Elinor Mills, content director at Bateman Group, talks to New York Times Deputy Tech Editor Jim Kerstetter in the penthouse of Bateman Group’s office building.
As part of Bateman’s Media Q&A series, we had the pleasure of hosting Jim Kerstetter (@jimkerstetter), deputy editor of the technology section of The New York Times. Jim joined the newspaper after serving as editorial mastermind in a variety of roles at CNET (where he edited our very own Elinor Mills and briefly got her in trouble with Google).
For many journalists, an offer letter from the Times is even better than winning the Pulitzer. It’s the dream job. It’s the reason they go to J-school. Does the reality meet expectations? We asked Jim about the culture shock, and for quick insights into his new digs, including the kinds of stories he looks for and how to pitch a Times reporter. Below are some excerpted highlights from the interview.
Q: What kind of stories do you print?
A: I love a great story. At the Times we publish stories that appeal to a broad, global audience, stuff even my mom would find interesting. Personally I love business treatments of technology stories. My colleague Michael de la Merced did a great job with Did Google Really Lose on Its Original Motorola Deal? He did some back-of-the-napkin calculations and showed us that this deal wasn’t nearly as bad as most people thought.
Q: What stories will you never publish?
Product announcements, though the iPhone is an exception; top 10 lists; and bylines– they just aren’t going to happen unless you’re Vladimir Putin.
Q: If you had to follow three tech CEO’s for the next five years, who would it be?
Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Jeff Bezos. I’d say Elon Musk, but he’s covered by our auto and science sections (for now).
Q: What’s the best way to pitch a NYT reporter?
Q: What will be the biggest tech trends this year?
Security, privacy, and the continued migration to cloud computing. I’m endlessly fascinated by Valley workplace culture stories too. How it’s affected by gender bias, discrimination, free food. Tech has always been a boy’s club, but you can’t get away with it as easily anymore, not in San Francisco.
Q: Coming from a background of free, ad-sponsored publications, what are your thoughts on the New York Times’ paywall?
I firmly believe good content should be paid for. One thing that’s come at the expense of free content is investigative journalism, the resources and the freedom to really dig into a story, rather than going for linkbait. It’s expensive to drop journalists in a war zone, after all.
Q: Do you care about pageviews then?
As an editor, I’d be irresponsible if I didn’t look at pageviews. It’s ultimately an indication that you’re covering stuff your readers care about. However, I don’t expect our reporters to be looking at pageviews.
Q: What are your favorite sources of news?
I stare at Twitter all day. For general tech news, I probably pay the most attention to Re/code. Bloomberg is terrific. Washington Post for its security coverage.
Q: What’s the biggest difference now that you’re at the Times?
Access. Everyone wants to talk to the Times. Access can be good or it can be bad, depending on the journalist. There are some who abuse it and always use their access to write damning tell-alls. And at the opposite end there are those who only write fanboy pieces in order to retain their access.
Q: David Pogue’s out, Molly Woods and Farhad Manjoo are in at the Times. What changes can we expect from NYT’s tech coverage in the near future?
Farhad’s already started this, but I think you can expect to see a more erudite treatment of technology at the New York Times. We’re aiming for the tech section to have the same level of gravitas as other sections of the paper.
We’ll also be focusing a lot more attention to Bits. For the past few years we diversified our blogs, a bit too much. Now we plan to collapse them and for me, that means Bits.