Today's panel at NYU, "The Future of Media: 2011"—did you somehow miss it?—wasn't about the Times versus the big aggregating websites, or how the newspaper is dying—that's old news. The panel was more like a celebration of a year of successes and acquisitions. Everyone expressed that they were very happy. And actually, each participant was someone who was involved in a (at least mostly) successful, or at least intriguing, part of the world of publishing words.
Elizabeth Spiers' Observer just launched a shiny new website today. And there was Edward Felsenthal, the executive editor of the newly formed Newsweek/Daily Beast, who made sure to advertise that the two publications were working seamlessly well together.
Vadim Lavrusik, the journalism program manager for Facebook, talked about Facebook's focus on the spread of information. Remy Stern, of Gawker, was surprisingly low-key but made sure to emphasize that the company's site redesigns have worked so far.
And Saul Hansell, one of Arianna Huffington's Times acquisitions, now the Big News Editor for The Huffington Post, started out the panel as a quiet and smiley fellow but soon made some of the best points of the day. Or at least quips: "There are a lot more people saying things than there things to say in this world" was a crowd favorite. Hansell spoke at great length about AOL's hyperlocal blog network: "Patch is like building a railroad 150 years ago."
"Give us a couple years to try stuff and if we don't run out of money we will find interesting stuff," he said. "If you're not doing an experiment in this world, what the hell are you doing?"
"The star" of the panel was the Times' David Carr. The moderator, Patrick Phillips, the founder of I Want Media, frequently called Carr the "movie star on the panel" due to his role in the upcoming documentary Page One. Carr doesn't really like this and said that it was like being "the tallest leprechaun—not a big deal."
At one point, Carr went into a long rant endorsing the paywall (which he concluded with the offhand comment "sorry for the informercial"). He's in a funny position: he's kind of like the rockstar with the tour bus that's sponsored by a deodorant company. And you want to go see his shows, even if he is a little bit corporate. But like how the deodorant company gives the rockstar the means to entertain his fans, the Times, rather amazingly, gives Carr the platform to (mostly) do whatever the hell he really wants. And, even with his verve, that everyone just seemed so downright gleeful made for a drama-free afternoon.
Myles Tanzer is a summer Awl reporter.