Richard J. Meislin: “He helped kick a tradition-bound newsroom into the internet age, changing how the Times gathered the news and how readers received it.”

From a New York Times obit by David W. Dunlap headlined “Richard J. Meislin, Times Editor and Web Journalism Pioneer, Dies at 68”:

Richard J. Meislin, a New York Times editor who helped kick a tradition-bound newsroom into the internet age, changing how Times journalists gathered the news and how readers received it, died on Friday in Manhattan….

Mr. Meislin retired in 2015 as The Times’s internet publishing consultant after a 40-year career in which he held a number of posts, among them associate managing editor for internet publishing; editor in chief of New York Times Digital, which included; and Mexico City bureau chief.

Drawing on a passion that was evident in high school, when he worked with punch cards on a half-ton IBM 1620 computer, Mr. Meislin tried to convince skeptical colleagues in the 1990s that the internet was about to change journalism, not simply augment it.

“He has been at the forefront of bringing advanced technology to The Times both to enhance our journalistic efforts and to improve how we present and distribute our content,” Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, and Tom Bodkin, the paper’s creative director, said announcing his retirement.

For instance, Mr. Bodkin said, the NYT Cooking app, introduced in 2014, drew on Mr. Meislin’s vision 20 years earlier of “digitally organizing and sharing our wealth of recipes.” Last year, Cooking attracted 113 million users to its recipes, guides and collections.

As if building with electronic blocks, Mr. Meislin first ensured that the news staff had access to the internet and email. He then induced inexperienced journalists to use the web by creating a navigation page to sites that were hard to find before Google. He helped prepare the newspaper to compose pages electronically and print in color. He championed a digital newsroom when it was regarded as a mere adjunct and housed in a separate building. He insisted that The Times’s web offerings embody the scope and gravity of the newspaper.

What gave Mr. Meislin standing to wage such campaigns in a sometimes obdurate old news organization was his experience as a reporter and foreign correspondent. He had earned stripes that no ordinary computer whiz could claim.

Mr. Meislin was in Mexico City in 1985 when it was devastated by earthquakes, killing thousands. His dispatches dominated the front page for days. From Buenos Aires in 1982, he covered the 10-week war between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands.

His reporting on a New York City municipal corruption scandal in 1986 presaged the political rise of the prosecutor in the case, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was then a United States attorney.

Richard Jon Meislin was born in Manhattan in 1953 and raised in Allentown, Pa….

At Harvard, Mr. Meislin was president of The Harvard Crimson, the independent daily newspaper run by students. He applied to The Washington Post for a job after graduating in 1975 but was rejected for lack of experience.

The Times hired him as a copy boy; his job was to shuttle paper from one place in the blocklong newsroom to another. He was also a clerk to the managing editor, A.M. Rosenthal.

Mr. Meislin quickly fell into digital reporting. He programmed computers for the first New York Times/CBS News election survey in 1976, when terminals were linked through telephone handsets and data was displayed on sheets of perforated green-and-white paper.

“When everything works, it’s magical,” Mr. Meislin wrote for the March-April 1976 issue of The Times’s house organ, Times Talk. “The machine can zip through a mass of questionnaires, analyze them in depth, and give back the results in only a few minutes.”

He joined the metropolitan desk that year, rising to chief of the Albany bureau. He was made a foreign correspondent in 1982, responsible for Central America and the Caribbean. He took charge of the Mexico City bureau in 1983 and stayed until late 1985, when he was abruptly recalled to New York by Mr. Rosenthal, who by then was the executive editor.

“No one ever said, ‘You are being brought back from Mexico because you’re gay,’” Mr. Meislin said in an interview with Edward Alwood for the book “Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media”….“But there was certainly a widespread belief in the newsroom that it was a factor — and not a small one.”

For his part, Mr. Rosenthal denied any connection. “I knew Richard was gay when I sent him there,” he told Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post in 1992. “Do you think I sat down and said to the foreign editor, ‘I’m tired of him being a homosexual’?”

Mr. Meislin seized the opportunity presented by a return to headquarters. After a brief stint as a reporter, he became the graphics editor and set about increasing the number and the sophistication of charts, diagrams and other visual representations of information.

In that capacity he sent a prescient five-page memo in 1993 to the executive editor, Max Frankel, and the managing editor, Joseph Lelyveld, arguing that little thought — and less news judgment — had gone into The Times’s first electronic product for the general public, @times on America Online, which was soon to be inaugurated.

“The New York Times is about to establish an online personality, both visual and verbal,” he wrote. “How we combine the various elements of the new medium, how we make information available to readers, how we interact with them personally — all will make huge differences in how we are regarded online.”

Seven months later, Mr. Lelyveld appointed him senior editor for information and technology.

Mr. Meislin was named the editor in chief of The New York Times Electronic Media Company, later called New York Times Digital, in 1998; the editor of news technology in 2001; the editor of news surveys and election analysis in 2003; the associate managing editor for internet publishing in 2005; and an internet publishing consultant in 2008.

Throughout many of those years he was a high-profile member of The Times’s Gay and Lesbian Caucus, which was formed in the 1990s to ensure that L.G.B.T.Q. people and issues were covered thoroughly in The Times and that, as employees, they were treated fairly.

In recent years, he was responsible for the graphic design and marketing of Hudson Dermatology, Dr. Hendrik Uyttendaele’s group practice in the Hudson River Valley. The couple wed on Oct. 2, 2011. It was the 20th anniversary of their first meeting.

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