Riley Floyd ’13 – Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a symposium for collegiate newspaper editors co-sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and The New York Times. The less than 24 hours that I spent in New York were absolutely incredible, and I did so much in that short amount of time that it felt like I was in the city for much longer than I actually was. At the risk of “hiding the ball,” I’ll give you a summary of my time in Gotham before recapping the day at the Times.
I took a 5:30 plane out of Indianapolis on Thursday afternoon. I did some reading for my Friday classes on the plane and flew into JFK on one of the clearest days I’ve seen in the sky. The weather was beautiful—a perfectly spring-like 60 degrees. I took the AirTrain from the terminal and transferred to the subway in Queens at Jamaica Station. I took the E uptown to 42nd Street and 8th Avenue. I had been in the city once before, so I knew my way around midtown Manhattan decently well. Walking through Times Square to my hotel at 44th Street at 7th Avenue wasn’t the most pleasant or non-claustrophobic experience, but I managed! I checked into my hotel and set about finding a dinner spot. I settled on Bobby Van’s Grill.
Let’s put it this way, I didn’t want to leave the restaurant. Bobby Van’s is a steakhouse chain that began in the Hamptons. They now have over nine locations spread throughout New York and Washington, D.C., and they pride themselves on catering to the likes of Truman Capote and other members of the literary scene. Needless to say, when I saw that on the menu, I knew I had made the right choice. And, late at night, it was great to just sit in the window and watch the people walk by. I went back to my hotel and tried to hit the hay early to get up early the next morning for a run in Central Park. The goal was 5 a.m.
5 a.m. didn’t happen. But 6:40 did! I got up and forewent the idea of a run and decided instead to make just a few stops along the way to enjoying a quick walk in the Park. I made my way over to Rockefeller Plaza (at 49th and 50th Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues) for a stop at Dean & Deluca for a chocolate croissant and coffee. I walked through the Today Show crowd, grabbed breakfast to go, and made my way up 5th Avenue to the Park. Perhaps not surprisingly for 7 a.m. on a Friday, 5th Avenue wasn’t too busy. And that was an awesome change of pace. Last time I was in New York, I was on 5th Avenue during the afternoon, so it was relatively crowded. This time, I could take my time.
Central Park made the 6:40 a.m. wakeup completely worth it. I love the Park, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the City. I pretty much promised myself that I wouldn’t make another visit to the city without going to the Park. I mostly stayed around the Pond just inside of 59th Street; I didn’t have time to go too far. And seeing the runners on their morning runs made me immediately regret the fact that I didn’t have the will power to tread the same trail. Nonetheless, I snapped a few great pictures before walking back to the hotel to check out and get ready for the Times symposium.
I walked to the Times building at 41st and 8th Avenue. Wow. Constructed in 2007, the building is a completely modern, 52 story building with 95,000 square feet of space. And, there’s a Dean & Deluca on the ground floor. Not bad at all.
The symposium was on the 15th floor in the conference center. Outside of the conference rooms hang the 104 Pulitzer Prizes that the Times has won for its work over the years. Later in the day, I won a Starbuck’s card for remembering that little fact. No, I didn’t Google it. It was on the back of a pamphlet about the building that we all received at the start of the symposium. I took a seat and sat with students from Swarthmore, Stony Brook, Towson, and Rutgers. Indeed, a variety of schools both large and small had some of their editors there—including two editors of the Yale Daily News, a paper that I use frequently as a model for design and story ideas.
We first heard from Bill Schmidt, the Deputy Managing Editor of the Times. He spoke about the paper’s commitment to journalism and its role within society. Believe it or not, the Times newsroom is as large now as it was 10 years ago with 25 foreign bureaus and 12 domestic bureaus. And, Schmidt compared the disruption in the wake of the digital revolution to the disruption that arose after Gutenberg invented the printing press. Schmidt gave an interesting talk about the Times evolution over the years and about the publication’s ethos that hasn’t really changed much at all.
We also heard from Don Hecker, Manager for Staff Editor Training; James Dao, National Correspondent for Military and Veterans’ Affairs; Neil Amdur; and Sandy Keenan, Environment Editor. Hecker took us through some editorial exercises and talked about entry-level copy editor positions at the Times. Dao spoke on the risks and rewards of being a foreign correspondent. He’s currently working on a series on an Army battalion’s deployment to Afghanistan and its effect on military families. He “embeds” with them on their trip overseas, comes back home, returns a few months into the tour, and then comes back home with the troops. Amdur has had a fascinating career in the world of sports journalism, and he gave some great, witty career advice. And Keenan, the former Sports Editor, spoke on covering the Beijing Olympics. Interestingly, she just became the Times environment editor, but spent the last nearly 30 years of her career as Sports editor. That cross blending of interests and experiences really stood out to me during my time at Times. Indeed, I think that’s what makes the publication as intriguing as it is.
While all of their talks and facts are too detailed to share here, I can say that the best part of the whole experience was seeing these professionals in their own environment. No, we didn’t get a tour of the newsroom. But it was awesome to see the faces behind the names on the masthead. The people we met on Friday are some of the most brilliant journalists I’ve ever encountered. Some are bookish and have Master’s degrees in journalism. Others never even graduated college. Nonetheless, their commitment to their work and their enthusiasm for it is one of a kind.
Attending the symposium right before finals was perfect. It gave me a chance to get away, clear my head, and to see the rewards of really taking pride in your work.
Oh, and did I mention that I got a free copy of the Times?!
Riley Floyd, Noblesville, In., is Editor of The Bachelor. His trip was funded by the Tim Padgett ’84 Editor’s Fund and the College Dean’s Office.