Monday, September 08, 2008

New York Times Section Consolidation Source of Trepidation

Sulzberger Leaning Precipitously Over a Slippery Slope

When The New York Times tried to bury the news on a Saturday inside business page that it will combine some of its sections, it wanted to give the appearance that it wasn't resorting to the desperation tactics now being employed at once-august Tribune properties.
No such luck.
First, the requisite quote from Publisher Pinch Sulzberger: “Given the business challenges we face, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce costs that do not affect the quality or quantity of the journalism we provide to our readers. We are not reducing the space devoted to Metro or Sports news. This is simply a way to produce the paper more efficiently.”
My response is, "Yes, but....."
It's troubling to contemplate the demise of the Metro section and see it subsumed into the A section. It'll be kind of like when you travel and pick up the Times' national edition, and they spit out a page-and-a-half or so of New York news to justify the paper's title.
I know, I know. Sulzberger says they're not reducing space. But are we to believe that Metro Editor Joe Sexton will be doing comparable studies of column inches each day to ensure his troops aren't short-shrifted? And if the company experiences continued softness on its balance sheet -- as is entirely likely -- won't it be tempting to trim a page? That'd be less noticeable if Metro was in the back of A instead of on its own.
Then there's Sports, which will be in the back of Business Day Tuesday-Friday, remaining as a standalone section Saturday-Monday. While the Times's Olympic coverage was stellar, it now returns to the limited news hole for the local teams, under the guise that it's kinda, sorta a national paper.
Hockey,except for Rangers home games, will be pretty much left to the wire. Ditto for the New Jersey Nets. The Knicks, because their dysfunction is so much more interesting than their play, will still merit a beat reporter, though Howard Beck probably shouldn't expect to make as many road trips as he has.
Bottom line: if money gets tight, the coverage will be even tighter. With the sports in the back of another section, cutting pages down will be less noticeable. Or, at least that's what management wants you to believe.
When the changes begin Oct. 6, you can see for yourself if Sulzberger is doing more than talking a good game and giving his reporters a chance to write about one.

No comments: