Freelance writers for the NYT's City Section have told the NYTPicker the scary news they keep hearing from their editors -- that the longtime Sunday section for New York City readers may soon be the next casualty of the paper's ongoing budget cuts.
It's not official, of course. But apparently the small staff of editors who put together the section -- you know, the one steeped in nostalgia, weak reporting and an ongoing obsession with store closings -- have been repeating the rumors they're hearing of its imminent demise.
Catherine Mathis, the NYT's senior vice president for corporate communications, declined to confirm or deny the report when contacted by the NYTPicker yesterday afternoon. "Appreciate your asking," she added, mysteriously.
Sadly, the rumors make sense. In the context of the overall Sunday NYT product, it's the most expendable element. Under longtime City Section editor Connie Rosenblum, a once-vibrant competitor to New York Magazine has become home to dull, discursive essays on bygone New York days, alternating with poorly-reported journalism that often doesn't hold up to scrutiny.
A few examples, as reported in previous NYTPicker posts:
-- Am early, indulgent pain-of-recession chronicle in November that focused on 26-year-old Paige Ferrari, a laid-off Radar Magazine editor who sipped white wine in her Williamsburg apartment as she contemplated her first few days of unemployment.
-- A cover story last fall that chronicled the fight over the renovation of Washington Square Park over a year after the battle was over, and that interviewed former combatants who'd given up and left the neighborhood.
-- A recent cover profile of Hannah Upp -- the 23-year-old schoolteacher who went missing for three weeks last fall -- that unquestioningly bought into her suspicious, self-serving account of herself as a victim of "dissociative fugue," the same condition that afflicted Jason Bourne.
Other stories often tend to dwell on the sort of hyper-local news better covered by good neighborhood papers like The Villager -- which, as some may remember, the City Section (under Rosenblum) ackowledged taking stories from in years past, in a mini-scandal of sorts after the practice came to the attention of the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz.
We at the NYTPicker don't mean to seem gleeful at the possibility that the City Section might close. In fact, we're miserable about it. We'd rather see the NYT replace Rosenblum with a dynamic editor determined to revive the idea of publishing strong narrative journalism every week, which had been its unofficial mandate before Rosenblum arrived. The City Section has a long, storied place in NYC journalism, and its loss would mean a net loss in New York City coverage at a time when we need it more than ever.