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With digitalculturebooks, the University of Michigan Press publishes innovative work in new media studies and digital humanities. We began in 2006 as a partnership between MLibrary and the Press, taking advantage of the skills and expertise of staff throughout Michigan Publishing. Our primary goal is to be an incubator for new publishing models in the humanities and social sciences.

Making News at The New York Times

Nikki Usher
An ethnographic study of The New York Times’ business desk provides a unique vantage point to see the future for news in the digital age


Making News at The New York Times is the first in-depth portrait of the nation’s, if not the world's, premier newspaper in the digital age. It presents a lively chronicle of months spent in the newsroom observing daily conversations, meetings, and journalists at work. We see Page One meetings, articles developed for online and print from start to finish, the creation of ambitious multimedia projects, and the ethical dilemmas posed by social media in the newsroom. Here, the reality of creating news in a 24/7 instant information environment clashes with the storied history of print journalism, and the tensions present a dramatic portrait of news in the online world.

This news ethnography brings to bear the overarching value clashes at play in a digital news world. The book argues that emergent news values are reordering the fundamental processes of news production. Immediacy, interactivity, and participation now play a role unlike any time before, creating clashes between old and new. These values emerge from the social practices, pressures, and norms at play inside the newsroom as journalists attempt to negotiate the new demands of their work. Immediacy forces journalists to work in a constant deadline environment, an ASAP world, but one where the vaunted traditions of yesterday's news still appear in the next day's print paper. Interactivity, inspired by the new user-computer directed capacities online and the immersive Web environment, brings new kinds of specialists into the newsroom, but exacts new demands upon the already taxed workflow of traditional journalists. And at time where social media presents the opportunity for new kinds of engagement between the audience and media, business executives hope for branding opportunities while journalists fail to truly interact with their readers.

“Nikki Usher’s portrait of journalistic work at one of the leading news organizations in the world is a fascinating window into a social field caught between the editorial values of print journalism and their emergent counterparts in the digital space. This book will greatly appeal to journalists and scholars alike.”
— Pablo J. Boczkowski, author of The News Gap: When the Information Preferences of the Media and the Public Diverge

“As the embodiment of the journalism profession, The New York Times remains a worthy object of study, but few have had the access necessary for this kind of deep newsroom ethnography. Nikki Usher shows in rich and readable detail what happens when a traditional and powerful institution must adapt to the inescapable digital world.”
— Stephen D. Reese, Jesse H. Jones Professor of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin

“This book is illuminating and memorable, a minutely observed account of The New York Times reshaping itself in the digital age. It is immersion reportage and also a history, a snapshot of 2010. It shows a great newspaper become a print-to-Web teenager alternatively awkward, embarrassed, nuttily ambitious, idealistic, mistaken—and, despite all, true to itself.”
— Michael Schudson, Columbia University

Nikki Usher is Associate Professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University.

Praise / Awards

  • "This is a terrific, troubling backstage look at the news cycle of web and print at the Times. Usher (media, George Washington Univ.) writes well and has impeccable anthropological skills... Highly recommended."
  • "Making News is an academic page-turner of sorts, offering unique insight into one the world’s most renowned quality newspapers. The writing is clear and vigorous, and she offers intriguing analyses of digital shifts in the field that are still taking place even now."
    --Maria Theresa Konow-Lund, Journal of Media Innovations

  • "Making News at the New York Times offers a refreshing take on a 163-year-old institution by examining its evolutionary struggle to survive in the age of Twitter, Facebook, and paywalls. This in-depth report on the frantic routines of its staff...makes for a compelling read."
    --Eric Sandstrom, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly
  • Winner of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Tankard Book Award

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 294pp.
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  • Hardcover
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11936-3

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  • $55.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2014
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  • 978-0-472-03596-0

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  • $29.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90022-0

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  • Journalism, Journalism Studies, Ethnography, Media Studies, The New York Times, Media Sociology, Digital Journalism, Online Journalism, Immediacy, Journalism Values, Participation, Qualitative Research, Sociology