A Modish Proposal: Restylin’ The Times–Whassup, Newsies?

EDITOR’S NOTE: After a long and painstaking review of the editorial process here at The New York Times , along with a long and sobering look at the rise of adult-onset attention-deficit disorder, along with a clear and pragmatic need to increase our appeal among upscale readers, The Times is pleased to announce a slight shift in our editorial policy.

As of Sunday, June 13, the editors and writers of the Sunday Styles section will take over responsibility for the front page, and all so-called “news reporting.”

We believe this will make for a more lively newspaper, reflecting a change in our cultural metabolism. A little Botox for the Gray Lady. Whatever.

In any case, here’s a taste of-and, in some cases, an explanation for-what’s in store:

1) Rethinking Abu Ghraib. Several months ago, there was a breakthrough piece in the Sunday Styles section about single women in Manhattan attending group-sex parties. It was breakthrough in the sense that it didn’t focus on AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases, but couched this trend as an example of “women’s sexual empowerment.” Way to go! Thinking “outside the box”! (So to speak.) Thus, our new Sunday Styles take on Abu Ghraib: “Sex and the Military: The new S&M, where everyone is truly ‘embedded.'” Look for the special sidebars on discipline, humiliation and where to buy the best hoods and dog leashes; check out the special Circuits section tie-in on the best digital cameras for low-light voyeurism. All in all, a new definition of “service” journalism. Enjoy!

2) Blind quotes, “official sources,” Iraq and W.M.D. As careful readers of The Times may have noticed, sometimes it’s imperative that we allow certain news sources to speak “off the record,” without formal attribution. Yet this practice inevitably raises questions: Who do you believe? How reliable is the source? What’s their agenda? And how do you spell “Ahmad Chalabi” anyway? Unfortunately, our last Editor’s Note on this topic seemed to raise as many questions as it answered. So, henceforth, we’ll be adopting the official Sunday Styles Style when quoting unnamed administration officials and double-dealing Iraqis: “A little birdie told us.”

3) Falluja. Grim, grim, grim. Old take: Embarrassing debacle. New take: “Forget the Hamptons: 18 hours in Falluja. How to get into the world’s hottest new hot spot. Where to stay, where to eat, who to kill.”

4) Weapons of Mass Entertainment. To be honest, we wondered if we weren’t just a wee bit guilty of overkill (if there is such a thing, in this context) when we used both our editorial and news pages to describe the $125 million disaster film The Day After Tomorrow as a cautionary wake-up tale about the effects of global warming. (The skeptics among us said this was roughly the equivalent of claiming that Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was a metaphor for the Bush administration’s removal of Saddam Hussein. We’re pleased to announce that said skeptics have been reassigned and are now compiling the “important cultural events” listings in our Atlantic City bureau.) Effective immediately, our new “sociopolitical film reviews” will appear on the front page, every Friday. Coming up this week: ” The Stepford Wives . Cautionary wake-up tale about the perils of bio-engineering, or scathing metaphor for Bush-supporting soccer moms in Scarsdale?” Don’t know about you, but we’re logging onto the Web site, early, for the answer.

5) Dick Grasso. How do you bring a fresh perspective to another everyday, run-of-the-mill business story about clueless, rapacious greed? Simple: Whether the subject is Omnimedia’s Martha Stewart, Sotheby’s chairman Al Taubman or the NYSE’s Dick Grasso-or even having your wedding cake sent cross-country-you can apply the Sunday Styles Schadenfreude-O-Matic Schaden-formula: one part sympathy, one part scorn, one part practical advice for pariah wannabes. Thus, “Poor Dickie Grasso. How to blame friends, influence markets and spend $140 million before Eliot Spitzer gets a hold of it.” (Note: “Schadenfreude-O-Matic” and the “Schaden-formula” are both registered trademarks of the New York Times Co.)

6) The Po’ People Commutin’ Series. Over the past several months, The Times has featured an occasional front-page story about the soul-deadening aspects of long-distance commuting. The first article highlighted an endless bus drive into Manhattan from the Poconos; the second detailed a multi-hour cross-borough subway trip. Under the guidance of the Sunday Styles editors, we hope this series will continue to evoke pathos and tug at the heartstrings of Times readers:

Poor Barry Diller. As often as three times a month, he wakes up in the pitch-black darkness of his home in Beverly Hills, showers, dresses, and is driven over the Santa Monica Mountains to Van Nuys airport, where he climbs the five steps leading to his private jet. And just as the pink dawn begins to break over Los Angeles, Mr. Diller begins another grueling five-hour cross-country commute, marked by turbulence, boredom and a sense of being cut off from the outside world, save for his satellite television and three phone lines. “I’m not complaining,” says Mr. Diller. “But sometimes, just like Mike Bloomberg, I’m so tired from the commute that I actually have to stay in Manhattan.”

7) Vegas! Unfortunately, there were certain Times readers who found our recent multi-part series on Las Vegas to be “vaguely condescending.” Quelle erreur! This was never our intent. But in order to give a more balanced look at desperation in middle-class America, future subjects will include: Hampton Bays, Long Island; Yacht People in Boca Raton; Empty Nesters rattling around 22,000-square-foot McMansions in Alpine, N.J.; and “All Dressed Up With Nowhere to Go”: the tragedy of aging out of the “Young Friends” category on the Manhattan charity-ball circuit.

8) Cross-pond fly-fishing through the really big midlife career crisis. Fly-fishing? Please. Even if it was Captain Ahab himself futilely throwing harpoons at the great white whale, we’re not about to cover this “sport.”

9) Investigative Journalism. At The Times , we’ve always taken great pride in our heritage of issues-oriented public-service journalism. Take heart: The new Sunday Styles Investigative Team is already on the job, continuing this important tradition, as evidenced by the following quote that appeared in a story about the Chelsea section of Manhattan on May 27, 2004: “On a recent Saturday, Mr. Skroupa and Mr. Wilson went out for brunch and ‘literally less than one-third of the restaurant was gay,’ Mr. Skroupa said last week, pausing between bench presses at a New York Sports Club on Eighth Avenue.” Trust us, dear reader: We’re flooding the zone on this one.

So that’s the 411 on The Times , folks. For home delivery, give a shout out to 800-NY-TIMES and tell ‘em you want to know, “Whassup, man?”

-The Editors.