New ‘Times’ Metro Website to Provide All Sewell, All the Time

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Photo: Friendster.com

New York Times Metro wunderkind Sewell Chan racked up 422 bylines in a twelve-month period ending last spring, as the Observer pointed out then. So far in 2007, he's got 107 bylines, according to our pal Nexis, which works out to nearly 1.5 per day. If that's not enough Sewell for you, then today's your lucky day. The Times is set to launch "City Room," a new online project to cover the five boroughs, and Chan will be its founding bureau chief, according to a memo Metro editor Joe Sexton sent to his staff this morning. It's "a way that the readers of The New York Times can get as much Sewell Chan as he has to give," Sexton explains in his memo. (He makes it sound like that's a good thing. As readers, we're not quite sure we're up to it.) The site will offer "breaking news and human interest, updates and follow-ups, local history and color, Q&A's with newsmakers and our reporters, photos, audio and Web links to other New York sites," Sexton wrote. The full memo is after the jump.

Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007 09:23:13 -0500

To: metrostaff@nytimes.com

From: joe sexton

Subject: City Room for a New Age

To: The Staff
From: Joe Sexton

I said at one of the metro staff meetings earlier this month that it had become clear the physical paper could not contain Sewell Chan.

It was no laugh line. It was a statement of fact — an accurate, amazing, deeply impressive and deeply challenging statement of fact. And so, over the course of the last several months and in consultation with Mr. Keller, Ms. Abramson and Mr. Landman, we have worked at devising a way that the readers of The New York Times can get as much Sewell Chan as he has to give.

It won't surprise you to know it's a pretty daunting and exciting thing we are prepared to task him with: Sewell will be the first bureau chief of "City Room," the most audacious online venture the Metro desk has so far conceived and committed to.

The name of the site is a nod to our past and the time-tested methods of good reporting, which Sewell employs with such formidable skill — asking tough questions, digging up documents, burning shoe leather. But we also expect him to use all the modern tools of the digital newsroom, and readers will be invited to participate with comments, questions and other contributions.

As the site's bureau chief, Sewell will work with the metro editors and reporters and Web producers to enhance and enrich our online coverage of the big daily stories that have everyone talking. Sewell will also be encouraged to take his boundless curiosity — and his laptop — to all corners of the five boroughs to seek out stories particularly well-suited to the Web. There will be breaking news and human interest, updates and follow-ups, local history and color, Q&A's with newsmakers and our reporters, photos, audio and Web links to other New York sites.

The regular offerings will be rounded out with contributions by other Times reporters, editors and multimedia and video producers. (And we haven't forgotten the rest of the region; this is just a first step in expanding our online metro report.)

Sewell is to be commended for his courage in taking this on, in helping the paper and its reporters start to imagine a wider and more adventurous and more rewarding, and perhaps even exclusive reporting life on the Web. But we could not have dreamed up a more perfect candidate. Sewell, a child of the city, a lover of this paper and its standards and traditions, is also unafraid of the Web, its pitfalls and possibilities. He will take risks; but he will safeguard our name and reputation, as well.

We think he's going to be a new kind of star.

But he is going to need all of our help. Feel free to talk to him about "City Room'' — what it is, how it might work, how you might contribute. Sewell will be looking for your ideas, some of your time, a bit of your patience, and as much of your intelligence and wisdom as you can spare. He and his accomplices will be situated adjacent to the Metro backfield in the new building.

We will launch later this spring.

Joe