Case in point:
The Times had a nice piece in yesterday’s Week in Review about last week’s Oval Office meeting of the five living presidents and the resulting photograph—pristine Barack with craggy George H.W., buddy-buddy Bill and W., and Jimmy Carter, oddly or poignantly distanced from the crowd. This is news because such gatherings never happen, and because the event produced an historic photograph, and because the meeting signaled a tone change for the incoming administration. The new president said he was looking for “advice, good counsel and fellowship.”
“Even if there was no advice,” the Week in Review article concluded, “Mr. Obama walked away with something perhaps equally valuable: front-page publicity and political goodwill.”
But while this “compelling Oval Office tableau,” as the Week in Review described the picture, was plastered on front-pages everywhere, it was not, in fact, on the front-page of the New York Times.
Such a keepsake moment in the news business, was also a what-were-they-thinking-moment at the Times.
More and more, if you’re still reading the paper Times, you might have a sense on most mornings of a front page more introspective than declarative, more soft than hard, more lost about how it should rank the events of the day than clear. The Times is obviously grappling with the question everybody in journalism is—what’s news when everybody already knows the news?