New York Times Journalists Free From Libya, Paywall Gets Internal Investigation


On Friday, the New York Times was told that four of its reporters being held by government forces in Libya would be freed. Meanwhile, bombing commenced from allied forces and Gaddafi’s troops struck back against their own people in the embattled African nation. As Times executive editor Bill Keller put it in a memo this morning, he and his colleagues held their “enthusiasm and comments in check until [the journalists] were out of the country,” but the paper has indeed confirmed that Lynsey Addario, Tyler Hicks, Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell have arrived safely in Tunisia. Still, at least 13 journalists covering the conflict remained detained in Libya. More on the Times group’s release, plus more media news inside Press Clips, our daily round-up.

On the Ground: Despite the good fortune of the New York Times four, Yahoo’s The Cutline noted this morning that many reporters in Libya remain unaccounted for or in danger, including journalists from AFP and four from Al Jazeera, adding to “more than 50 attacks on members of the press, two of which were fatal,” according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Additionally, in the month of Libyan unrest, CPJ has counted “more than 33 detentions, five assaults, two attacks on news facilities, numerous instances of equipment confiscation, three cases of obstruction, the jamming of at least two satellite news transmissions, and the interruption of Internet service.”

In a memo to the New York Times newsroom, Keller confirmed the safety of his people and thanked the government of Turkey, “which intervened on our behalf to oversee the release of our journalists and bring them to Tunisia. We were also assisted throughout the week by diplomats from the United States and United Kingdom.”

He also alluded to the recently announced Times paywall, writing that “in a week when we have dared to declare that the work we do is worth paying for, this is a reminder that real, boots-on-the-ground journalism is hard and sometimes dangerous work.”

The Paper of Insidery: As for less grave matters, the way the New York Times reports on itself never stops being super weird, demonstrated perfectly in an otherwise tight and fair media piece in today’s paper about the discussion surrounding company’s new paywall system. “Times’s Online Pay Model Was Years in the Making,” reports the New York Times with a heavy dose of drama. “The discussions played out over most of 2009 amid the hum of the third floor newsroom and in the executive suites high above Times Square,” the article begins, “consuming what seemed like countless meetings and consultants’ recommendations.”

And from there: “At issue was the biggest strategic leap in a generation for the 159-year-old New York Times: would readers be willing to pay to read its journalism online?” Again, this is in the New York Times. (Journalism school students are thinking something about ACCESS right now.)

This story puts company chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. is the middle of “executives and senior editors sometimes heatedly taking sides,” and later features quotes that begin “On the one hand,” and “On the other hand.” Could this be the perfect newspaper article?

$$$: In other, vaguely paywall-related news, New York Times Co. CEO Janet Robinson made $4.48 million dollars last year. In our dreams: “You get a free online subscription! You get a free online subscription! You get a free online subscription!” (Tony?)

Mogul Respect Mogul: Mediaite blog network founder and TV man Dan Abrams (also my former boss) stands with The Huffington Post against the Newspaper Guild calling for a strike from all unpaid writers, arguing “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

Momentum: And finally, ex-Runnin’ Scared man Foster Kamer is leaving Esquire, where he worked as online news and features editor, for a senior editor spot at the Elizabeth Spiers revamp of the New York Observer. Kamer will also report on Wall Street. “I look forward to my forthcoming AdWeek hit-piece,” Kamer joked in the announcing press release, with typically self-obsessed wit (about online media). It’s as of yet unclear whether his Esquire victory lap will take place on Twitter or Tumblr. Updates as they come over the transom. Zing? (Thanks for the job.)