An Auld Lang Syne from NYT

The old year isn't the only thing gone by. So too are Jersey editorials and op-eds from your Sunday New York Times.

NYT's "Dear John" note appeared in little box on the Opinion page of the New Jersey and the Region section last Sunday (12/30).

The first sentence informed us editorials and op-ed articles will no longer be published in the section. The last sentence beseeches: "While the section is changing, the editorial department's commitment to presenting issues and opinions of importance to New Jersey remains as strong as ever."

Yeah, right. Ever hear that line before. I don't want to date you anymore. But we can still be friends.

So why is NYT dumping the Jersey opinion page? Well the journalistic value of the local opinion pieces apparently fell victim to the business values (a.k.a. profits) of the company, as reported in The Observer's Off the Record.

The first slight to New Jersey came when they changed New Jersey Weekly to New Jersey and the Region, lumping us in with Long Islanders and Connecticuters. The next hit to readers came in August when the number of published op-eds was reduced by a third when the paper's pages were shrunk. Now comes the complete elimination of the local editorials and op-eds.

Are the State House bureau and Jersey columnists next?

What's really perplexing about The Times' decision is its ambivalent commitment to regional coverage and local readers.

In the interview with Off the Record, "Mr. (Andrew) Rosenthal (NYT editorial page editor) expressed his commitment to the regions, but didn't offer specifics."

But how can he keep a pledge with no newsprint to back it up. In an August interview with The Observer, Rosenthal expressed concerns about the reduced space available overall for op-eds: "Letters and outside Op-Ed pieces are critical to our opinion pages. … It's not enough to tell our readers to go online."

In the end, bottom-line based business decisions are the prerogative of any corporation. Too bad this boardroom verdict sacrifices the NYT's position as a thought leader for almost half of its 1.6 million Sunday readers in the NJ and NY region, as in days gone by.