When a major paper shrinks everyone panics for one reason or another due to the loss of real estate. But in the case of the NY Times, Nieman Watchdog writer Gil Cranberg advocates a semi-insane plan of ditching the graphics for more words, something he’s apparently stumped for before:
I am renewing the complaint because, with newspapers narrowing their widths, it’s more urgent than ever that they quit shortchanging space for news by running splashy, oversized graphics that make minimal contribution to understanding the news. It’s as though there’s a virus in the land causing copy-cat editors addicted to excessive art to follow each other over a cliff.
Cranberg calls this abomination the “Invasion of the Space Snatchers.” Ooooooh. Scawy. We also like this bit:
It’s surprising, to say the least, for a paper with the kind of serious readership the Times has, to go overboard on graphics. Other publications should resist the temptation to follow its lead.
Because, let’s face it: “Serious” readers do not look at pictures. Ever.
Luckily, our hero Steven Heller, an art director at the NY Times for three decades, can type some sense into this argument:
Now, Mr. Cranberg does not object to pictures that provide information – graphics or photos – but not all imagery can or should provide the facts, and nothing but the facts. The role of illustration is to enhance and illuminate, not always to echo a story, particularly a “think piece,” like those published on OpEd pages. There are aesthetic pleasures provided by good, well drawn and conceived illustration. They are often hooks that help the reader enter a story, or when superb, stand alone as integral commentaries. They don’t just eat up valuable editorial space, but optimize the space at hand by giving allure to a story that a headline, blurb, or even info-graphic may not be able to do on its own.
Case in point, says Felix Sockwell, who writes in to suggest that Paul Sahre‘s illustration about the Barry Bonds “*” (above) is “one of the best minimalist 2′ x 2.5′ (standard Times size) op-eds in a while.”
We agree. Worth every precious column inch.