But changing the timing and setting would not have been enough to uproot the values inculcated by the old gathering format. The meeting would also have to be run differently. Whereas the meeting used to begin with pitches, on the morning I was there it began with an audience report on the number of views certain stories had attracted the night before and other audience statistics. To start with a focus on what readers rather than editors thought signalled a major change in New York Times culture. Editors of various desks were asked to share what they were working on. As they did, those on the masthead and a smattering of others would ask specific questions about a piece and what the focus would be.
These questions began to reveal a new New York Times in the making. A piece on a new tax proposal drew this question: “One of the things I think a lot of readers want to know is: What does this mean for the rich?” At one point, there was a debate about whether a certain article about a new health study merited a mobile news alert, which signals breaking news and goes out to all Times subscribers. Behind the specific query was one of those larger philosophical questions: What merits the “breaking news” label? At one point, the editor in charge of digital asked why a certain piece, if it was ready, couldn’t be published now rather than waiting for 3 p.m., when it was scheduled. In asking that question, he was pushing his editors to think differently about when a piece goes live.
“We want to get people focusing on what the experience of The New York Times is right now, or in the next two hours, on their phone,” Clifford Levy, the deputy managing editor who oversees all digital platforms, told me. “I think there’s still a bit of people planning things out, which is great, but the here and now is just so super-important, and changing that metabolism in the newsroom has been our long- term project.” While that metabolism doesn’t change overnight, daily gatherings are a powerful tool for adjusting it.
The meeting is still very much a work in progress, however. After all, people still informally call it the Page One meeting.