You may have noticed a change to your Washington Post this past weekend, and if you are like any of the Washingtonians that have commented on this modification, you are probably not happy about it. The paper has split its arts and style sections, and D.C. residents will now receive a “Sunday Style” insert on Saturday mornings. The insert will cover TV, music, fashion, and film, or as executive editor of the Post Marcus Brauchli put it in his explanation (defense?) of the new section, “the popular culture that shapes so many of our weekends.”
Setting aside complaints that many outside-the-beltway subscribers did not receive “Sunday Style” this past weekend, the new portion has been criticized for containing a “mash-up of trivial articles, overwhelmed by an overflow of ads.” Others consider the adjustment pathetically cosmetic, underscoring that more substantial changes need to be made to the Post, which many perceive as a waning star in the paper circuit. (One reader cruelly quipped: “Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, are we?”)
I wasn’t quite as offended by the update, although I do feel that the booklet format imparts an unintended sense of marginality on otherwise interesting subject matter. (Why would we repackage an important part of our culture such that it seems like an anecdotal aside, to be lumped in with the Sunday circulars?) Further, I’m not sure I fully appreciate the concept behind separating pop culture coverage from “arts” coverage — if anything, haven’t the last couple of decades illustrated the multi-sourced, highbrow-meets-lowbrow nature of contemporary culture? Why can’t we have last night’s Kennedy Center opera production alongside the most recent Kanye album?
As an avid shopaholic, I was most looking forward to checking out the “Dealhunter,” a new column that claims to report on the best of local bargains for Washingtonian shoppers, but I found the coverage dull. The piece on rental cars was handy enough, but for a column opener, I was hoping for spicier fare. Further, the featured deals on the right hand side of the page read “flat” to me. I’m normally agog with excitement when I see the words “House of Harlow” and “50% off” in the same sentence, but something about the blurbs left me yawning.
All in all, the tepid “Dealhunter” section was fairly symptomatic of my overall take on the Post‘s changes, which I’d summarize as lukewarm. I found the split curious — even troublesome — rather than enraging, and wonder most of all about the reasoning behind the change. The Post conducted a live Q&A session online at 12 noon today in response to similar queries — check it out and submit your own thoughts while at it.