At his Reuters blog, Felix Salmon agrees with “pretty much everything” in that Michael Kinsley column I wrote about yesterday, and he thinks that The New York Times is “a little bit boring.” But he also has some astute thoughts on why that’s not such a problem:
A little bit of that authoritativeness comes from the fact that the NYT exists in physical form, but most of it comes from the brand, and from precisely the kind of overly wordy long-form reporting that Kinsley criticizes. I suspect that most NYT editors know full well that shorter stories would be much more readable. And on the web, it’s important for any given story to be as readable as possible. If you’re building a brand for the ages, however, other considerations come into play, and I suspect that the NYT is worried about losing in importance and venerability whatever gains it might make in readability and accessibility.
…If they decide to join the unwashed masses, in many ways they will have lost everything they stand for.
As Salmon notes, there are definite advantages to the style of writing Kinsley champions (a style he has personally excelled at). But that doesn’t necessarily mean that newspapers—including, or especially, granddaddies of the industry like the Times—should uncritically embrace it.