An editor tells the NY Times: I don’t read newspapers for the pictures

An editor tells the NY Times: I don’t read newspapers for the pictures


norman lebrecht

December 23, 2016

More mail coming our way on the contentious redesign of the NY Times arts section:
For Dean Baquet
Executive Editor

Dear Mr. Baquet.

While we have never met, I spent the last few decades at The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News, institutions that have also periodically redesigned themselves — and not always happily.

That said, your new arts section (actually boxed reviews were tried out during Paul Goldberger’s tenure) is particularly dimwitted in its old-fashioned notion that subscribers like me read papers for their pictures. Just now, I have stared at two stupid pictures of an idiotic game show. Wouldn’t one do? And why do I need two pictures of dancers in tights and little skirts — outfits worn by a lot of dancers actually. The gigantic illustration of the Coward playlet is wider than the stage at 59E59.

I’m not finished. What a day. Please study your mildly interesting story about preening academics tussling over a Beethoven manuscript. Now why did this need three illustrations?

Instead you might have squeezed in a review of an area of inquiry you almost completely ignore though it is the most important of topics in a time when so many of us walk around gob-smacked by the latest flabbergasting odes to money and power. Architecture.

Your arts section should reflect the city illuminating your name.

Please try again.

Manuela Hoelterhoff
Pulitzer Prize-winning editor and critic.
cc. Liz Spayd


  • Bruce says:

    Well thank you to Ms. Hoelterhoff. Maybe they’ll listen to her since they don’t seem to be listening to anybody else.

  • Brian Bell says:

    Manuela obviously left her gloves on for this one. Mr. Baquet is lucky. She is one of the sharpest, funniest and perceptive critics of our time. Her acerbic wit is reserved for those who truly deserved it, and she always displays more light than heat. The Times would do well not only listen to her, but put her in charge. For that I would start getting the Times at the front door.

  • AMetFan says:

    Great idea…an adult in charge! NYT, I hope you’re listening.

  • V.Lind says:

    Everyone is missing the point. They are not doing this out of hostility to the arts. It is pure spondulicks. It costs a lot less to blow up pictures and occupy space with them than to pay to research and write something.

    • Daniel F. says:

      No: I think we’re GETTING the point, and just don’t like it. The Times, you can be sure, will not go under if it went back to its arts coverage of last year & the many years before that! Anyway Ms. Huelterhof has been a gem and as good a bull—t detector as ever graced the pages of the WSJ.

    • Bruce says:

      ^ Agree with what Daniel F said. We get the point, we just don’t like it or agree with it.

  • Brian says:

    She’s absolutely right. The front of Friday’s weekend section of the Times was entirely comprised of pictures – not a single line of copy. Meanwhile, they’ve cut out their movie summaries from the section, in addition to the features mentioned above.

    When papers cut editorial to save money, it’s a losing strategy as they ultimately give customers fewer reasons to buy their product in the first place.

  • Jeremy Gerard says:

    With the retirement and death of Arthur Gelb, the Times lost its culture rabbi, the arts’ most fervent advocate. The result is the inexorable dumbing down we have been witnessing, not only in the outsize photos but in the increasing use of idiotic features in place of criticism and intellectual engagement. And so the Times has become, in its culture report, what we who lived by, and even worked for, it most feared: every other regional newspaper.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Maybe the NYTimes needs to be bought by Marvel Comics…?;-)