Web Exclusive: NYT Names New TV Beat Reporter

The New York Times has gone inside for its New York–based TV entertainment beat reporter, naming Jacques Steinberg. The veteran reporter, who covers the newspaper industry for the paper, has been pinch-hitting on the TV news beat for the past year, ever since Jim Rutenberg went on campaign coverage. Steinberg will be on his own for the next few months because TV-beat major-domo Bill Carter tells L.A. Weekly he is planning on taking a short leave early next year to do some reporting for a possible book, "the details of which are still a bit undefined at the moment."

Times sources also tell L.A. Weekly that the newspaper offered its Hollywood TV reporting job to Jennifer Ordonez, Newsweek’s Los Angeles correspondent, but she turned it down. "The New York Times would be a great place to be and I'm a fan of the paper. But this just wasn't the right time for me to make a change. It was a personal decision, " Ordonez told LA Weekly Friday. That is the candidate to which Jonathan Landman was referring when he e-mailed the staff recently that the paper had already filled its third expansion slot, a new Hollywood television reporter "whose name we will announce shortly."

This was to be the replacement for L.A.-based Bernie Weinraub, who retires in February. The paper is planning a big goodbye party for Weinraub at the home of L.A. bureau chief John Broder.

Steinberg is a 1988 Dartmouth grad who began at the Times as the legendary columnist James "Scotty" Reston’s clerk and worked for the Metro, National and Education sections. In a staff e-mail, Landman claimed Steinberg first knew he wanted to write about TV when he penned a profile of Conan O’Brien for Arts & Leisure. "It’s dirty work, but somebody has to do it [writing about the] gosh dern wacky things that go on in TV."

Landman also used the opportunity to take a potshot at Tom Brokaw’s one-day-old replacement Brian Williams as NBC’s nightly news anchor. Recounting an anecdote when, chowing down on Philly cheesesteaks together, Steinberg was recognized and not Williams, Landman joked, "Anyone can see from Brian’s [debut] performance last night that he still hasn’t completely recovered."

Reached by phone, Steinberg declined comment to L.A. Weekly about the new gig.

In other news on the Times Culture desk expansion, one minute, Landman is complaining his section is "undermanned" and the next, his colleague, associate editor and columnist Frank Rich, is confessing it has added so many new staffers, "a lot of the people are just finding [their] way to where the restrooms are."

Both editors appeared on the Charlie Rose show recently to discuss what’s going on. "We’ve added almost 20 people in the Culture department, which is for the Times a huge increase in editorial employees. We’ve also added about seven columns a day of editorial space," Rich noted.

Added Landman: "We’ve added about seven and a half pages on average per week. That’s a lot. We’re just getting warmed up." Asked by Rose if this is a "big bet" by the paper — Rose meant in terms of money and prestige — Landman answered: "Well, any time you spend the kind of money we’re spending, it’s a big bet . . . We’re not betting the ranch. But we’re betting that a lot of our readers have insatiable appetites for top-quality reporting, writing and criticism about the arts and the culture generally."

Rich said that, in his 25 years at the paper, "this is so far and away the biggest overhaul I’ve seen given to any component of the Times in that period," including the redos of the weekend sections and the daily sections and the magazine. "It’s kind of remarkable. And it’s a roll of the dice in some way, and it will be months before people can even get a sense of it, including us. A lot of the people are just finding our way to where the restrooms are."

For Nikki Finke’s previous reporting on this, read http://www.laweekly.com/ink/04/51/deadline-finke.php.


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