The New York Times has been on an innovation bender for years now, with top execs eager to show how a news empire based on print can morph in a rapidly changing news world. Some have worked better than others — Dealbook is expanding, TimesSelect is gone — and many more are in the pipeline, each taking time and attention away from the paper’s core focus. Executive Editor Bill Keller may have found a solution for that and a way to keep a valued senior editor engaged in a newsroom with very little room for ladder climbing. New York Times (NYSE: NYT) Magazine Editor Gerry Marzorati will move to a role created for him when he leaves the mag at the end of the summer — assistant managing editor responsible for the increasing mix of new products, partnerships and ventures spinning out from the New York Times Co. flagship. In addition to acting as top management’s “eyes and ears” on new products, Keller expects Marzorati to provide newsroom perspective to the sales team.
Jim Schachter, who has been the NYT‘s editor of digital initiatives (aka “the newsroom’s Web entrepreneur”), is being promoted to associate managing editor and will be Marzorati’s deputy. In the staff memo included below, Keller describes the two as combo instigators-agitators-skeptics.
One of the most dramatic changes in this company in recent years is the extent to which we have become a laboratory — inventing or adapting new ways of gathering journalism, new ways of presenting and disseminating our journalism, and new ways of paying for it.
Consider some of the ventures we’ve undertaken: Zoned editions in Chicago and San Francisco, in partnership with non-profit consortiums. Online academic courses, many of them conducted by Times journalists. An expansion of the Dealbook site, the hosting of Nate Silver’s blog, and a slew of other upgrades to our online journalism. Working partnerships with the independent investigative center, ProPublica. A variety of undertakings in video, multimedia and graphics. The deployment of social media tools to spread our work. An ever-changing roster of Times Talks and events. Among the things in the works, a best-seller list for e-books. We’ve become mothers of invention.
It’s increasingly clear that Jill and John and I need someone who can be our eyes and ears, focused fulltime on the next wave of new projects, to assure that our creative energy gets channeled where it’s needed and to help assure that these new products and services live up to Time (NYSE: TWX) standards.
Gerry Marzorati, who has been midwife to some new things and the masthead’s representative on others, has agreed to take on this new role. As editor of the magazine for an extraordinary seven-year run, Gerry has been involved in the reinvention of our style magazine, and the creation of magazines about sports and real estate. He has also represented the masthead in joint business-newsroom discussion of other forthcoming ventures. He is entrepreneurial by nature, comfortable working alongside our business colleagues, and clear about where the boundaries lie.
In brief, his responsibilities will be:
— Representing me, Jill and John as our agent wherever new products are discussed, in the newsroom and in the company at large. He will work with us to identify opportunities, to harvest business-minded ideas from the newsroom, and to be an alert system for potential conflicts.
— Monitoring new ventures as they get up and running, and in some cases overseeing their management.
— Offering a newsroom perspective to those who sell our work to advertisers, something he has done with considerable success for special issues of the magazine.
— Helping us develop newsroom assets that have growth potential.
Jim Schachter, who as editor for digital initiatives has been the newsroom’s Web entrepreneur, will keep that portfolio and become Gerry’s deputy, with the rank ofassociate managing editor. In his current job, Jim has taken an admittedly vague assignment and given it substance, nurturing many new ventures while improving the coordination and management within the newsroom and with the business side.
Between them, Gerry and Jim will be sometimes instigators (getting good new ideas a hearing), sometimes agitators (getting good ideas launched and handed off to good managers), sometimes skeptics (watching out for projects that risk distracting us from our main work, or compromising our standards.)
Gerry will remain in his current job, editing the weekly magazine and supervising the T team, through the summer.
Oh, yes. The magazine. Running The New York Times Magazine is one of the best jobs in journalism. We intend to take as much time as we need to find a worthy successor to Gerry. I invite anyone, inside or outside, who thinks he or she has a great vision for the magazine and the ability to execute it, to put your ideas in the form of a memo and send them to me by the end of July.