Tag Archives: New York Times

NY Times tiptoes closer to the F-word. Oh, my!

By Christopher B. Daly 

The New York Times has a very uncharacteristic Op-Ed column today by lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower arguing that the Times should get in step with the rest of society and start printing a word we all know that begins with “f” and ends with “uck” (and it’s not firetruck!).

O tempora, o mores!

When Adolph Ochs bought the New York Times in 1896, he had high aims. The patriarch of the family that still owns the newspaper — and still sets its editorial direction — wanted above all else to appeal to an

A young Adolph Ochs is noted in the trade press.

A young Adolph Ochs is noted in the trade press.

elite audience. His business model was predicated on the idea that he could survive in the crowded New York City market with a smaller audience than the vast audience of workers, tradesmen, and immigrants that Pulitzer and Hearst were catering to, provided that the Times’s readers were wealthier, which would make them more attractive to advertisers. So, he set out to distinguish his paper from the popular “yellow press” papers of Hearst and Pulitzer, which dripped gore and sex. They were read by chambermaids and stevedores, and Ochs wanted no part of them. He was aiming for the upper classes, and he presumed that they preferred a more-decorous approach.

So, in addition to his famous motto “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” he also spelled out his credo in a statement to his readers. He promised that the Times would not “soil the breakfast cloth” — meaning that families could bring his paper to the breakfast table (which would have a table cloth, because Times readers could afford them) and not have to worry that it would besmirch the conversation or corrupt the children. In fact, Ochs declared his intention that the Times would deliver the news “in language that is parliamentary in good society.”

Thus, it would appear that proper language is part of the paper’s DNA, and the Times has certainly been culturally conservative in the sense that it has been reluctant to depart from the late-Victorian standards of propriety and vulgarity laid down by the current publisher’s great-grandfather.

Of course, it is a fair question to ask how many families gather around the breakfast table sharing the print edition of the Times and how many families are succeeding in preventing their children from learning the f-word.

Pretty fucking few, I’d bet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Veteran correspondent: Why we failed

By Christopher B. Daly

A recent piece by the redoubtable Carlotta Gall in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine points up one reason why the Times is so valuable to its readers. Gall was a correspondent for the Times in Afghanistan for more than a decade — arriving shortly after the 9/11 attacks prompted the United States’ ferocious counter-strikes in the Muslim world. Gall (who I met once when we gave her an award at Boston University) is one tough cookie — a veteran, smart, deeply informed observer of places and things that most Americans would never get to see first-hand. We have depended on her.

Now, in a kind of valedictory, she is stepping out of her duties as a day-to-day news reporter and taking on the role of an analyst. The Times ran a chunk of her forthcoming book in the Magazine, and here are the parts that really struck me.

First, she credentialed herself:

Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, I went to live and report for The New York Times in Afghanistan. I would spend most of the next 12 years there, following the overthrow of the Taliban, feeling the excitement of the freedom and prosperity that was promised in its wake and then watching the gradual dissolution of that hope. A new Constitution and two rounds of elections did not improve the lives of ordinary Afghans; the Taliban regrouped and found increasing numbers of supporters for their guerrilla actions; by 2006, as they mounted an ambitious offensive to retake southern Afghanistan and unleashed more than a hundred suicide bombers, it was clear that a deadly and determined opponent was growing in strength, not losing it. As I toured the bomb sites and battlegrounds of the Taliban resurgence, Afghans kept telling me the same thing: The organizers of the insurgency were in Pakistan, specifically in the western district of Quetta. Police investigators were finding that many of the bombers, too, were coming from Pakistan.

Then, a bit later, she very helpfully boils down all those years of her hard-won education in the field:

“The madrasas are a cover, a camouflage,” a Pashtun legislator from the area told me. Behind the curtain, hidden in the shadows, lurked the ISI.

