Tuesday, March 31, 2009

“When your news hole is shrinking, waste acres of space on a table of contents.” Is this the New York Times' editorial and financial philosophy?

What is it with the New York Times?

Their finances are in such deep doo-doo that after arranging a sale-leaseback of 21 floors of their brand new Manhattan skyscraper to generate some corporate cash, they’re announcing “temporary salary cuts.”

Ad revenues are shrinking. To save revenue no longer supplied by ad dollars, they've collapsed the metro section into the main section. So you’d think there wouldn’t be a column inch in the news hole to waste on frou-frou.

Instead, each morning the Times blows two — sorry you can’t see this on the Internet, but pick up a copy of the paper newspaper and check it out yourself if you can…

What a waste!

As I was starting to say, each morning the Times blows two pages on nothing but a table of contents. Odd, because in richer days, with more revenue coming in, the Times was perfectly happy to confine the table of contents to a small box on the front page. And oh yes, even with the two-page waste of space, there’s still a partial contents listing on the front page.

Deep in the heart of my cranky soul, I suspect that whatever justification the Times offers in public, the real reason is this: Filling up two pages with news takes a lot of reporters and editors. That’s expensive. Filling up two pages with a table of contents probably doesn’t take more than one junior editorial employee. That’s cheap.

Result: less news per expensively-killed tree, less bang for the subscription buck, less or no coverage of stories that need to be covered, and less clout for the once-very-important New York Times. On the other hand, cranky readers like me do get more of something. More frustration.

Eventually, if it keeps wasting time and newsprint while revenues shrink, The New York Times will be a two-page newspaper. The first page will be a table of contents. The second page will be the contents — all the news that fits printed on one side of a page. And all the former readers will be somewhere else.

Editor Bill Keller, are you listening?

1 comment:

Kate said...

And the irony is that readers like me, who are often in a hurry, don't even bother with the table of contents because I plan to go through the whole thing anyway. Absurd.