The New York Times, Colorless

This morning’s New York Times, the not-yet-defunct physical object on the floor outside the apartment door, was black and white. Above the fold, at least, in the part that would show on news racks, the only image was a large black-and-white photograph by Nicole Bengiveno of a deckhand on an oyster boat, his work gloves blurring in the foreground as he reached toward the reader, sorting his catch. The black tones were smoky; the white parts shone. It was something out of the bygone, pre-color-printing, high-contrast Times.

Amid the platform-agnostic mediasphere, the page looked like a newspaper. 

“I think it has a lot of impact because we don’t do it regularly,” Michele McNally, the Times’ assistant managing editor for photography, said when asked about the monochrome approach.

“A lot of times photgraphers find the color distracting,” McNally said.

The photo was part of a larger photo essay to accompany a Dan Barry story about the effects of the BP oil spill on the oyster industry. Like most newspaper photography, it was shot digitally and in full color. “From the day the photographer started shooting it, she wanted it in black and white,” McNally said. Bengiveno had wanted to avoid color, McNally said, “to visually tie it together,” unifying the varied lighting and scenery in the different locations she was photographing. Also, there was a lot of dull-colored mud involved.

When the picture came up in the editorial meeting, McNally said, “Everybody responded. Sometimes you don’t have to say anything.”

Below the fold , the paper returned to modern times with a color picture of Linda and Vince McMahon behind red wrestling ropes, a small green-tinged video still of the BP well cap, and, along the bottom, a full-color movie ad for Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.