JOUR-UA 622 | Topics in Media Criticism: The Future of the New York Times

Professor Jay Rosen; Monday, 11 am to 3 pm. Spring 2014

Permission of instructor only. Must email Jay Rosen: <jr3@nyu.edu>

Course description

This course will look deeply into the struggle of a key institution — the New York Times — to find a secure and sustainable future in a radically changed world. Around the globe, the newspaper business is in turmoil and contraction as revenue streams dry up and new platforms (Google, Twitter, Whats App, Instagram and especially Facebook) take charge of the relationship with readers. The Times has adapted to the digital age better than most, better than almost any of its peers, but by its own account there is still a long way to go. Changes made at the Times tend to influence others in journalism. But even if that were not the case, the struggles at the New York Times to adapt and survive would be worth studying. It is the flagship institution of the American press and a cultural powerhouse. It is also an extremely important player in the world New York.

Within the Times, an enormous amount of effort is going to re-invention and innovation, including the launch of new products. Technologists and data scientists are playing a much larger role than they ever did, and business people have to collaborate with the newsroom in a way that happened only rarely before. Meanwhile, the 1,200 journalists employed at the Times have powerful new tools to work with, and they reach a larger audience than ever. But they have to cope with profound changes in how readers find their news and interact with it. They have to learn how to reach young people, who will never develop the newspaper habit. They have to create new work routines, because to organize production around the printed product no longer makes sense.

With all that as background, this course will dig into how the New York Times is meeting the challenge of securing its future: what it is doing to survive and thrive, and the difficulty of getting it right when the way forward is not clear. Students will delve deeply into one of the changes or innovations the Times has underway and give a presentation in class on it. A simple example might be the New York Times Now app, a paid product for people on the go who don't want the full range of Times content but just a curated selection. In the second half of each class we will hear from a speaker: people who work at the New York Times will share their knowledge, along with scholars and writers who have carefully studied the institution. For each speaker and each presentation there will be readings.

The class will have a public-facing component, as well, so that those with an interest in the subject who are not enrolled can follow along on the web somehow. Students will be expected to contribute ideas for how they can share their learning with the wider audience online that is interested in what becomes of the New York Times. This includes people who work at the Times. Shortly after the instructor said on Twitter that he would teaching this course in the spring, popular columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted back, "I want to take the class!" The final class session in May will meet at the New York Times building; publisher Arthur Sulzberger and CEO Mark Thompson have expressed an interest in attending.

Admission to the course is by permission of instructor only. Please write professor Jay Rosen a note describing your background and interests and making an argument for why you would be a good contributor to the group. Be sure to mention any technical skills or media production experience that might be relevant, and try to explain your existing "relationship" to the New York Times as a news consumer. Please note: all students selected for the class will be expected to become paying subscribers to a print or electronic version of the Times.

Finally, any New York Times person or expert who has studied the Times who wants to raise a hand as a possible speaker in class, or otherwise contribute knowledge and insight can get in touch with professor Rosen by email: jr3@nyu.edu