The New York Times is always looking for a way to save a little scratch, since the paper is losing revenue like a Bible store in a whorehouse, for lack of more time to think of a better metaphor. So today NYT publisher Arthur "Pinch My Moose" Sulzberger announced the paper is going to be combining the metro section with the main news section, and the sports section with the business section on most days of the week. This will save printing costs but will not shrink the news hole, they say. Full memo from Pinchy to the staff after the jump [UPDATE: And an even more detailed memo about the changes from Times editor Bill Keller]: From Sulzberger:

To the Staff: Given the business challenges we face, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce costs that do not affect the quality or quantity of the journalism we provide to our readers. Next month you will see one such way in the metropolitan edition of The Times. Beginning Monday, Oct. 6, we will introduce a new layout of the paper by consolidating some sections. Metro will be integrated into the Main News section Monday through Saturday. Business and Sports will be combined into one section Tuesday through Friday. There will be no loss of content for readers. In fact, there will be some advantages — a freestanding Saturday Arts section and a return to later deadlines for Business news on Monday — and we are working to create later deadlines for culture coverage. The cost savings, which are significant, will come from the production savings of having a single run on more nights than we do today. We are not reducing the space devoted to Metro or Sports news. This is simply a way to produce the paper more efficiently. These changes will affect the New York edition only, as the national edition is already configured in a similar fashion. That said, we don't make these changes lightly. We care deeply about what our New York readers think about their edition. We know that many of our readers like and are comfortable with our current layout. But after a good amount of reader research and exploring various options, we feel this is an effective way to reduce expenses while providing our readers with the breadth and depth of high-quality coverage they expect from us and we are committed to giving them. Arthur

From Keller:

To the Staff: As you've learned from Arthur's message, beginning next month the paper will be reconfigured. Metro news will appear in the A-book along with International and National news. Sports will be combined with Bizday, except on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, when we will offer freestanding sports sections. I just want to elaborate a little on what this means for the newsroom. The aim, of course, is to save money — and, importantly, to do it without cutting back coverage. The savings come from eliminating an early shift in the printing plants on some days. We do not expect to cut the space devoted to these important and popular areas of coverage, or to reduce the staff of journalists who deliver that coverage. For readers who like to single out the Metro or Sports sections for the train ride to work, the new configuration will be a little less convenient. But there will be no less of the great news reports, enterprise, features and columns they expect from those departments. There are even few offsetting gains for readers: — The new configuration will allow us to give readers a free-standing Arts section in the Saturday paper. — We will get some later deadlines, which will help us competitively. Monday Bizday, which is now on the early press run with deadlines in the afternoon, will be printed on the late run, something business editors have long craved. Thus business news that breaks on Sunday night can hereafter be displayed in its proper place, where readers most expect it. We are working to assure that the Arts section can also move to later deadlines most days of the week. We still have some details to work out about the timing and mechanics of the later close, but our ambition is to set deadlines so that late-breaking news from Hollywood or the art auctions or awards shows can be included in the section. — Metro stories that begin on A-1 will jump to Metro space. This year, to ease navigation of our news pages, we have mostly eliminated those annoying jumps from the front page into other sections. The result is that front-page Metro stories mostly jump into National space, where they may feel a little orphaned. Now they will jump into the company of other Metro stories. We have already begun a conversation with editors in Metro about how we assure, in practice, that we keep the light of Metro burning bright when there is no longer a freestanding Metro section. For one thing, I think we will want to be more willing to front urgent Metro stories in the metropolitan editions. For another, we will be looking for new features or improvements to our Metro coverage to reaffirm our commitment to local readers. We've also talked to Tom Jolly about using the front page more to billboard sports coverage. And then there are the opportunities the Web presents us. It's worth remembering that these cost savings serve a long-term purpose. While we are tightening wherever we prudently can, we are continuing to invest in our journalism, especially online, where our audience and revenues are rapidly growing. Metro and Sports have proven among the most innovative departments in exploiting the possibilties of the Web. Witness the Olympics coverage; witness City Room. My belief is that our continuing proliferation of great coverage on the Web will erase any questions about our commitment to Metro and Sports coverage. The top editors at Metro and Sports have been briefed on this, as have the members of the Masthead. If you have questions or thoughts about this development, you know where to find us. Best, Bill