Thursday, April 16, 2009

No Escaping Cost-Cutting at New York Times

And No Escapes Section Either (Not to Mention Suburban Sunday Weeklies)

The rumors bore out, and The New York Times is thinning out some of its offerings, offing the Escapes section that appears on Friday, along with the regional sections for Long Island, Westchester, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York City.
Escapes will be dispatched to oblivion as of May 1, with some of its offerings melded into the Weekend section. So maybe we'll still get to read about the particulars of vacation homes, weekend getaways and what it's like to live in some idyllic town far away from you. It was usually a pretty good read and I'll be sorry to see it go.
Same goes for the regional sections. Even though they had been watered down the last couple of years by sharing content across some of the titles, they still served a purpose, especially in Westchester -- my neck of the woods.
The local paper, The Journal-News, is so wanting as a publication that the Times was frequently able to offer stories the J-N never even thought of. Ironically, several of the section's freelancers were J-N alumni who had wrested themselves from that vortex of mediocrity.
And that is another part of this story. These sections were written almost entirely by freelancers who now have many fewer outlets for their work in the Times. Indeed, cutting the freelance budget will likely save millions.
There will be a zoned page in a new regional section that will debut May 24. But that doesn't leave room for much. Nor does it likely leave room for restaurant reviews, much needed as most of what passes for reviews in the J-N tend to be fawning rather than authoritative.
But what's more troubling is these and other cuts announced today may be yet another harbinger of more troubling cuts to come. Judging by this memo from Bill Keller, another day of reckoning may be at hand -- and soon.

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