The blog "pruning" promised last month by executive editor Bill Keller has begun. The NYT has quietly killed The Ethicist's blog, "Moral Of The Story," shutting it down in November after only seven months in existence.
Randy Cohen, the longtime "Ethicist" columnist for the NYT Magazine and the blog's sole contributor, confirmed to The NYTPicker that it was dead by a "mutual and amiable" decision of Cohen and his editors.
"Having produced 'Moral of the Story' for the term we'd agreed on, my editors and I decided not to continue it," Cohen told The NYTPicker via email. "I quite liked writing it, but I'm eager to devote my non-'Ethicist' time to other sorts of writing and am at work on a play."
The NYTPicker contacted Cohen and NYT spokeswoman Diane McNulty on Friday to inquire about the status of the blog, which Cohen hadn't updated since November 4.
McNulty told The NYTPicker at noon on Friday that she was "checking" on the blog's current status, but had yet to reply with a comment by Sunday evening.
Just last April, the NYT launched Cohen's blog -- devoted to deconstructing the ethical issues behind various news events and trends -- with a major splash on the website's front page. It addressed a multitude of diverse subjects: the nature of religious debate, the David Letterman scandal, where Michael Jackson should be buried, wolf hunting, and the propriety of magazines using Photoshop.
The blog posts often appeared several times in a week with long, discursive essays by Cohen, sometimes including followups addressing the hundreds of reader comments it generated. In August, Cohen took some heat from The NYTPicker -- and later changed his column -- after quoting his ex-wife, Katha Pollitt, as an expert in the column, and not disclosing their relationship.
Rumors have been flying in recent days about the possible closing of various NYT blogs. Keller warned of the prospect of blog cutbacks in November, telling the staff:
Many of our blogs serve a valuable journalistic purpose... But if we find instances where a blog or a vertical is consuming considerable effort and expense with little reward, we're prepared to do some pruning.
Despite the decision to close "Moral of the Story" last month, the NYT has left Cohen's blog up on the NYT website as though it's still in business -- complete with a rotating series of ads that include Toyota, Seroquel, JetBlue and Banana Republic. The final, November 4 post from Cohen explained a new format for commenting on the blog, and gave no hint of its imminent demise.