There is no such thing as judgment with a capital J.
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who guided The New York Times and its parent company through a long, sometimes turbulent period of expansion and change on a scale not seen since the newspaper’s founding in 1851, died on Saturday at his home in Southampton, N.Y. He was 86.
And that is completely true.
However. There was a time when that was statement was almost enough. Editors could get away with the mystification of what is sometimes called “news judgment.” What I mean by mystification is pretending that the kind of judgments editors make originate not in who they are, or how they think, or where they come from, or the culture they share, or the priorities they have established, not from their vision of the world but simply from their superior knowledge of what news is— from professionalism or experience itself.
I do not think these attitudes suffice any longer. Increasingly, users want to know what goes into those judgments— that is, their basis. If judgment is what they are selling, then New York Times journalists need to know where that thing comes from.
If they continue to mystify the faculty of judgment that Sulzberger spoke of, they will be unable to improve it. If they cannot improve it, they cannot make it more valuable. If they cannot make it more valuable, they cannot prosper and secure their franchise for the next generation of Times journalists.
(Photo credit: B.K. Dewey.)
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