Magazine article The Masthead

Give Readers What They Want: A Real Spread on Their Editorial Table. the Best Hope for the Survival of Newspapers Is Their Commentary Sections

Magazine article The Masthead

Give Readers What They Want: A Real Spread on Their Editorial Table. the Best Hope for the Survival of Newspapers Is Their Commentary Sections

Article excerpt

Guessing the future of newspapers has become a full-time occupation for legions of journalists who figure their days are numbered. I feel "our" pain, but am optimistic that newspapers will survive--if editors and publishers do exactly as I command.

(I just wanted to see what it felt like to write that.)

More to the point, I'm feeling like Israel these days. The time for diplomacy with self-destructive fools is past. May I be direct?

Forget the Internet, blogs, cable news--and then forget the international page(s). The best hope that newspapers have for survivial is the commentary section, and the best hope for the commentary section is more.

More pages, more voices, more of everything that makes people like me turn to the editorial pages first. I'm not interested in news headlines, which are outdated by the time my paper arrives. I've already read the latest update from Beirut three minutes ago and my paper was printed last night.

What I want is informed commentary and great writing. Lots of it. If I were dictator, my newspaper would have not one, but four to six pages of opinion columns by a variety of seasoned commentators.

And, please, give three cartoonists a job. Scratch that. As dictator, I don't have to say "please" As David Starsky famously said, "Do it." You don't need one staff cartoonist; you need three. By now you've heard a thousand times that there were two hundred cartoonists twenty years ago; today there are about seventy. That's a lot of talent lost, along with readers who no longer bother with a bland opinion section bereft of the passion and humor cartoonists bring to the page

Let me put it this way: I read The New Yorker cover to cover, but I buy it for the cartoons.

Here's how I approach a newspaper: First, I glance at the section fronts and throw half of them away Next I go to the editorial page, which I read in the following order: (1) cartoon, (2) opeds, (3) letters to the editor, (4) editorials. …

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