New York's optimistic 'grey lady' set to go national

Long burdened with the nickname the "grey lady" for its sober appearance and high-brow content, the New York Times is to take on some extra weight and a dash of colour while spreading itself more generously around the country.

The newspaper, which began publishing in 1851, yesterday outlined an ambitious programme of expansion apparently driven by renewed optimism about revenue prospects, particularly from national advertising.

While some of its weekend sections have boasted editorial colour for some time, a new printing plant in the New York district of Queens that is due to open in September will extend it to the main news section, the paper announced. The change will begin with the Sport Section and eventually include the front page.

Most notable, however, are efforts being promised to give the Times a more genuinely national presence. Currently in the United States, it is only USA Today and perhaps the Wall Street Journal that can truly claim to be national daily newspapers.

The Times revealed that it is to begin printing immediately in plants in both the Boston and Washington DC areas to supply 110,000 readers spread through the north-east and mid-Atlantic regions. In the meantime, it has signed contracts with 33 regional daily papers and one national magazine to improve distribution to all parts of the country.

"We were seeing particularly strong growth in national advertising," commented Janet Robinson, president and general manager of the paper. "That made us examine where we were going after advertising and where we were going after circulation."

The fortunes of American newspapers as a whole have also been boosted recently by a moderation in newsprint prices which in recent years had risen to crippling levels.

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