The digitization of journalism

09.16 | NYC | James Slezak, Executive Director of Digital Strategy, The New York Times

James explores how the internet is transforming high quality journalism, posing existential challenges to media organizations, while at the same time offering unprecedented opportunities to connect with audiences.

James works with teams of designers, entrepreneurs, journalists and technologists to create the next generation of online experiences for the 80 million people around the world who read The New York Times.

Prior to NYT, James was a founding partner at New York-based social impact agency Purpose (www.purpose.com), building campaigns on sustainability and human rights, and at New Economy Lab, doing similar work for the sharing economy. He was also cofounder of the music discovery startup Tunism, building on earlier work as an electronic music DJ and producer.

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@jslez | LinkedIn  | jamessezak.com

The Rising Interview 

Where are you right now?
On my rooftop in the Lower East Side.

Where do you go when you need inspiration? 
For a walk to the east river.

Idleness. A gift or curse? 
A gift.

To Bitcoin, or not to Bitcoin? 
Hmmnnn... so much to say about Bitcoin. I'd say 'yes to Bitcoin', or something like it. I think a cryptocurrency is a necessary advance.

Liberal Democracy or Democratic Liberalism? 
I think it's a false dichotomy that you have to choose between a society that privileges entrepreneurship with openness and smart regulation, or one with a strong social support. I think we can demand both.

Carpe Diem or nosce te ipsum (know thyself)?
Know thyself.

Last app opened? 
Messenger, boring but true.

Last book read?
'The Intuitionist' by Colson Whitehead. It's about elevator repair people from two schools of thought, intuitionists and empiricists - those who use intuition to figure out what's going on, and those who use analytic discovery. It's also about race relations.
Eli Pariser, founder of Upworthy, recommended it. For him it's a metaphor for the way you can optimize content on the web. For example, when writing headlines, some take an intuitive approach about what they think people want to read, and others look at the statistics of click-through patterns.

Favourite Album?
Kruder and Dorfmeister, K&D Sessions.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Always remember you can be wrong.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever bestowed?
It's usually places to get good coffee.

If you could be anywhere, where would it be? 
I want to go to Costa Rica, it sounds great.

If you could be remembered for one thing, what would it be?
Knowing where there's good coffee.

In the next three years what innovation will have the greatest impact on technology/business/culture?
I think we're going to get better at crowd co-creation and loose organization design. The combination of the sharing economy and open source software models could be very powerful. In the latter, people don't get paid currently so it's not scalable, and in the former, participants often engage primarily because they need the money. The sweet spot will be bringing people's creative passions to something and having them earning a living from it, liberating people from being forced to do things they don't enjoy for their livelihood.