Thursday, April 13, 2017

A History of the Failing New York Times

                            Having Fun, Nick?                         Donald, I'm STARVING!

I remember well how it all started.

I hadn’t believed it when first I saw the reference in one of President Trump’s tweets to the “failing @NYTimes.” But soon there were unmistakable signs that the once venerable New York Times, purveyor of “all the news that’s fit to print,” was crashing and burning before my very eyes.

About six months ago I was reading a profile of Jim Jarmusch in the Arts and Leisure section of the Sunday Times including commentary on his most recent film Pureed Gums. To my dismay the piece wholly miscalculated the total sum number of times Bill Murray had previously played the role of Bill Murray in films directed by Wes Anderson and/or Mr. Jarmusch prior to Pureed Gums (9, not 10!) and seriously undervalued Jarmusch’s minimalist remake of Paint Your Wagon.

Frankly I wouldn't have been comfortable passing off as my own any of the insights presented therein!

The next week I noticed something else quite unusual. The Sunday Times had once been so voluminously thick that you’d have to be Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson to bench press it. But this Sunday I carried it into the house, on a crazed whim balanced it on my chin for over a minute, and read it all in full by Sunday night at 10:00 PM, well in time to watch John Oliver.

What was causing this plummeting quality and popularity of the Times?
Was it the effect of President Trump’s impact on the taste, culture, and level of intellectual inquiry of the nation? Was a man reputed never to have read anything more profound that his scorecard at Mar-a-Lago now dictating and establishing the quality of American journalism?   

Regardless of the reason, serious errors now marred the Times’ former stellar reporting.  The Vice-President of the United States was often referred to as Hunter Pence --- a right fielder on the San Francisco Giants --- and Mike Pence’s batting average was frequently listed as “well above 250” despite the fact that Vice-President Pence has trouble with the curve. Times’ investigative journalism now broke stories capped with conclusive findings like “couldn’t find a thing,” “well, whaddya know?” and “if only I’d asked more about the hat check girl!”

And even more disturbing:  a review of an off-Broadway revival of Ubu Roi was marked by a disquieting air of befuddled uncertainty. “Frankly,” pondered Ben Brantley, “I don’t know what the fuck it was all about.”  Metaphors were now frequently mixed, double negatives abounded, and the Oxford Comma had seemingly dropped out of Oxford and into indolence and heavy drugs. 

Participles dangled helplessly.

Subsequent issues brought even more flagrant proof of the Times’ decline.  Nicholas Kristoff wrote a column with the headline “Will Write about Trump’s Incompetence for Food,” No. 15 across in the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle yielded the answer “HELP ME!” and the Travel Section of the Times featured “Surprising Camden NJ!”

The Sunday Times Magazine was replaced by Parade Magazine, which made a low-ball offer to buy the entire newspaper. The new editor was slated to be former Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte.

Just as its deal was about to close, the failing New York Times was acquired by a White Knight.  The White Knight was Disney, appropriately riding to the rescue replete with a harem of cartoon princesses.

It was good to see the Times at long last make something of a comeback.

Although now and then I wouldn’t mind reading a piece by Maureen Dowd that doesn’t mention Frozen.



  1. The same thing happened to the Goshen Gazette, our community paper. It once had as many as 50 paid subscribers and ran such riveting news stories as "Goober gets a new hat" and "McPherson's cow breed by artificial means."

    Now, they're running stories about Clem Johnson's hay baler that are obvious fabrications. Who ever heard of a baler tying twine in a Granny knot, ridiculous. They're just lucky I don't have a Twitter account.

    1. I think the nation is lucky you don't have a twitter account.

  2. I could keep you pretty busy making up excuses for me.