The New York Times took its time to find a new person to lead its video efforts following a shake-up back in July that saw general manager of video Rebecca Howard announce her departure from the paper and the department’s managing editor Bruce Headlam transition to a “senior role” in the newsroom.
Today, more than four months later, The Times finally revealed that Alex MacCallum, an assistant managing editor currently overseeing audience development, will take control of the video department. But not right away — she won’t start her new position until returning from maternity leave in January.
In a note to employees on Monday, The Times’s executive editor Dean Baquet and its CEO Mark Thompson described video as a “key editorial and commercial priority.” The Times also pledged its commitment to video back in April at its NewFront presentation, where it screened clips of “Walking in New York,” a 360-degree video by filmmaker Chris Milk and his company VRSE. It has supported it words with deeds, most notably with a promotion earlier this month in which it included more than one million Google Cardboard viewers in copies of its print edition sent to home delivery subscribers. The giveaway coincided with the debut of its new VR film from Milk, “The Displaced,” capturing the resilience of three children, from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine and Syria, uprooted by war. The Times plans to release a third VR video in December and several more in 2016.
But as the Old Grey Lady giveth itself to video, it also taketh away. Just prior to its Google Cardboard giveaway, Baquet sent a memo to video staffers informing them that were all eligible to apply for a buyout, and those who didn’t could possibly face a layoff. But he added that the 164-year-old paper would be replenishing the video unit with what he characterized as “targeted hiring to add the kinds of deep experience, news judgment and creativity we believe essential to take our video to a higher level.”