No Hall of Famers Means No Text for Times’ Sports Section

NYT prints empty page in Thursday's paper

Every year, the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA) vote to decide who among the sport’s top players deserves a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In recent years, that list has included such illustrious names as Boston Red Sox left fielder Jim Rice and Yankees pitcher "Goose" Gossage. So which players were deserving of the title in 2013? None of them, apparently.

For the first time since 1996, the BBWA failed to elect anyone to the Hall of Fame. (Writers are allowed to vote for up to 10 players on their ballots; a player needs at least 75 percent of the vote to be inducted. This year’s highest scorer was Houston Astro Craig Biggio with 68.3 percent.) Naturally, the outcome was a hot topic among sports fans yesterday, with the debate focusing on whether eligible players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens—both of whom hold Hall of Fame-worthy records—deserved to be left out due to their steroid use.

Rather than join in on the chatter, the New York Times decided to go in a decidedly more minimalist direction. The front of the newspaper’s Sports Thursday section featured the headline “And the Inductees Are…” followed by a block of blank space nearly the size of the page. (If you look closely, there’s a list of several nominated players and the vote percentage they received at the bottom of the empty box in miniscule type.)

According to Times sports editor Joe Sexton, the paper’s art designer Wayne Kamidoi came up with the idea for a blank page. “Tyler Kepner, our national baseball writer, had predicted a shutout days earlier, and Wayne first developed his idea about a day before the announcement,” he told Adweek via email. “It wasn’t done lightly. We thought, rethought, refined and refined again — the headline, the agate line, everything. It was anything but a joke.”

In her blog, public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that while much of the reaction to the design decision was positive, some readers weren’t pleased. (“I’m paying for news, not white space…Please be more judicious when doling out precious news space,” read a letter from one subscriber.)

Ultimately, she said, “The page was certainly a conversation starter. And that conversation – not only about baseball, but also about design and the power of the printed page — is worth having."