Finding the Web editor at NYTimes.com

Written by Adrian Holovaty on June 7, 2003

This week's festivities are almost over, but we've got one last site to check: The Gray Lady.

The New York Times Online has been criticized for not printing reporters' e-mail addresses on its story pages. Is it equally protective of the contact information for its higher-ranking staff? Let's find out.

On the home page, I scan the left rail for an appropriate link. "About NYTDigital" catches my eye because of the word "about"; clicking that takes me to nytdigital.com, which has a significantly different design and navigation scheme.

I'm a bit startled by the change, but the navigation seems extremely simple: The five links are "Learn about us," "Contact us," "Work for us," "Advertise with us," and "Partner with us." Clearly "Contact us" is what I want. I click it.

The resulting page doesn't seem to offer much information, and I move my mouse toward the Back button -- but, just in time, I notice the secondary navigation: "NYTD," "NYTimes.com," "Boston.com" and "The New York Times Company." Aha! I click "NYTimes.com," but only after stopping for a second to consider what, exactly, the difference is between "NYTD" and "NYTimes.com." (What's the difference? I don't know, and I'm not sure any other normal user would know.) I'll come back to "NYTD" later, in case "NYTimes.com" doesn't give me the information I need.

Unfortunately, that's the case. The "NYTimes.com" page, looks almost exactly the same as the previous page! I try the "NYTD" link in the navigation, but it turns out I've already seen that page.

Now I try the "Learn about us" link in the navigation, but nothing happens. That's because the link points to this page itself; and that's a coding error. I click Back several times and keep moving my mouse over the "Learn about us" link to see whether the link worked on the current page. Finally, I'm back on the main nytdigital.com page, and the "Learn about us" link works. I click it.

Now I'm on the Who we are page, which doesn't contain much content but has a fair-sized secondary navigation bar. I click "Management."

All right! This page, titled "Management Team," lists the names of 10 of the highest-ranking NYTimes.com staff members. Each manager's name is underlined; assuming these are mailto: links, I move my mouse over the first link -- but it's not an e-mail address, it's a full link that appears to be a individual detail page for this staff member. I click that link.

The resulting Martin Nisenholtz page offers a medium-sized bio of Mr. Nisenholtz, along with a short description of what he does for NYTimes.com. This information is great -- but his e-mail address isn't listed on the page!

Thinking maybe Mr. Nisenholtz's page is a special case (because of his high rank), I click Back and try the page of Leonard M. Apcar, the site's Editor-in-Chief. Again, the page gives plenty of personal information about Mr. Apcar, but it does not include an e-mail address. I give up on this section: It gave me some, but not all, of the information I was looking for.

But wait: I'm not done. I go back to the nytimes.com home page and scan the navigation links for something else that might help. I see, at the bottom of the page, a "Contact us" link. Could this lead me to the same page I saw before? Maybe. But what have I got to lose? I click it.

Ah! This is new. I'm now in the "Member Center," and there are several helpful "contact" links -- including the line: "For more details, visit How to Contact the News Staff of NYTimes.com." That sounds like exactly what I want. I click it.

Now I'm on the How to Contact the News Staff page. I'm so close, I can practically smell it. The page asks: "Want to contact someone specific at The New York Times or NYTimes.com?" Yes! Yes!

Oh. In order to do that, I've got to "Send a blank message to [staff at nytimes dot com] for an automated response containing the e-mail addresses of New York Times staff members who have made them available to the public." Interesting: This seems to be a sneaky, but smart, way of protecting Times staffers' e-mail addresses from spammers.

Is this an acceptable way of providing staff e-mail addresses? It sure is, in my book; I fully understand the Times' concern over protecting addresses from spammers, and because I sympathize with anyone who's battling spam, I don't mind the minor inconvenience. If anything, I'd say it's more convenient to have the staff contact list in my KMail e-mail program than it would be to have to look up e-mail addresses on a Web site.

I send an e-mail to [staff at nytimes dot com], as instructed, and receive what appears to be a comprehensive staff e-mail directory of the New York Times within a minute. It includes staff from all over the newspaper -- not just from the Web site. Nice! I'm one happy customer, even though it took a while to find this. (Which, ironically, is probably why I'm so excited to find this information -- because it took some effort.) Kudos to the Times for providing this feature. It's a shame it took me so long to find.

Tomorrow: A wrapup of this week's findings.

Comments

Posted by Carol Troy on June 13, 2003, at 7:13 p.m.:

In '96 and '97 and into '98 perhaps, every story I wrote for the NYTimes CyberTimes carried my email address -- plus addresses of other Web sites discussed in the piece -- at the close of the article. A very open process.

Posted by Adrian on June 13, 2003, at 8:52 p.m.:

Carol: That's interesting; thanks very much for sharing. Any idea why the Times stopped doing so?

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