Joe "Private Dancer" Sexton sent out a memo to his Metro staff this morning about City Room, the new blog headed up by Times favorite son Sewell Chan. Things are going swimmingly! Except it seems that some reporters need more than a gentle nudge to start contributing: "Expect that Sewell and Patrick and Jim and Lexi and I will be reaching out to you. We need breaking news updates; supplemental material that didn't make its way into the paper; off-the-beat observations and anecdotes; links to primary sources like Web pages and PDF's that can help the reader who wants more context; and more. Sometimes it's as simple as a phone call or email to us." (Wonder how the union feels about all that?) But Sexton, unlike Rick Stengel over at Time, hasn't resorted to threatening his reporters if they don't contribute to the website. Yet. The full memo follows.
From: joe sexton Subject: A Call to Arms (and legs and ears and eyes and hearts and minds) Date: Mon, 02 Jul 2007 11:53:58 -0400
To: The Staff From: Joe Sexton
City Room is now a little more than two weeks old. It has produced a lot of variety, been visually interesting, and, shit, readers seem to like it. We've had a mix of breaking news, enterprise and feature material, links to other sites, reader service and discussions. More than 175 posts in the earliest days with 1,613 reader comments (the Empire Zone only had 11,000 over its 14-month life span).
We've been told a post about a brief blackout on the East Side was the most-read blog post on the Web site that day. We told readers about the blackout and then we told them it was over before radio and TV even had any information. We also had the first announcement of Bloomberg's plan to drop his Republican affiliation, and covered the story as it unfolded in a partnershp with the National Desk, the Caucus blog and the Continuos News Desk.
But it's not all about breaking news. We've unveiled some regular features including Jonathan Hicks's column Politics 5B from the front lines of borough and neighborhood political fights, Maria Newman's column on news from summer getaways from Cape May to the Hamptons, a Taking Questions feature that drew a huge reader response on the issue of congestion pricing and other transportation issues.
Jim Dao, Patrick and Sewell have been having breakfasts with several reporters, but it's worth reiterating that the project needs the help of the whole Metro staff. If you want to find out more, reach out. But expect that Sewell and Patrick and Jim and Lexi and I will be reaching out to you. We need breaking news updates; supplemental material that didn't make its way into the paper; off-the-beat observations and anecdotes; links to primary sources like Web pages and PDF's that can help the reader who wants more context; and more. Sometimes it's as simple as a phone call or email to us.
City Room clearly gives readers a chance to talk with each other, but also to us; we want to use City Room to generate tips, story ideas, angles of inquiry.
City Room, to state the important and the obvious, helps to raise the Metro staff's profile and promote the work of our reporters; because many people end up on our blogs through search engines or other blogs, City Room can extend the Metro report's reach to readers who don't get the print edition or regularly read NYTimes.com.
I close with some highlights, and with a last encouragement to get involved.
- "The Rising Cost of Meat on a Stick" a photo-only blog post by Uli Seit, showing an Astoria vendor's sign warning customers about the $2.50 souvlaki
- Dalton Walker's post on yoga in the middle of Times Square, along Willie Davis's photo, is one of the main featured items on the main home page for several hours, drawing more than 130 comments
- Video journalist Geoff McGhee, accompanying Willie Neuman into the subway tunnels of Brooklyn, shows readers the perilous sounds and images that track workers experience daily.
- Ken Belson tracked down Takeru Kobayashi, the world's hot-dog-eating champion, and interviewed him — in Japanese, no less — on his mysterious jaw pain (a wisdom tooth turns out to be the culprit) for a City Room exclusive.
- Kim Severson, from Dining, quickly dissected a City Hall press release about trans fats and explained why the elimination of the frying medium from 83% of the city's restaurants isn't so surprising — or such a big deal — after all.
- Al Baker wrote up a transcript of his fascinating interview with Ray Kelly over the old wooden police sawhorses, which we published in full.
- Al Baker also took a story that probably wouldn't have made the paper — the theft of a silver reliquary, containing a saint's ankle bone, from a Greek Orthodox cathedral in Astoria — and turned it into a neat blog post.
- Jo Craven McGinty did a quick analysis of Census data and discovered that the Orthodox village of Kiryas Joel has been the state's fastest-growing community this decade — which in turn became a story for the print edition the next day.