The Pakistani government, under President Pervez Musharraf and his intelligence chief, Lt. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, was maintaining and protecting the Taliban, both to control the many groups of militants now lodged in the country and to use them as a proxy force to gain leverage over and eventually dominate Afghanistan. The dynamic has played out in ways that can be hard to grasp from the outside, but the strategy that has evolved in Pakistan has been to make a show of cooperation with the American fight against terrorism while covertly abetting and even coordinating Taliban, Kashmiri and foreign Qaeda-linked militants. The linchpin in this two-pronged and at times apparently oppositional strategy is the ISI. It’s through that agency that Pakistan’s true relationship to militant extremism can be discerned — a fact that the United States was slow to appreciate, and later refused to face directly, for fear of setting off a greater confrontation with a powerful Muslim nation.

I’d say that all the pundits and politicians who sit back here at home, safe and warm, should listen to someone who has actually been there and really knows what she’s talking about. So, there you have it: During all those years of dying and spending in that part of the world, the United States was basically being played as a chump, and the moment we leave, all parties involved are going to go right back to what they were doing before we got there.

 

 

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NYTimes: Truth in labeling?

By Christopher B. Daly

When I was reading the NYTimes front page this morning, I started reading the paper’s Pg. 1 story about Pete Seeger. As I read, I had a growing sense that something was bugging me. The piece carried the byline of Jon Pareles, the paper’s longtime music critic, which I thought was appropriate. But the piece kept bugging me, until I realized what the problem was: I was not reading the paper’s obituary (also written by Pareles). Instead, I was reading something more like a critical appraisal of Pete’s musical career. Here’s part of it:

That put him at the center of the folk revival of the 1950s and 1960s, in all its idealism, earnestness and contradictions. Collectors found songs that had archetypal resonance, sung in unpretty voices and played with regional quirks, and transcribed them to be learned from sheet music. The folk revival prized authenticity — the work song recorded in prison, the fiddle tune recorded on a back porch — and then diluted it as the making of amateur collegiate strum-alongs.

That’s fine, of course, (although a bit tart for a story about his death) but it should have been labeled as such. There should have been some kind of banner or emblem that says AN APPRECIATION or CRITICISM or something like that which would signal that this is not a factual news story. (Online, the Pg. 1 piece carries the slug MUSIC: AN APPRAISAL, which is just what it needed.)

Inside the paper was Pete’s obit, which had a classical opening:

Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 94.

His death, at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, was confirmed by his grandson Kitama Cahill Jackson.

Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10, from college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

Recently, I had a similar experience with the Times’ coverage. After Obama gave his “big speech” about the NSA scandal back on Jan 17, the Times ran a page 1 story the next day. Actually, the paper ran two stories: one a straightforward factual account of the president’s speech by Mark Landler and Charlie Savage headlined “Obama Outlines Calibrated Curbs on Phone Spying.” Then, there was another story, also on Pg. 1, written by David Sander and Claire Cain Miller headlined “In Keeping Grip on Data Pipeline, Obama Does Little to Reassure Industry.” My problem was that the second story was clearly more analytical, and the authors drew several important conclusions on their own authority — not by quoting experts but by being experts.

Again, that’s fine. But it should be labeled ANALYSIS.

And here’s the kicker. I was staying in a hotel that weekend, and on Sunday I could only get hold of the International New York Times. There were the Saturday stories, recycled a day late, and when I looked at the Sanger and Miller piece, it carried a label that said ANALYSIS.

 

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A new New York Times online

By Christopher B. Daly

Today brings a long-awaited redesign of the New York Times online in all its various incarnations — desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile.

An overall first impression: it’s clean, smart, fast, and user-friendly. A clear winner. 

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 11.11.00 AM

To learn more, here’s an article by former Times media reporter Brian Stelter.

Some concerns:

–In the mobile version I am seeing on my iPhone, one screenful displays only 1.5 stories. It feels a bit like following a flashlight beam. I get no sense of the overall news picture.

