By: Joe Strupp
Expect to see more use of The New York Times’ Web site by the paper’s editorial page when Andrew Rosenthal takes over as editorial page editor at the end of 2006. Rosenthal, who is currently deputy editorial page editor and slated to replace Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins, says the paper will have to expand even more on the Web in the future.
“The big change is the coming of the Internet, the arrival of the Internet and that is as much of a challenge for us as it is for the rest of the newspaper,” said Rosenthal, 50, whose ascension to the top spot was announced today. “I’d like to be a little bit more reactive and quick to react to events online. We’d like to look at ways we can use our online opinion pages to start conversations.”
Under Collins, who has served as editorial page editor since 2001, the page has already expanded heavily onto the Web with its first-ever online-only columnist and the implementation of TimesSelect, which requires readers to pay for access to the paper’s columnists on the Web site.
Rosenthal, who has served as foreign editor, Washington editor and assistant managing editor/news, said some ideas could range from more blogs to links on the editorial page to other sites based on news events of the day. “It is inevitable,” he said about the Web growth. “The news business is migrating away from ink on paper.”
When asked if the editorial page would steer into new issues or away from some of its previous favorite topics, Rosenthal said he would continue to look at civil liberties and international issues related to torture and treatment of suspected terrorists. “The whole issue of people arrested on suspicion of being enemy combatants is not over,” he said. “And Iraq will continue to be a big issue for us, but new ones will come up.”
He stressed, however, that he would not spark a major upheaval in the general focus of the pages. “A lot of the positions that are reflected on the pages are from its tradition,” he said.
Collins, 60, who plans to take a six-month book leave and return in July 2007 as an Op-Ed columnist, said she informed Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. of her decision to leave in late 2005 and asked if she could return as a columnist, a post she held for several years before leading the editorial page in 2001.
“I like a five-year cycle,” said Collins, the paper’s first woman editorial page editor and a veteran of Newsday and New York Daily News. “It has been action-packed. I think it has been an amazing time watching the inner workings of the paper.”
Collins cited a series of editorials on the voting process the paper ran prior to the 2004 presidential election as among her accomplishments. “The difficulty of getting fair voter registration laws,” she recalled. “The issue of how the election process works.”
The editorial page also has gone through its greatest expansion under Collins’ leadership. Consisting of basically seven editorial pages when she took over five years ago, the department now oversees several regional Sunday editorial pages, as well as the expanded Web presence.
“I think I’ve had more impact in the people I’ve hired and the stuff I have encouraged them to do,” Collins told E&P during a lengthy interview last July. “You create your mark in part through the times that you live in.”
Among those she hired is Rosenthal, who will take over her job when she leaves. She called him “a stupendous, stupendous, stupendous choice” to replace her.
Pointing out that “there have been a lot of high points,” Collins has noted as her biggest regret her failure to question the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq sooner. In the July interview, she declared, “If I had to do it over again, I would have paid a lot more attention to the people on the board who had doubts. I thought there were weapons of mass destruction and most of the board members did. Frankly, we did not spend enough time debating the issue.”
Collins said she proposed the leave of absence, to work on a sequel to her 2003 book “America’s Women”, with the idea of returning as a columnist. “I proposed the whole thing to Arthur and he was agreeable,” she said. “I want to go back to writing the column before the next presidential election. I think it is going to be a great story.”
It is unclear how Collins entry into the Op-Ed columnist group will affect the others on that page. Currently, eight columnists share the space, with all but Frank Rich writing twice weekly. Rich, a former theater critic, runs his column only on Sundays.
Collins and Rosenthal said they did not know how her entry in to the columnist group would affect its make up, saying Sulzberger would have the final decision. Sulzberger could not be reached for comment.
Related E&P story: Rosenthal Replaces Collins as ‘NYT’ Editorial Page Chief