Press Box

Off With Their Standing Heds!

The New York Times op-ed page’s space-saving decapitation.

New York Times obsessives may have noticed that the op-ed page dropped the standing heds for its regular columnists at the beginning of the month. William “Essay” Safire is now just William Safire, Maureen “Liberties” Dowd is plain old Maureen Dowd, and Paul “Reckonings” Krugman is Paul Krugman. And so on. Only Anthony Lewis’ hed—”Abroad at Home”—survives the axe.

Gail Collins, who recently took over as Times editorial page editor, explains the change.

“We did it for two reasons. One was that we’ve begun putting e-mail addresses in for the columnists who wish it, and I didn’t want them to have to lose space as a result. The other is that it’s surprisingly hard to come up with these names. It took us ages to come up with ‘Public Interests’ for me, which is not exactly profound. When Nick Kristof agreed to write for op-ed for the next year, it occurred to me that rather than invent another title, we could just stop using them.

“Nobody ever used the names—I’ve never heard anybody say, ‘Did you read “Essay” today?’ But I have now come to realize that even though most readers didn’t even know the heads were there, people are attached to the Times in a very profound way and are disturbed by changes. You should have seen my mail when we rearranged the columnists’ writing schedule.

“I’m beginning to suspect that my tombstone will read—’Here Lies the Person Who Eliminated the Columnists’ Standing Heads.’ “