–I am, of course, concerned about the simultaneous introduction of “native advertising” — which I consider an insidious erosion of the separation of  “church and state” within news organizations. I don’t care that everybody’s doing it. (On the other hand, I was just roaming around the site on my desktop computer, and I saw zero ads of any kind: is that courtesy of my ad-blocker?)

Your thoughts?

 

 

 

For comparison, here’s the way the Times looked when it made its debut in 1851 (price, 1 cent):

The_New-York_Daily_Times_first_issue

 

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Dasani’s story — a team effort

By Christopher B. Daly 

By now, most readers of the NYTimes have discovered Dasani, the remarkable girl whose story epitomizes the plight of the 22,000+ homeless in New York City. Kudos to investigative reporter Andrea Elliott and photographer Ruth Fremson.

BTW, the online version has extras. Although the series “Reasons to Dream” did not get the full TimesSnow Fall” treatment, it still looks better online. There are big, gorgeous, poignant, full-color pictures of

Dasani at play. NYT/Ruth Fremson

Dasani at play.
NYT/Ruth Fremson

Dasani and her world, and some videos too.

But not to be missed is this: The full credits at the bottom of the last installment indicate how much institutional heft counts in a series like this.

Here is a brief summary of how they went about it:

SUMMARY OF REPORTING

Andrea Elliott, an investigative reporter with The New York Times, began following Dasani and her family in September 2012. The series is written in the present tense, based on real-time reporting by Ms. Elliott and Ruth Fremson, a photographer with The Times, both of whom used audio and video tools.

Throughout the year, Dasani’s family also documented their lives in video dispatches from the Auburn Family Residence, which does not allow visitors beyond the lobby. Ms. Elliott and Ms. Fremson gained access to the shelter to record conditions there.

The reporting also drew from court documents, city and state inspection reports, police records, the family’s case files at city agencies and dozens of interviews with shelter residents. Most scenes were reported firsthand; others were reconstructed based on interviews and video and audio recordings.

The Times is withholding the last names of Dasani and her siblings to protect their identities. The nicknames of some of Dasani’s siblings are used in place of their birth names.

 

And here is a long list of people who pitched in:

CREDITS

By Andrea Elliott
Photographs by Ruth Fremson

Design, graphics and production by Troy Griggs, Jon Huang, Meghan Louttit, Jacky Myint, John Niedermeyer, David Nolen, Graham Roberts, Mark Suppes, Archie Tse, Tim Wallace and Josh Williams.

Reporting was contributed by Rebecca R. Ruiz, Joseph Goldstein and Ruth Fremson, and research by Ms. Ruiz, Joseph Burgess, Alain Delaquérière and Ramsey Merritt.

 

By my count, that’s 18 people — not to mention all the editors who had a hand (who should also be credited/held accountable). And, of course, Andrea Elliott has done basically nothing else for 15 months — so that in itself is a big commitment.

Plus, the Times is providing the “source notes” (like scholarly footnotes) so that others can confirm or pursue further info. This is a model practice for many other stories.

That’s how it’s done.

 

 

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Abolish the NCAA (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly

Mark me as skeptical on this one. Today’s NYTimes is declaring that the NCAA is on the verge of epochal change. I’ll believe it when I see it.

If more professional sports want to establish farm leagues and pay young athletes, so be it.

If more college students want to get out and exercise, so much the better.

The fact is, the NCAA has never come up with an answer to this question: what educational purpose does inter-collegiate athletics serve?

imgres-1

 

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Revealed: Justice Scalia’s news diet. (No NYT allowed!)

Here is an excerpt from a recent interview in New York magazine with Justice Antonin Scalia, in which he discusses his news consumption habits with interviewer Jennifer Senior.

What’s your media diet? Where do you get your news?
Well, we get newspapers in the morning.

“We” meaning the justices?

No! Maureen and I.

Oh, you and your wife …

I usually skim them. We just get The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times. We used to get the Washington Post, but it just … went too far for me. I couldn’t handle it anymore.

What tipped you over the edge?

