Not so long ago newspapers spent all their energy explaining to their readers what was happening, at home and around the world. These days editors and publishers seem to be expending a great deal of time, energy, and newsprint — in some cases — explaining, well, the process by which they explain.
Just last week readers of the Wall Street Journal were treated to an avalanche of explanations for why and how the Journal had decided to make some changes to its editorial operation. To us, the long and short of it was that the Journal was reducing the width of its pages by two inches, saving $18 million a year in the process, changing the placement of some stories to different sections of the paper or to the Internet, and broadening its content to include more lifestyle and arts stories, and greater concentration on coverage that it describes as “what-it-means journalism,” as opposed to what happened the previous day.
That might be the short of it. The long of it was contained in an eight-page section on January 2 devoted to the change and its many facets — everything from microscopic examinations of its stock tables to a riff on why a custom-made type face had to be devised for the new and improved Journal.
If that wasn’t explaining enough, Time magazine managing editor Richard Stengel got caught in the cross-hairs of media columnist David Carr in the January 8 edition of the New York Times. After more than 36 years of hitting the newsstands on Mondays, Time has moved up its production schedule and now comes out on Fridays.
What’s with that, wondered the New York Times. The change, replied Stengel, a 1977 Princeton graduate, “helps us set the news agenda.” Reading between the lines of the Times account, it may also be part of a cost-cutting effort to enable the magazine to spend more money on its website.
At the risk of entering the explaining game ourselves, we print the following letter to the editor:
I’m a big fan of your fine publication. And have been for a long time . . . from the beginning, I think.
Broadway reviews are fine. But I’d be much more interested in reviews of local theater: McCarter, community theater at Mercer, Actors Net, etc. Methinks many of your readers would be, too.
Thanks for listening.
Washington Crossing, PA
Well, thanks for asking. We include Broadway reviews because we think some readers still appreciate an occasional peek into the cultural world of Manhattan.
And we do provide both previews (hence the name of the section that begins this week on page 15) and reviews of productions at McCarter, George Street, Passage, and more. But some of the community theater productions have runs that are so short, that the play will be closed by the time we manage a review.
Is it possible that our approach might change? Absolutely. But for now, at least, space prohibits further explanation.