Those hyper-local opinion pages in The New York Times—lamenting global warming’s toll on a Maplewood, N.J. lake, or complaining about traffic in southern Connecticut, or opposing a plan to impose tolls on the East River bridges—are now a thing of the past. Over the weekend, readers found a note in each regional edition declaring that the local op-ed sections were being eliminated starting this week.
It was a move the paper’s editorial board had been mulling for a while. “It took about six months to make this decision, and we had to satisfy ourselves that it was the right thing to do from a business perspective,” Andrew Rosenthal, The Times’ editorial-page editor, told Off the Record. “We had to ask: Well, does it take a journalistic hit? Well, there is one. There’s no question about it. But I’m very serious about my commitment to the regions.”
The decision, naturally, came down to money. Mr. Rosenthal said he wants to expand the Op-Ed brand overall—The Times now features online-only columnists, and it recently hired Bill Kristol to write a regular column for the paper—meaning something had to be cut.
“The resources we were spending on the regionals might be spent elsewhere for the greater good of what we pursue,” Mr. Rosenthal said.
The local opinion pages—the City section, New Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut, and Long Island—were a recent innovation from the Gail Collins era. The move to eliminate those pages comes on top of last year’s decision to scale back stories that are specific to each region, in favor of packaged material that can run in all four of the suburban sections.
Mr. Rosenthal expressed his commitment to the regions, but didn’t offer specifics. He said that two writers—Richard Benfield and Maura Casey—have been hired to write editorials, under their own bylines, for the news pages of the New Jersey and Connecticut sections. And he added that there would always be a place for significant local stories on the main Op-Ed page.