Earlier this week, The New York Times announced that, in April 2008, it plans to cut the width of its pages by one and a half inches and close a printing plant, eliminating 250 printing jobs.
The Times will join USA Today, the nation's largest-selling daily newspaper, The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, which, among others, already have reduced page sizes, and the No. 2-selling daily newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, which is scheduled to move to the smaller size next year.
There's certainly a lot of potential to cut The Times. In "All the News That Fits the Allocated Space," Public Editor Byron Calame interviewed Managing Editor John Geddes. Geddes said, "On Monday through Saturday, depending on the day of the week, we give our readers between 200 and 325 columns of journalism, stock quotes, and service items, like the weather and television listings. In the Sunday paper, we run from 700 to 775 columns."
The industry is facing rising newsprint costs -- not the highest in history, but, if you've decided to make cutbacks, you have to blame something, right? -- and loss of readers and advertising dollars to the dreaded Internet and, occasionally, to media that more closely fit the philosophies of their dwindling customer base.
"Though the pages themselves will be 11 percent smaller," executive editor Bill Keller wrote, "the paper will add pages; so, the overall loss of space will be more like 5 percent."
It's always possible to cut back on news stories, but the cuts will hit other sections harder. As The New York Observer's Tom Scocca and Gabriel Sherman point out, "The two-page spread of editorials and opinions, for instance, can’t instantly pick up another quarter-page to recoup its three-inch loss."
Try 'no newspaper at all'
They put the matter so delightfully: "Cutting, then, has become an efficiency ritual: a way of demonstrating that a newspaper is not too attached to … well, to newspaper…. If The Times chose to cut its pages in half, it could budget 50 percent less newsprint. For the ultimate savings, try printing no newspaper at all."
The Times' flag has, since 1896, stated the paper's philosophy: "All the News That's Fit to Print."
Guess there'll be five percent less of that sort of thing starting in 2008.