New York Times Narratives

It was a shock on arriving at the New York Times in 2004, as the paper’s movie editor, to realize that its editorial dynamic was essentially the reverse. By and large, talented reporters scrambled to match stories with what internally was often called “the narrative.” We were occasionally asked to map a narrative for our various beats a year in advance, square the plan with editors, then generate stories that fit the pre-designated line.

By last summer, a Los Angeles bureau that was built to house 13 had dwindled to four or five inhabitants. Visits by upper editors were rare or nonexistent. Los Angeles stories, especially about the entertainment business, were increasingly written by visiting New York staff members or freelance writers assigned by editors back in Manhattan