By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – On the 16th floor of a New York Times board room, our conversation with NYT senior editor Pedro Rafael Rosado, was upbeat and frank. There were no holds barred in that morning chat as the April sun shone quite fiercely through the Manhattan skyline: quite typical of how journalists talk to each other.
Six of the officers of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York had a two-hour guided tour with Mr. Rosado in one of the oldest, at 160 years old, and biggest print media institutions of the world. It was to me a much looked forward to schedule on my Spring calendar.
The opener was expectedly about news on Pres. Duterte which the Times had run not once, but twice: They are Slaughtering Us Like Animals and an editorial: This Man Must Be Stopped.
The Asia Bureau investigated thoroughly and decided to run the story on December 7, 2016 which was pitched by photojournalist Daniel Berehulak, Rosado revealed. It won a second Pulitzer for Berehulak, a fierce criticism for NYT by the Philippine government, and an ire from several members of the Fil-Am community here.
Rosado had a blurted a big laugh when we told him that businesswoman and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis was accused by an army of trolls that she paid off the Times to run the stories against Duterte. “Really!” he exclaimed, grinning.
Shifting to a more serious tone, he said: “This man is literally killing people in the streets. There’s no way to dance around it. Regardless of what your political bent is.”
Duterte’s antagonistic attitude towards the media is similarly shared by Pres. Trump, a cause for the Times, for example, to view current times as markedly dangerous but interestingly, also beneficial. Its subscription literally soared since Pres. Trump came to office, Rosado revealed.
In this digital era, the Times had to add a section on troll management, where the deluge of comments and misinformation is overwhelming. It highlights comments, whether for or against an article, in order to keep the readers on track of the issues and not be side-swept.
Digital Era Means Lesser Revenues
The major challenge for Times, however is on the economics of the digital world. There is a huge difference in digital and print advertising. A double page for a movie ad could rake in $500,000 in print but certainly not with a banner ad online.
At hindsight, Rosado said the Times management never anticipated the enormous growth of the internet which provided for free access to information that it could actually hurt the print industry too.
“The worst mistake in the world is arrogance. We gave the internet away for free. Because we didn’t think it would grow so big. And we thought that the newspapers will always be there. That you can just walk up to your newsstand and pick up your paper. It was such a mistake. Nobody wants to pay for something now that they can get for free,” Rosado said.
Indeed, the Times management continues to confront the problem on lowered revenues due to the unprecedented growth of digital technology where news is free.
While the NYT has remained to be seen as elitist in organic composition and culture, Rosado explained that this is because of the natural network of editors and reporters. “When you are a graduate of Harvard or Yale, you could easily end up in a job here. But that is not the case for immigrants or people of color, which I am. Hence the presence of non-whites is sparse in this space.”
He said that there are women journalists who rose from the ranks and management is continuing to find way to diversify the editorial pool.
As Rosado sipped up the last of his coffee, he gave us a tour of the glass building. He reminded that he will have to be remembered as the one who coined the word “sultry” to the weather.
A Wealth of History in a Hurry
Every section was astounding to me – the gallery of news makers and winning stories truly inspiring. The Book Review department looked like the NYPL with the amount of books sent by publishers seeking to be reviewed. The Obituary was as forlorn as its message of eternal departure. No writer was there, and as we know it, obituaries are usually template biographies where only the first two paragraphs detailing death circumstances are being updated.
The newsroom was alive, even at 10AM, and there’s no let-up 24 hours of that space. There is a well-sealed room for confessions and crying, as reporters work up their stories from delicate sources or when they have to cry when their stories get chopped by editors, or both.
For this old institution of the press, one thing remains burning in the business of news, and that is the writing of a good story. As Rosado puts it, “A good story teller continues to matter in the digital age.” (Featured photo is NYT senior editor Pedro Rafael Rosado with officers of the FAPCNY)