Midweek Rant #21: The New York Times

The Los Angelification of Jesse Gavin is damn near complete: new lease, new phone number, new bike.

Yes.  I ride a bike in Los Angeles.  And no, I didn’t mean to say “Californiacation”.  Copyright issues aside, it refers to an entire state, and I’ll be damned if I start getting all “NorCal”.

One ghost of my life in New York City still haunts me, however.  But as I was deciding which newspaper I wanted to get delivered to my new apartment for the morning read, it occurred to me that the choice is neither geographical nor cultural.  It’s a question of dignity.

The Los Angeles Times is – just – so…bad.  Part of why I started reading the paper in the first place was so done could get myself a bit more smarter.  I was blessed to live in a city where anyone that was willing to spring for more than a quarter would reflexively go for the New York Times.  Better yet, if you didn’t get it for a dollar at the corner bodega in the morning time, you could get it for fifty cents on the street at 3pm for the Afternoon Special.  And there you were, reading some of, if not the, best in-depth investigative reporting around.

Regulations of prep school basketball teams.  Recruitment practices of Pharmaceutical Companies for sales reps.  Slumlords keeping off heat during the winter in Bronx apartment buildings.  These are just a few of the exposes I read over the years that went on to bring about massive overhauls.  The New York Times didn’t just report news, it made it happen.  And every article, regardless of the section, went above and beyond, making up for any agendas or slants with fecundity of information.  My decision was not about New York versus Los Angeles, it was about Journalism versus Dibbity Doo.

Sometimes when I see people reading Us Weekly, I kneel down and thank God for the Freedom of Press.  To think that famed 18th Century Shakespearean actor David Garrick could sell out an entire run of Richard the Third without having to hold a press conference owning up to his infidelities.  It makes me shudder.  Not to mention his slouchy posture when on holiday.  It’s just good to know that all these celebrities now understand that just because they’re on vacation, doesn’t mean they can get away with a little flab hanging out while they’re on the beach.  Suck it in, Ewan McGregor.

I’ve always cut the New York Times a little slack when it comes to advertising because a business is a business, and they’ve gotta make some money to keep prices down.  And given that they place the bulk of the emaciated models sporting jewelry in the main news section, perhaps it’s more of a reflection of their personal belief that the well read ought to be pressured into materialism and eating disorders just like the rest of them.  What, you think your fancy college degree means you shouldn’t hate yourself when you look in the mirror?  Our readers don’t get special treatment…

Walking to the bus from my apartment in West Hollywood, I got a New York Times for two dollars and twenty cents at a newsstand outside the Kings Road Café.  It’s not 2005 anymore.  Two dollars for the paper and twenty cents for the Governor of California.  Walking past the Hollywood types taking turns pitching ideas, I felt proud of my decision.  Everyone at this Entertainment Biz haunt was trying to spin something; sell an idea that’s probably no good.  Buzz words and bullet points flew as talk avoided addressing the script in the entirety, but rather the five trailer moments.

The thing is, I don’t like a news article with less than 30 paragraphs.  12 paragraphs ain’t news, it’s just a really long headline.  Just because I’ve decided that LA people are in fact my people, doesn’t mean I have to get my news from the LA Times.  I can have both.

And wouldn’t you know?!  First page on the Arts Section there’s an article about a bunch of Filmmakers based in Los Angeles called Blue-Tongue Films.  I’m completely engrossed in the article, having just walked by the hotel they did the interview at.  I’m on the first sentence of Paragraph 8 when it’s interrupted by Continued on Page 4.  The sentence ends up looking like this:

“None of us could get into film school; I tried,” said

Continued on Page 4

It’s times like this when I think of the slogan “The New York Times: All the News That’s Fit to Print”.  It’s not “All the News That We Can Format Into a Pretty Layout”.  Sentences are arbitrarily cut off where they’re cut off and the article will be continued where they can fit it.  Because it’s fit to print.  It’s not fit to be formatted.

This was a particularly good “cliffhanger”, if you will.  I took a quick peek at the five guys in the picture before I turned to page four, devilishly wondering which one of these young chaps said this delightfully ironic statement.

“Maybe it’s the one with the fedora!” I thought loudly in my head, scanning the occupants of the 720 Bus to make sure I had in fact said it in my head and not aloud.  I turned one page, focused on keeping my train of thought while checking out what articles were waiting for me on Pages 2 and 3.  “Ooh!  A theater review by Jason Zinoman – he tells it like it is!”.  My brain still holding onto the cliffhanger, I turned the page and quickly searched for the remainder of the article on Page 4.

Wha?

Page 4 didn’t have the rest of the article at all.  All it had was a giant ad for Up in the Air with George Clooney.  The ad was full of sensational quotes from glowing reviews, none of which were from the New York Times.  I always chuckle when this is the case, because A.O. Scott isn’t in the business of handing out gems to the marketing team the way Peter Travers is.

Surely this is some mistake.  I quick go back to the first page and in fact it says “Continued on Page 4”.  I then turn back to Page 4 and look up at the top left corner to see if in fact it is “C4”.

C3A

Turning my attention to what I once thought would be page C5, my eyes painfully drift upwards along the giant Avatar ad touting the masturbatory Time Magazine quote towards the top right hand corner, where the page number C3B was shamelessly printed.  My muscles, weakened from my dimming outlook on the world, managed to make a turn-of-page happen.

Oh, sad day.  As my eyes focused on the horror of “C3C” and “C3D”, I started to wonder if the day might come when a page of the Thursday Arts might be named after a droid from the original Star Wars Trilogy.  Oh, sad day.

Fortunately it’s only 2010: the year I decided to hate the New York Times.  The page after C3D was in fact the coveted C4, followed by the equally sought after C5.  What made these pages so in demand?  Why they contained the follow ups to every single article started on C1.  Way to go, New York Times!  Filled with rage, I imagined a real life person running things over at the Times, so I could hate something more tangible than an entire newspaper.

We personify so we can cope:


Thank you for reading.  I really appreciate you being there for me.  But despite all this abuse, I’ve decided to subscribe to the New York Times anyway.  It just feels so comfortable, and I’m sure I can get it to change.  And truth be told, there’s a part of me that knows deep down I can’t do any better.

Oh, sad day.

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One Response to Midweek Rant #21: The New York Times

  1. Love it! Rarely used to the read the paper, actually, until it went on line. Now it’s my homepage, how I start my day and how I take breaks between blogging. Also, Sundays are now for the actual paper – in bed – with coffee. The Old Grey Lady is still as good as it gets.

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