It was the treatment of almost any conservative issue. It was slanted and often nasty. And, you know, why should I get upset every morning? I don’t think I’m the only one. I think they lost subscriptions partly because they became so shrilly, shrilly liberal.

So no New York Times, either?

No New York Times, no Post.

And do you look at anything online?

I get most of my news, probably, driving back and forth to work, on the radio.

Not NPR? 

Sometimes NPR. But not usually.

Talk guys?

Talk guys, usually.

Do you have a favorite?

You know who my favorite is? My good friend Bill Bennett. He’s off the air by the time I’m driving in, but I listen to him sometimes when I’m shaving. He has a wonderful talk show. It’s very thoughtful. He has good callers. I think they keep off stupid people.

That’s what producers get paid for.

That’s what’s wrong with those talk shows.

Let’s talk about the state of our politics for a moment. . . 

 

I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe that a Supreme Court justice — any Supreme Court justice — can get by without reading the Times. For Scalia not to know what just a single Times reporter, Charlie Savage, is reporting is either not true or it is not professional. If we take him at his word, Scalia confines himself to

(1) a Murdoch paper,

(2) a paper that may be the worst in the country (the Washington Times, owned by a crazy Korean religious cult figure), and

(3) a radio talk show run by his friend Bill Bennett.

Talk about living in a bubble. Sheesh.

An embarassment Photo by Platon

Antonin Scalia: An embarrassment
Photo by Platon

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Most important media story of the year?

By Christopher B. Daly

this oneIt may well turn out to be , announced with little fanfare a few days ago:

New York Times Company to Pay a 4-Cent Dividend

What that means is that the NYTimes newspaper has become profitable again — so profitable that the folks who run the company feel they have enough cash to pay their stockholders again. Most importantly, that means that the cousins of the current publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., will once again benefit financially from owning the NYT Company. For the past five years, that has been a losing proposition for them. The value of their shares of stock crashed, and the stock stopped paying a dividend.

Cousin Arthur has been in the same boat. But in his case, he at least has the fun and challenge of trying to run the world’s greatest news operation every day. The others, who are mostly not involved with the paper, had to just sit and wait. How long they would be content to do so was a question of some urgency for those who care about the Times.  

imgres

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Glass half full: NYT posts a profit due to online readers

By Christopher B. Daly 

The NYTimes Co. reports some good news: the company operated in the black last quarter, and it did so no thanks to advertising. What carried the news operation into profitability was the surge in online readers who are actually paying for content. Here are the key results:

Circulation revenue rose 5.1 percent, to $245.1 million, from $233.3 million. But that gain was largely offset by a 5.8 percent decline in advertising revenue, to $207.5 million.

The number of paid subscribers to the Web site, e-reader and other digital editions of The Times and The International Herald Tribune grew to 699,000, a jump of more than 35 percent from the period a year earlier. Digital subscriptions to The Boston Globe and BostonGlobe.com rose to 39,000, an increase of nearly 70 percent from 23,000 a year earlier.

If you are a paying customer of the Times, pat yourself on the back. If not, PAY UP!

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Historic journalism: 1852 edition

By Christopher B. Daly

Don’t miss: a lovely piece of journalism history in today’s NYTimes, above coverage of an earlier heat wave — in 1852.

x1xThe Streets in Midsummer.jpg

Today’s piece captures the novel sense that New Yorkers were feeling that summer heat in the city was somehow worse and harder to bear than summer heat in the country. The build environment was beginning to capture and radiate heat. The unnatural concentration of horses and other animals added to the stink and pestilence. The physical crowding of people in the streets and in the tenements. The air pollution caused by the aerosolization of manure and other waste — all these things were creating a new kind of misery. And, through the mediation of the newspaper, perhaps a new solidarity among city-dwellers as fellow survirors of this new challenge of living.

Thank you, NYT.

First offices of the New York Times, starting in 1851. 113 Nassau St.

First offices of the New York Times, starting in 1851.
113 Nassau St.

 

 

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