So, the New York Times Magazine has done a big redesign. I am one of those diehard NYT readers who are always slightly dismayed by the paper’s redesigns, no doubt partly out of sheer conservative attachment. In this case, I can see some good things about it. I’m happy to see the “What They Were Thinking” feature back, I always enjoyed that. And today’s Lives column was one of the best I remember (really touching!), which may be related to its apparent origins in some kind of spontaneous online posting; it doesn’t have the slightly contrived feeling that these little life stories can sometimes have. (Novelist Jennifer Egan’s profile of Lori Berenson, the American who spent 15 years in a Peruvian prison for abetting terrorists, is superb, but this doesn’t particularly relate to the redesign. I am a fan of Egan’s generally…)
But. I am appalled by the rethinking of the Letters page. “Reply All”? Really? That’s the new name? And “letters” — or rather, a random assortment of mostly online verbiage — by the likes of “Worried,” “T.S.,” “@Dedmo” and “Drduck”?
I’ve always considered a letter published in the New York Times to be an authored publication. I had one published a year or two ago, and I was delighted. The fact-checking procedure was rigorous: you have to prove that you are who you say you are. They’re throwing that tradition of substance away for “Reply All,” bits of anonymous chatter and tweets and comments on Facebook pages (!) by people or rather online presences with @ signs before their names? The Letters section is now essentially a curated online comments thread? This seems like an imitation of the New York Magazine feature that excerpts highlights from blog/online commentary about magazine content from the previous week — although that works really well, in part because it’s not pretending to be a letters column.
Maintain some dignity, please! Very unhappy about this… May have to fire off a letter of complaint, or maybe this is my “letter”?
Of course, I’m sure the NYT got letters along these lines when they first introduced a separate sports section, or whatever. But still. You have to draw the line soemwhere.