Sunday, April 13, 2008

The end of the Times's City section editorial and op-ed page

I was waiting for someone to notice the demise of the op-ed and editorial page of the Sunday New York Times City Section and, more than three months later, the New York Sun did so.

On Tuesday, in an article headlined Paper Ends a City Feature, Stirs Discontent, the Sun reported:
In a move that some readers and former contributors say demonstrates a decreasing devotion to local coverage, the New York Times has halted production on the editorial and op-ed pages of its Sunday city section, ending a three-and-a-half-year experiment.

"It had promise," a former parks commissioner who is the director of New York Civic, Henry Stern, said. "I'm sorry the page is gone." The newspaper's city section was created in 2004 to allow more space for local issues as the main editorial page increasingly marketed itself to a national audience. The section's editorial and op-ed page focused on city policy, offering opinion on local issues ranging from electronics recycling to subway management to homelessness.

The December 30 Times included a short announcement that the editorial page would be removed, and stated that "while the section is changing, the editorial department's commitment to presenting issues and opinions of importance to New York City remains as strong as ever." A spokeswoman for the Times, Diane McNulty, said editorials relating to the city were moved into the main paper to provide "editorial coverage of New York City issues to a larger range of our readers."


One contributor observed that the Times considers itself such a national paper that it "is above these minor, pedestrian, provincial issues."

[Update: I should point out that the New York Observer noticed it right out of the box, with a 1/1/08 piece quoting Times managers defending their decision but not quoting pundits dismayed by the move.]

The AY effect

I was critical of the Times for relegating the first Atlantic Yards op-ed (and the only one before two state bodies voted on the project) to the City section.

And I was critical of the Times for running editorials about AY in the City section, noting:
I'll repeat for the record that limiting the editorial's audience to readers in the five boroughs is a disservice to the public. Not only would state subsidies be part of the public support, the project would have an impact in the tristate region and also nationally. It deserves broader scrutiny.


My comments assumed the presence of the City section. However, the net loss in space for editorials and commentary means that it's even harder to shoehorn in coverage of issues like Atlantic Yards.

I'll repeat Brooklyn College professor Paul Moses's observation about Brooklyn's place in the local mediascape: Nowhere in the country do so many people get so little local coverage.

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