We don’t know the answers to these questions, but we should think hard about them.
To the Reader,
Thank you for reading 111-111-1111 — Ten Ones — my real-time edit of NYTimes.com visual matter. At the urging of The New York Times legal department, I have suspended postings and removed the archive.
I created this Tumblr in the summer of 2010 as an experiment to see how the Times — where I worked as a web editor — could use the platform. (The name refers to the Caller ID signature of The New York Times.) The blog was a personal project viewing the NYTimes.com feed through an aesthetic lens. I surfaced beautiful and unexpected imagery, credited it and linked to the source articles.
Fundamentally, Ten Ones was a daily accounting of the amazing online report the paper produces. It highlighted in particular the impressive work of Times photographers, illustrators, photo editors and art directors.
The blog garnered a small audience on Tumblr and a following in the newsroom of The Times. When it came to the attention of the company’s Senior Counsel, he asked that I remove all copyrighted New York Times content. This request effectively ended Ten Ones.
Thanks to my friends at The Times and elsewhere who encouraged this project and helped get the word out. Thanks, too, to my Tumblr followers and rebloggers for answering the call.
Jonathan S. Paul
This is unfortunate. Yes, the Times is certainly free to demand that none of its content be used without its permission. I think, though, that they are being shortsighted in this case. Ten Ones gave away very little of a story, just an arresting image and a single line of text leading you to the piece, a practice that to my mind is basically just a visual version of what NYT staffers do every day when they Tweet out links to their stories, and far more effective in encouraging people to click over.
I don’t think the Times places enough value on the fact that there are people who love their product so much that they will volunteer some of their own time to produce something innovative that highlights the best of what the paper does every day. One of the ironies of 10 Ones is that, had JP simply done a blog quoting a paragraph and linking to a story, the Times would have left it alone; we all recognize excerpting some text of a story as a fair use. Since he used images as the way into each story, though, that became problematic. And yes, I understand that these are copyrighted images that NYT has secured rights to; still, I would argue that a better solution here would be to recognize their promotional value and work for ways to extend that use across social media platforms.
Smart reporters now often involve their contacts or readers or “communities” in research — i.e., the “life” of a story may begin well before it is actually published. A reporter may choose not to write a story at all, but to blog it. A blog need not “report” a story in the conventional way: It can link to other reports and to source materials. Within minutes of publication most stories will be subject to challenge or addition or clarification or correction. How we react to, or incorporate, that challenge is of basic concern.
A “story,” thus told, may have no obvious natural finishing point. The resulting piece of journalism is more fluid than its predecessors. It more closely resembles the real world, which is rarely about neatly cut and dried events with only one narrative version and a finite ending.
Back when I ran the St. Petersburg Times, “cutting edge” meant adding color to the old-fashioned black-and-while paper. Now it’s watching live election results on my iPad.