jon to defer to and depend on. We’ll have more to say on this important subject, but the main thing to say now is that Jill and I, in particular, see this as time to rearrange our priorities and devote more of our bandwidth to digital journalism.

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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.