The New Republic’s NYT package: A good read, despite those footnotes

August 20, 2013
Category: Uncategorized

New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson pooh-poohs Politico’s “scooplets” (“interesting in the moment but somewhat evanescent in their importance”) and praises some of its staff (“I think they have some excellent reporters”). Tina Brown says the Mayo Clinic should buy The New York Times (“Excellent at keeping people alive”). The Times will launch an opinion app, Marc Tracy reports. And Tribune should create a national supernewspaper that competes with the Times by combining its local newsgathering in cities such as Baltimore, Chicago and Los Angeles with its national reporting in Washington, Michael Kinsley argues.

All these fun reads come from The New Republic’s special “Future of the Times” package. You should read it! But first, can we talk about the footnotes?

The graphic-design magazine How saluted The New Republic’s redesign for incorporating “standbys in print magazine design” such as pull quotes, drop caps and footnotes. But footnotes in Web design make less sense than they do in print, since you can just link to information you think is relevant but not worth including in the text. (Grantland apparently disagrees: It uses footnotes to provide information that is perhaps of less utility to the reader than the author.)

Kinsley’s interview with Abramson has some particularly egregious footnoting: In one, we learn Arthur Sulzberger’s title. (You’ll have to click these images to view them in their full glory)

In another, we learn the title of Abramson’s book about her dog:

Reached by email, New Republic Editorial Director Michael Schaffer told Poynter that The New Republic’s CMS “makes it really easy to put in footnotes, and a design that — I think! — makes them look cool.” He continues:

I don’t much like the bracketed asides that people use to add context into quotes in the text — I think they break up the flow of the language, especially in something that’s a transcript of an interview.