The (New) New York Times Magazine

Today we picked up our copy of the Sunday New York Times as usual (that’s right, we still like paper), and as promised, out fell the new redesign of The New York Times Magazine, a change they had announced last week. In the issue’s Editor’s Letter, Editor in Chief Hugo Lindgren explains, “Every tiny aspect of the redesign represents a decision we debated, sweated over and second-guessed until we ran out of time and had to send it off to the printer. But what you see here is not a new formula. It’s a beginning. Our aim is to make everything sharper, clearer, more alive and dynamic — while not altering the foundation of the magazine.” It’s true that the redesign has many nods to the future and stylistic changes while maintaining its focus on long-form journalism, but is it better? Click through for our thoughts and share your own!

The first change is just a mostly irrelevant (to us) shift of the logo/title to the left. Lindgren informs us that it has been enlarged by 20%, but without an old copy in front of us, we probably wouldn’t have noticed. The inaugural cover story for the redesign, however, is a good one – Jennifer Egan wrote one of the best books in recent memory, and she is also a seriously hip writer to like, so that’s a plus. And the topic, the story of American Lori Berenson’s life told after her release from a 15 year stint in Peruvian jail, is also compelling, and dare we say – also hip. Young people will read it.

Next, we noticed what is arguably the most discussed new feature – the fact that features editors are credited for the stories they worked on, and their email addresses are given, along with the authors’. Though we can’t say that in all our freelance work we haven’t wished to publicly blame an editor for the way something came out, we kind of agree with the Slate piece calling it pointless, especially when the editors all have obviously special email addresses for this purpose (we love that Jennifer Egan has a hotmail.com address, though). But for Lindgren, it’s a “symbolic” move. As he told Adweek, “We want to show readers—we like to hear from them, we want to get feedback—that we’re not inaccessible… People have to do some work to figure out how to contact people, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing. The whole notion of what we’re trying to do is make the relationship between the readers and people who produce the magazine… part of an exchange.” Okay, we like exchange. But there’s transparency, and then there’s transparency. You want to talk? Give us your cell phone number.

There was a lot of hubbub last week when several columnists surprised readers with ‘goodbye’ missives, though these changes have been obviously smoothed over in official language from Lindgren. Randy Cohen, writer of The Ethicist section, will be replaced by Ariel Kaminer, the Times City Critic. The wonderful On Language column is no more, and The Medium ends with an understated “Thanks for Reading”. Deborah Solomon was replaced by Jodi Rudoren, and even the ever-charming Recipe Redux got the axe. Eesh. As far as the replacements go, who knows what that was about, but we really loved On Language. Mistake!

However, there are additions as well, to make up for all the firings. The have revived an old feature called What They Were Thinking which we have to admit is pretty great (at least this week). There’s a new photo section entitled Look and a “critic’s page” called Riff, and yet another section called You Are Here, which will feature thoughts from writers in faraway lands. Bill Keller, the NYT executive editor, will have a regular column. The magazine also has a new blog, which looks promising.

Now, on to more important things, like the font, which is bigger, bolder, and all in caps – well, the story headlines are, anyway. Stylistically, the magazine has retained its signature black bars, and though the Table of Contents is a little more exciting and GQ-ish than it has been in the past, they’re not going too crazy. We are, however, taken in by the many pull quotes peppered around the front pages. Without too much context, the phrases “virtual orgy of never-ending literary communion” and “here’s your giant goodie bag of festering misery” are always going to be fascinating. Good job.

What do you think of the redesign? Let us know in the comments!