Jesse Jarnow

a thought about the value of the sunday new york times on a tuesday

Whatever Victorian classification philosophy initially divided Sunday newspapers into their compartmentalized hunks of knowledge is long obsolescent in the culture at large. But I’m not sure it’s outlived its usefulness. The Sunday New York Times was never interchangeable with the world it described, though it sometimes seemed like it was. Now, especially, it seems like an obviously incomplete sampling of events presented with a strongly limited perspective.

Lately, though, I’ve come to value its finite qualities way more than its reportage. One could probably find the same stories scattered about the cyberether, but the fact that the Times has chosen to focus on them is what’s important. Data smog is an old problem (to borrow David Shenk’s phrase) and one result of being so overwhelmed is to enter blogospheric niches — be them centered around, say, obscure mp3s or liberal politics — and simply never emerge. Or, worse, only see the world through that community’s eyes.

The Times, especially on Sundays, isn’t just all the news that’s fit to print. It’s not all the news, for starters. But it does fit, neatly and valuably, into a few pounds of tree meat: a microcosm, or at least an organized place to enter the dialogue.