Things are a little awkward at the New York Times lately. The 'McCain possibly maybe having an affair' story was a flop, they just lost all-star critic Kelefa Sanneh to the New Yorker and their foremost legal expert, Linda Greenhouse, is taking a buyout. But if the Spitzer story has taught us anything, it's that hookers are a waste of money and that the New York Times' Metro desk is becoming the paper's (unlikely) best asset in this new new media battlefield.
Old-school reporter Willaim Rashbaum broke the Spitzer story. This is a guy whose voicemail directs to a pager number — the 90s really are back — and who's been covering generally unsexy court papers for nine years. But even if the Times's star player doesn't have a BlackBerry, the metro editors realized the internet appeal of this scoop. One reporter wanted to hold the story for Tuesday's paper, saying, "If you break everything from the Web, don't you take away something from the newspaper?" (Um, is that a joke?) By going online first, the Times owned the story, and became the go-to source for Spitzer's "weighing" through our "expecting" to the "where the fuck is the resignation" tease.
Joe Sexton, the Metro editor since 2006, wanted to bring back shoe leather reporting while the Times (and readers) wanted more lifestyle pieces. With the death of Heath Ledger, another story the Times owned, and this prostitution scandal, the metro section did old-fashioned reporting on sexy stories, which is basically what us "print is dead" bloggers are always saying newspapers should be doing. The Times rocked it. Team Metro Section!