‘The New York Times’ Gets a Sense of Humor

Light fare included in new Sunday Review section

The New York Times is making an effort to keep it light. When the newspaper’s revamped “Week in Review” section launches on June 26 in its new incarnation—the “Sunday Review”—it hopes to provide its readership with some levity.

The Sunday Review will run a weekly news quiz on page two aimed to amuse its readers. In deciding the best approach to creating the quiz, the Times formed a partnership with Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, NPR’s weekly radio news panel game. 

“We wanted someone with a franchise for producing funny things,” said Andrew Rosenthal, the paper’s editorial page editor, at a press breakfast on Thursday where a prototype for the section was unveiled.

Also found on page two will be a new column by Frank Bruni, former Times restaurant critic who recently joined the paper’s op-ed roster. Bruni’s column—which claims the only fixed spot on the pages in the new section—will cover a weekly event, but is “not meant to be completely serious,” said Rosenthal.

The back page will feature a political comic strip—a fresh venture for the Times. The Gray Lady has resisted publishing political cartoons of its own—until now. “Visual things tend to overwhelm words or become the focal point,” said Rosenthal, explaining past hesitation. “They will be smart—we hope,” said Trish Hall, op-ed editor.

The new Sunday Review will mix together the paper’s different types of content, allowing news analysis and opinion pieces to share the same pages. The days of “opinions sequestered behind a wall of advertising [online]” are over, said Bill Keller, the paper’s executive editor who stepped down from the position on June 2 and will write op-eds for the section beginning this fall. These changes seem to cater to an increasingly Web-driven world where “the disconnects between news and opinion pieces are lessened,” said Keller.

The new format also avoids repetition of the same topics covered in the Opinion and Week in Review sections of the weekend paper. When discussing how readers respond to this frequent echo, Hall said, “I imagine they think, what’s wrong with this place?”

The front page of the section will feature one large piece or two at most. When asked who would be writing these cover stories, Rosenthal kept with the humorist theme of the section and said, “Almost anyone but Ken Auletta.”