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Brisbane Preparing for Life in the ‘Twitterdome’ as NYT Public Editor

In his first column as New York Times public editor, Arthur Brisbane says the faster pace of news coverage means the paper needs to respond to its many critics–and fans–more quickly and correct mistakes as quickly as it churns out news.

Saying people use the “blogosphere, the Twitterdome and the like” to criticize the work of grey lady, Brisbane said the paper understands that it needs to be transparent in responding to concerns of “[w]ounded lovers” and “armed antagonists” and that it still has to strive to respond quicker given the efforts people go to when poring over the paper and website for mistakes or problems.  Oh, and he voted for Barack Obama and Scott Brown.

Bloggers, tweeters, aggregators and competing Web sites pore over Times content every day, hunting for food, hunting for fodder. In military terms, you could call it asymmetric warfare — a lightly armed foe waging war against a much larger and less agile one.

The metaphor of war, though, is incomplete because this is not just about the committed antagonists of The Times. It’s also about the loyalists. When they find errors or other shortcomings, they expect their beloved to own up.

Brisbane was named in June to be the new public editor, replacing Clark Hoyt. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Washington Post, the editor and publisher of The Kansas City Star and a senior executive at Knight Ridder. In his first column, he says he took the job because “the next few years will be an inflection point for The Times. Newspaper-based organizations — ones like The Times that have created Web operations and other news products — will either weather the storm of transformation or tip into the deep. It will be a fateful time.”

In stating his values, he said that “news organization needs to be aggressive” and that caution can be a dangerous when it overshadows ambition. He said that he “believe[s] there is no conspiracy. Neither Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. nor Bill Keller is the Wizard of Oz, dictating an agenda from behind a screen. Rather, The Times comes together like parallel computing: many lines simultaneously flowing through a filter, hitting the driveway and flashing on a screen. It is very messy.”

Brisbane is right that everyone is a critic of the the paper and is looking for things to question . . . and sometimes praise.  The paper is trying to figure out how to embrace the future–whether it is its iPad application or its new paywall–and the paper is still considered to have a liberal bias, except from liberals who believe it cowtows to big business and neoconservatives.

He’s going to have a very busy tenure.

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