If you’re a Sunday New York Times subscriber — say, if you’ve taken the Frank Rich Discount — you may have seen a letter from Times editors in yesterday’s paper detailing changes in the Week in Review section, which is being renamed Sunday Review. One section jumped out at me:
Why, you ask, change something that is part of our history? We, too, are attached to the Week in Review. But we were frustrated by the simple geographic division between the news analysis pieces in the front and the opinion pieces in the back. We thought readers would find it more useful to have the stories, photographs and charts offered in an integrated way.
The new section will feature the best of what both the Times newsroom and the opinion pages have to offer, along with provocative and, we hope, entertaining voices from outside the paper. At times, these analysis articles and opinion articles may be presented with each other in themed packages, but they will always be clearly labeled so you can distinguish them.
In other words, the Times feels that the ancient division between opinion and news — and the even dicier division between opinion and “analysis” — doesn’t always serve its readers best. Sometimes, a provocative opinion piece can make more sense packaged with a provocative reported piece.
That mirrors, in a way, how the Internet has changed news navigation. When Google News groups stories into clusters, opinion and straight news can sit side by side. When you click a link on Twitter or Facebook, there are often no immediate cues for which journalistic bucket the story you’re about to read fits into. And, in general, online news readers don’t flow straight from section to demarcated section, the way a print reader might when running through the paper, where it’s visually clear where the news is supposed to stop and the opinions are supposed to begin.
We’ll have to see next Sunday’s paper to see how big an overlap the new Sunday Reader section will bring. But once we do see it, the next question becomes: If readers would benefit from the tactical intermingling of news and opinion, why would that only be true on Sundays?