THE BLOG
02/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dumbing Down The New York Times

It's hard being a New York Times reader these days. Old-school readers (like me) were shocked Monday morning to see a display ad for CBS running across the bottom of the front page. The Times itself reported it as "a move regarded by traditionalists as a commercial incursion into the most important news space in the paper." Roger that.

This is only the latest move in the Times' longstanding grasping at straws to cope with declining advertising revenue and readership. Last spring, the Times gave up the first three pages inside the paper to a news index designed to make it easier for readers who couldn't be bothered with turning the pages one by one to find out the contents of the newspaper. And back in September, the Times eliminated the Metro section of the editions distributed in the New York area, perhaps threatening the "news hole" for local coverage to a size similar to the two to four pages in the front section I get in Washington. (Read between the lines of these memos from Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and Executive Editor Bill Keller. Sulzberger says the change will "not shrink the news hole" while Keller writes "we do not expect to cut the space...")

The tactile experience of reading a newspaper is one of life's great pleasures, and something I've long believed should be required by every employer. Setting aside a half hour or so to catch up on what's going on in the world, without worrying about "wasting" time, would improve everyone's job performance, not mention their citizenship.

I once wrote an article for belief.net about different ways of worship and said, "Me, I prefer the New York Times." I realize that not everyone has such a reverential feeling about the paper (though I suspect there are more of us than you'd think) but I do think that one of the reasons newspapers are losing readers is because they're becoming less like newspapers. It may be heretical to say this on a place like The Huffington Post, but this whole interactivity thing may be a little over-rated. Do we really need to talk back to our daily papers? Is the New Yorker a better magazine since it gave up its valuable last page to a write your own caption contest that allows a few thousand people a week to unleash their inner Thurber? Personally, I'd rather leave cartooning to professional cartoonists, newspaper reporting to professional reporters, and editing to editors. I hope we're not hastening the day when "All the News That's Fit to Print" doesn't fit into the New York Times anymore.