Sunday, January 23, 2005

Where is the news that's fit to print? Forget all, any would do after this week's New York Times

We don't know how The Common Ills does it -- manage to work their way through the increasingly useless New York Times day after day. Caught in the trappings of what passes for high society in this administration, NYT reads more and more like a house organ for the White House and less and less like a newspaper.

Thursday, across the nation, people protested and registered their opposition to the administration. But that's not a story. Instead some looney spends Saturday trying to convince us that Laura Bush is suddenly "classy." The term "classy" doesn't mix with the name "Bush" and probably never will. But we're sure the White House was overjoyed that NYT was ready to kowtow so diligently over the last few days.

Pomp and nonsense were covered as though they were a moon landing. NYT courted the powerful that they're supposed to be watch-dogging. The watch dog was neutered and happily lapped up any morsels that were tossed its way: Colin Powell bought a Vette!; Laura's dress was designed by Oscar de la Renta! (Didn't he matter about three decades ago?)

A week of coverage devoted to what's basically a prom and NYT wanted to be the first to crown the Prom King and Queen.

There's no excuse for that. You can't call yourself a daily newspaper and churn out this type of shit on a daily basis. Every now and then, NYT took the time to inform us of other "important" events -- like skiing in Utah!

At a time when newspapers continue to face decreasing readerships, it might be time for them to do a little self-examiniation. Here's a question NYT can start with? Do we want to be People Magazine or a newspaper?

After answering that question they can either decide to implement a glossy cover or get back to real news. You know, the sort of thing that actually effects our lives.

That might mean missing out on the snarky attacks on Barbara Boxer (see Friday's paper) or telling Sheryl Gay Stolberg that her little "reporting for duty" jab at John Kerry belongs in an op-ed piece and not in a news article. It might require asking Elisbeth Bumiller to write as though she actually has a brain or even half of one.

And, novel idea, stop the incessant hand wringing over the fate of Judith Miller (no one really cares) and use the paper's resources to actually investigate who outed CIA agent Valerie Plame!
Can you dig it, you feel me?

All the poor Judy coverage (including the op-ed from the publisher) are pretty much worthless. Miller's sympathy-proof due to her own actions. But if you spent even half the time you're spending trying to turn this into an "Oh! The humanity!" story instead on something worthwhile like assigning a team of reporters to find out who outed Plame, Miller can be spared a jail sentence, no reporter will be forced to testify, and you'd have an honest to God scoop.

We're sorry. We just realized that it's been so long since NYT had a scoop that they may not know what that term means anymore. A "scoop" is the sort of thing Sy Hersh gets at The New Yorker. It means he breaks a story. He's not just playing stenographer to whatever administration official has decided to speak. A sccop is when you break a story that no one else is covering or you come up with an angle on it that no one else has noticed.

We realize you're used to reporting on stories that have made the Washington Post already or write ups on what got said on Meet the Press. We realize that you probably think a "scoop" is noticing something that's gone up on a governmental website.

But those aren't scoops. Breaking the news on who leaked Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak would be a scoop.

Realizing that you have little interest in actual news these days, we'll pitch it to you this way: Picture it, Judy Miller's about to be carted off to jail while people cheer but just when it looks darkest, a little boy charges onto the screen screaming, "Extra! Extra! Read all about it! ___
outed Plame to Novak! New York Times exclusive!" We intercut with shots of the official being led away in hand cuffs while Judy attempts to look uplifted. [Hint, wipe the scowl off her face and bring in some soft lighting.] Then just before the credits roll, we see Arthur and Keller popping open a bottle of bubbly with a cheery Judy who says, "Okay guys, now we hit Iran!"
Scroll credits.

It's a blockbuster in the making!

For those who, like us, have abandoned all hope of NYT ever printing a story that actually matters, we'd recommend you read "Amy Goodman Warned Us About 'The Lies of the Times'" and, heck, we'd recommend it even to those still holding out hope that at some point NYT might actually get back in the news business.

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