You knew they had to be sensitive, even embarrassed about it, when The New York Times announced that it was dropping its popular “Green” blog at 5pm on a Friday. This is the traditional time for governmental and corporate entities to release bad news or offer massive document dumps.

The Times, back in January, had revealed that it was dropping its special reporting unit, or “pod,” on the environment, so concerns had already been aired. Still, this latest move, last Friday, drew criticism from readers, activists and media watchers.

Times managing editor Dean Baquet explains that, yes, this was a “cost-cutting” move but also claims that the inside view was that environmental coverage had become ghettoized and would benefit from being integrated with other departments. This might raise its profile and get more stories on the front page. I suppose this is the “It’s Not Easy Being Green” argument.

But many are not buying it. Andrew Revkin, who writes at the paper’s Dot. Earth blog, posted a critique there, calling Green (which drew on many fine freelance writers) “an excellent aggregator of environmental news and analysis that didn’t fit in the flow of conventional articles.”

Curtis Brainerd at the Columbia Journalism Review site slammed the move: “They’ve made a horrible decision that ensures the deterioration of the Times’s environmental coverage at a time when debates about climate change, energy, natural resources and sustainability have never been more important to public welfare, and they’ve done so while keeping their staff in the dark. Readers deserve an explanation, but I can’t think of a single one that would justify this folly.”

Seeking an explanation, Margaret Sullivan, the paper’s super-active public editor, talked to Baquet and the former Green editor (who has been re-assigned to the Culture desk), then offered her usual frank assessment:

I’m not convinced that The Times’s environmental coverage will be as strong without the team and the blog. Something real has been lost on a topic of huge and growing importance.

Especially given The Times’s declared interest in attracting international readers and younger readers, I hope that Times editors—very soon—will look for new ways to show readers that environmental news hasn’t been abandoned, but in fact is of utmost importance. So far, in 2013, they are not sending that message.

Just can’t muster up that old righteous fury on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War? Read Greg Mitchell’s list of sixteen media outrages on Iraq.