New York Times Launches Inexplicable 'Reinvention' of Week in Review SectionS

New York Times staffers just received the following exciting memo from editor Bill Keller and editorial page boss Andy Rosenthal. The paper is reinventing the "Week in Review" section! We've read this memo twice, and it sounds to us like the new section will be... exactly like the current one? But maybe with more letters to the editor? See if you can spot what the fuss is about.

Date: Fri, Feb 18, 2011 at 3:44 PM
Subject: [NYT Newsroom] From Bill Keller and Andy Rosenthal: Reinvention of the Week in Review
To: "newsroom@ahot.nytimes.com"

To the Staff:

As some of you have heard by now, we have jointly decided to undertake a reinvention of the Week in Review. The Editorial Department will also undertake a big expansion of the Opinion pages online, but more about that later in this note.

This is not just about a new look or a new layout or new features, but the creation of an entirely new section. It also is unusual in that the re-invention project will involve staff from both the newsroom and the editorial department.

That's not exactly a first for us (think of Room for Debate), but it is still somewhat new territory. The new section is not intended to relax the important distinction between news and opinion. Reporters and editors who work in the newsroom will observe the boundary between analysis (which supplies context, explores trends, weighs assertions against evidence) and opinion (which may be partisan or ideological and advocate particular outcomes). But impartial analysis and outright opinion can live side-by-side as long as they are properly labeled.

It's still very early in the process, so we can't tell you exactly what the new section will look like. In fact, we can't even tell you what it will be called. But there is enough to say that we thought we'd bring you all up to date.

We met the other day with a large group of people, including many former WiR editors. We talked about the project, threw around blue-sky ideas and listened carefully to people's comments, suggestions and concerns.

Now we have assembled a much smaller group and we're going to turn it loose to actually design the section and come up with prototypes. That group will report back to us and in a relatively short period, a section will be born.

The group is headed by Trish Hall, the Op-Ed Editor, who will be the overall editor of the new section as well.

We think it is best described as a Sunday commentary section that will feature the rich menu of the best Op-Ed columnists around; our Editorials; some fine analysis and observation from our best writers in the newsroom; the best outside opinion writing (more like the classical Op-Ed pieces); a much expanded and enhanced readers' section (Letters to the Editor on steroids in the 21st century), as well as new kinds of features and new voices and ideas.

This section will physically live primarily in the editorial department, but since we want to preserve a way for reporters and correspondents to write rich analytical pieces on their beats or the stories they are covering, some portion of the staff will remain anchored in the newsroom.

There is no exact timeline for this project, although as usual, we want the goodies as soon as we can get them.

The Week in Review project, by the way, will be done in parallel with, and in some sense as part of, a big expansion of online Opinion. That's an even more nascent project than the Sunday section, but is getting under way. This is a time when opinion is exploding online. That will involve even more voices, video, graphics, art and illustration, more social interaction. More everything.

It's an area in which we have long been a leader, and we're going to continue leading in the future.

Among many other things, we hope the online Opinion expansion will test out our efforts to expand and enhance our readers' involvement in our work.

We welcome suggestions, thoughts, and great ideas for this new venture.

We have always set the standard for smart, challenging, infinitely inventive analysis, opinion and editorial writing. We recently marked the 40th anniversary of Op-Ed. The new section, and the online expansion, are the next big leap.

Bill and Andy

[Photo: Getty]