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Stop Strewing Gray Matter All Over The Place

Stop Blinding Us With Features

You're Ruining The Paper

By Carter B. Horsley

Apparently about a year ago, Jill Abramson, the top editor of The New York Times urged the staff to write about average Americans.

E'nuff, already!

Dan Barry's five-part series on a diner somewhere in Ohio and its occupants ended in mid-October, 2012 with a total of about 14,000 words, enough to place it in the "Pentagon Papers" hallowed halls of verbiage.  

I couldn't read it all but the few thousand words that I did peruse were well written but void of the stuff that Page One articles are made of - substance.

In the old days, there were well over a dozen major articles that began on Page One, not counting bottom of the page highlight indices.  Now the average is about 5 big articles not counting the bottom-of-the-page indices even though there is a heck of lot more news if one considers the number of nations, technology

Most people know that the position of an article on Page One indicates how important the editors of The Times consider it and it follows a simple formula: top right is critical; top left is very, very important; and below the fold is much less important and occasionally fluff in honor of the really wonderful and off-beat front page articles that The Wall Street Journal has been published for many years.

We all know that Abe Rosenthal and art director Louis Silverstein dumbed down The Times years ago with bigger fonts, bigger pictures, lots of empty space and news judgment based on which article has the best graphics.  This tended to make irrelevant the generally superfluous extra Sunday sections, which were created to garner more advertising moolah.

Tabloids, of course, were not only not held to such standards but were considered brilliant based on their occasionally memorable headlines ("Headless Body Found In Topless Bar").  No one is accusing The Times of routinely great headlines.

In the spirit of the McCarthy era, Jill, have you no shame?

This is not even titillating stuff for Helen Gurley Brown.

It is obviously merely a blatant attempt to win more Pulitzer Prizes, which, one would assume, are based at The Times on "column inches," not content.  Over the past several months, it seems that the middle of the top half of the Front Page has been given over to "two-plus-pages" articles that to some old-timers would barely have merited a few graphs on the inside of the paper.

Rosenthal may have ruined The Times, but Abramson is destroying it, at least for people who have an inkling of what "hard news" is about.

Please leave the "average" Americans to the tabloids, which at least have comics, and get back to serious journalism at least on the Front Page.

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