It’s usually around 8 p.m. when the push notifications start rolling in. On Wednesday night, The New York Times kicked things off at 7:56 p.m. with a major story about how Obama administration officials had scrambled to preserve intelligence on Russia in the days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
An hour later, the next big story dropped. This time, from The Washington Post, with a bombshell revelation that Jeff Sessions did not disclose at least two encounters he had last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, despite having told lawmakers that “I did not have communications with the Russians” in his recent confirmation hearings to become the United States attorney general.
Both stories were stunning, but not wholly unexpected. In the chaotic early weeks of the Trump presidency, a drumbeat of late-night breaking news has become routine. News junkies have come to anticipate big scoops before bedtime.
“In a world where we had control of such things,” Tom Jolly, the associate masthead editor at The New York Times, told me in an email, “we’d break the big stories early in the day, when more people are online.”
This dynamic is, in a strange way, a throwback. As Matt Pearce, a national correspondent for The Los Angeles Times pointed out in a string of tweets Wednesday night, “it's like we’ve bizarrely returned to the era of the evening edition.”
In the late 19th and 20th centuries, the evening edition was the newspaper you grabbed for your commute home from work. Because it was published in the afternoon, it was the best way to get the most up-to-date news in print. After all, by the time the work day ended, that day’s morning paper covered events that had taken place at least a full day before.