A group project with Manuela Donoso, Yucef Merhi, Jason Rosen, and Robbie Tilton.
We presented our response to Martin Nisenholtz on Tuesday, October 18th. Our ideas mutated constantly but I think our final choice got our point across. To Move, Destroy, and Create is the essence of adapting to the environment, and the New York Times is adapting to a digital world.
Reporting the news is a creative process. Writing and reading are sources of creative change. Presenting it accessibly to an era of short attention spans is a complex art.So we asked everyone to take an article and make something new and artistic out of it – ideally to take the words from a randomly chosen article and turn them into a poem. We then asked for people to read these pieces, which were by turns meaningful and amusing. Finally we asked them to transform it again, by transforming their page into a paper airplane. And then we let their words take flight.
The phrase we kept coming back to was the the Times was facing evolutionary pressure. Clearly paper news is becoming too expensive to support, but the current iteration of the New York Times online is unappealing with obtrusive ads. It needs to become something new.
Martin’s presentation lacked soul; it focused on data presentation, and was entirely informational. The most important point he made was that the board originally fought him when he tried to start a Times Online page. We did not hear his opinions on anything. It was only through later research that we learned how hard he actually fought to stop the pay wall, for instance.
We considered presenting an imaginary version of the board room fights he must have endured. Then we moved on to the basic concept of his role in evolving the Times for the internet. We spent a long time considering an Evolution Game where contestants would face challenges determined by the audience (aka external pressure). In the end we dropped this idea since it would have been too difficult to see the actions of volunteers on stage without special cameras.
My groupmates came from very different backgrounds, and we struggled at times with staying focused. We rarely agreed on anything. But by spending time together without focusing on the presentation, we were finally able to talk productively. Though it came down to the wire, we all agreed at last and then practiced together.
Pro tip: If the 4th floor has no private space available, try using the open lounges on other floors. The basement is a good location before it opens as Game Lounge at noon.
The other group presentation that day focused on Occupy Wall Street, a far more controversial topic. I applaud them for the bold choice.