Times Goes Abstract on Pavarotti

New York Times readers and opera enthusiasts alike paused over the bottom half of the paper's front page today, where two items about the death of opera singer Luciano Pavarotti appeared in lengthened abstract form, followed by the full articles on the obit pages.

The Times has been amending its standards for jumps since last May, when executive editor Bill Keller spoke to his staff about keeping jumps within sections instead of requiring readers to flip from the front page to a different part of the paper. "Eliminating the jump is an evolutionary thing," design director Tom Bodkin told The Observer in August.

Enter the abstract. Instead of implementing the standard photo or text reefer, these 200-word summaries, along with photos, take up two columns of precious below-the-fold space in the Times's new 12-inch layout.

The Times doesn't use abstracts frequently, but in the last year and half they've been printing them more often, deputy design director John Macleod told The Observer today. "Rather than stating the two stories on the front page, you tease to them in a bigger way." While the design device highlights both articles effectively, one can't help wonder why the abstracts are so long. "It was more substantial than we usually would write," Mr. Macleod conceded. "But I sort of really like it in a way, just as a reader, because I'm curious about Pavarotti, but not that curious."