Friday, June 5, 2009

It's Official: NYT No Longer Offers Local News Section on Sundays. It's "Needlessly Duplicative," John Geddes Explains.

For decades, the NYT provided its local readers an entire Sunday section devoted to metropolitan news. Even after budget cuts last year, it continued to include several pages within the "A" section -- labelled "New York" -- for local coverage.

But as of two weeks ago -- just before raising its Sunday newsstand price to $5 -- the NYT stopped offering New Yorkers a Sunday local news section at all.

This afternoon, as part of this week's "Talk To The Newsroom" feature, managing editor John Geddes has conceded the point to two readers who complained of the absence of local news in the last two Sunday editions.

Geddes said the move coincided with the launch of the new "Metropolitan" section -- a news-free assortment of soft local features and columns that closes on Fridays, and arrives with the home-delivered NYT on Saturday mornings.

That, in Geddes's view, would make a Sunday local news section "needlessly duplicative."

Here's Geddes's full explanation:

It seemed to us that having a dedicated “New York” page in the A section and a section titled Metropolitan in the same day's paper was needlessly duplicative. So we’ve elected that when metropolitan-area news breaks on Saturday, we’ll put it in the A section, and as always, will offer any related, but perhaps less newsworthy, coverage on our web site.

Needlessly duplicative, or too expensive? Bear in mind that for decades, the NYT offered zoned local sections for New York City, Long Island, New Jersey, etc., as well as a stand-alone local news section. Even after the NYT abandoned a separate local-news section last year, it continued to include local news pages in the front news section on Sundays.

But with the launch of "Metropolitan" those pages have disappeared.

Geddes defends the NYT's Sunday local-news coverage by citing two pieces published in the last two weeks -- Michael Powell's examination of accidental police shootings, and a Daniel Wakin piece about Islam in New York City prisons.

But one of the readers who raises the issue, Glenn Richter of Manhattan, correctly labelled the "Metropolitan" section's stories as "set pieces" -- which they must be to get edited and printed before the weekend even begins. No matter how good they may be -- and so far, it has been a mixed bag at best -- they're no substitute for local news coverage.

It's sad to see Geddes try to spin the crisis that has caused the NYT to keep shrinking its local news hole. For the managing editor to call a local news section in the NYT "needlessly duplicative" is even sadder.

"Our journalism has never been more glorious."
--Jill Abramson, managing editor, The New York Times, January 7, 2009

No comments: