Gray Lady Down
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Excerpts


Prologue:  

I am not one of those people “who love to hate the Times,” as the paper’s executive editor Bill Keller has phrased it. I’ve read the New York Times since I was a kid, and I am proud to have been published prominently in it very early in my career. (The first things I ever published appeared in the Times Magazine and on the op-ed page.) I still consider the Times an important national resource, albeit an endangered one, and I confess to being one of those New Yorkers who refer to it simply as “the paper.” Pre-Internet, I would find myself wandering to the corner newsstand late at night and waiting like a junkie for a fix in the form of the next day’s edition. If I was out of town and couldn’t find it, I would jones. 

But sadly, those days, that young man and that New York Times are long gone. 

My aim is not to embarrass the Times or to feed a case for “going Timesless,” as some subscription cancellers and former readers have called it. Some may think the Times to be irrelevant in this age of media hyperchoice. I think it’s actually more necessary than ever. But if “These Times Demand the Times,” as the paper’s advertising slogan goes, they also demand a better Times than the one we are getting, especially at this fraught point in our political, social and cultural history. 

William McGowan
The Writer’s Room, New York City
September 2010


Chapter Three:  Bullets over Arthur Jr.

Abe Rosenthal’s funeral in 2006 became an occasion for nostalgia over the death of the Times’ golden days, a recessional for the paper’s transition from the voice of America to an increasingly self-righteous, and politically correct, left-liberal publication. It also became a moment for pause when the effects of young Arthur’s fifteen-year reign could be evaluated.

It was not a pretty picture. In a relatively few years, a paper that had been known as the gold standard of American journalism had been tarnished by a string of embarrassing incidents, casting it in the harshest of spotlights, putting its credibility and even its patriotism on the line. Its newsroom had been accused of hypocrisy, corruption, ineptitude, ethical misconduct, fraud, plagiarism, credulousness and, most seriously, ideological bias. The business side was equally under siege, and its board—stacked with Sulzbergers—had presided over a plummeting of stock value to half what it had been in 2002, with advertising revenues in free fall. This steady parade of embarrassing lowlights, where the Times had become the focus of the news instead of merely the bearer of it, had revealed cracks in its foundations and made it a target for public anger and derision—as well as a possible candidate for a corporate takeover. 

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Pop Goes the Times:
Excerpt from the New Criterion


Is The New York Times a liberal newspaper? In 2004, Daniel Okrent, then the paper’s “public editor,” wrote a column asking that very question.[1] His answer: “Of course it is.” Okrent noted that the word “postmodern” had been used “an average of four times a week” that year, and if this didn’t reflect a Manhattan as opposed to a mainstream sensibility, he remarked, “then I’m Noam Chomsky.” (In August 2010, the standards editor, Philip Corbett, urged the Times newsroom to limit the use of the word “hipster,” which he said had appeared 250 times in the last year alone.)

Okrent also noted that the culture pages of the Times “often feature forms of art, dance or theater that may pass for normal (or at least tolerable) in New York but might be pretty shocking in other places.” The Times Magazine, he said, featured photo essays of “models who look like they’re preparing to murder (or be murdered), and others arrayed in a mode you could call dominatrix chic.” In the Sunday Style section, he found “gay wedding announcements, of course, but also downtown sex clubs and T-shirts bearing the slogan, ‘I’m afraid of Americans.’ . . . The front page of the Metro section has featured a long piece best described by its subheadline, ‘Cross-Dressers Gladly Pay to Get in Touch with Their Feminine Side.’ ”

Okrent acknowledged that a newspaper has the right to decide what’s important and what’s not, but stipulated that some readers will think, “This does not represent me or my interests. In fact, it represents my enemy.” He finished his controversial meditation: “It’s one thing to make the paper’s pages a congenial home for editorial polemicists, conceptual artists, the fashion-forward, or other like-minded souls (European papers, aligned with specific political parties, have been doing it for centuries), and quite another to tell only the side of the story your co-religionists wish to hear.” For those with a different worldview than the one that dominates the Times, the paper must necessarily seem “like an alien beast.”

Read all of this excerpt HERE...




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