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Monday, July 28, 2008

A Confession

I miss the New York Times. There, I've said it. I'm not proud of myself… but there it is. For most of my adult life I've had a love/hate relationship with the 'Gray Lady'.

Starting with my first subscription when I was in University, I loved certain aspects of the paper… and hated others with equal fervor. Although doing the times crossword puzzle in ink over breakfast in the school cafeteria was considered an obvious bit of showing off… back before the Times had figured out a way to better fix their inks to the paper, it was considered a genuine mark of erudition among the intellectual set to show up to the breakfast table with ones fingers smudged with printer's ink.

Just seeing those small smudges on someone's fingertips would indicate who was likely to offer the most lively and well-informed conversation… even if it did include the inevitably wrong-headed coverage of Israel.

After university I changed apartments too often to justify arranging home delivery of the Times, but I made sure to pick up a copy a few times a week… and always took pains to make sure a copy of the weekend edition was laid in for lazy Sunday morning reading.

But looking back, I realize that the love/hate nature of my relationship with the times was (and is) truly only skin deep. You see my feelings towards the paper were almost entirely based on the political content of the front (news) page and back (editorial). Their coverage of the Middle East has been nothing short of infuriating over the years… causing me to cancel my subscription several times during fits of pique. However what existed inside the paper (and in the myriad sections & supplements throughout the week) were consistently informative and entertaining.

While we still lived in Connecticut, I can't count the number of Sunday mornings that Zahava and I took the kids to my parent's place for brunch. After the meal everyone would retreat to different parts of the house with their favorite section of the Times. Periodically someone might emerge to seek out a family member in order to exchange a section of the paper or share an interesting tidbit… but inevitably they would retreat to cozy solitude.

I also recall a particularly fancy Saturday night affair I once played with my band at the Waldorf Astoria that went into the wee hours of Sunday morning. As the tired guests trickled out of the ballroom and collected their coats, they were met by a pleasant parting token that had been arranged by their thoughtful host; There, near the top of the curved staircases that lead down to the lobby were bags of fresh H & H bagels… and neatly stacked copies of the Sunday New York Times!

Since moving to Israel I have found that I am less well informed about world events than I once was. This is because, even after digesting several Israeli news sources, one is left with a sense of tunnel vision… meaning everything here is seen through the 'fish-eye' lens of 'how does it affect Israel?'

So for all its aggravating liberalness in hard news coverage, and its maddening tendency to embrace editorial viewpoints antagonistic to many of the things I hold dear, I miss the Times.

I miss the feel of it in my fingers and I miss the well-informed feeling I had when I would finally set it aside. I miss reading David Pogue's latest take on technology, and I miss looking for hidden 'Ninas' in Al Hirschfeld's fabulous caricatures.

I have a long weekend visit to the states scheduled for mid-August. I will be staying at the family compound on the beach in Connecticut and catching up on some long-overdue family time. But one of the small pleasures I am especially looking forward to during my stay is an honest-to-goodness free Sunday… curled up in the morning sun in my favorite Adirondack chair with the Gray Lady.

Posted by David Bogner on July 28, 2008 | Permalink

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What you say is true David, which is why so many of my friends have kept up their subscriptions to the Times - despite the disgust at the biased (much too mild a word) reporting. It's unfortunate that you have to throw the baby out with the bath water, but on the other hand, I really think it shows a lack of pride to keep reading the paper, given the mindset. I think I'd be ashamed to subscribe to it at this point.

Posted by: mata hari | Jul 28, 2008 2:12:22 PM

One good point about the NY Times is that it is well-written.

Posted by: Ilana-Davita | Jul 28, 2008 2:41:45 PM

why do the israeli hebrew papers contain so little international news?

Posted by: Lion of ZIon | Jul 28, 2008 2:55:05 PM

When I was fourteen (back in 19... something...), I spent four days in New York, part of my one and only visit to the States to date. We bought a weekend edition of the NYTimes and I remember being absolutely horrified about how wastefully enormous it was and how full of commercial supplements we just threw away.

Since then, I have lived to witness Israeli newspapers grow just as big and wasteful. So sad.

I loved that there was a whole supplement of 'funnies', though.

Posted by: Imshin | Jul 28, 2008 3:37:07 PM

Lion of Zion, Haaretz Hebrew print version has plenty of international news...

As for Yediot and the likes, British tabloids have very little international news as well (although our tabloids are thankfully not as bad as British tabloids, for now).

Posted by: Imshin | Jul 28, 2008 3:42:51 PM

when i was a very little girl, my father introduced me to the secret ninas. sunday mornings he would read the paper while i would scrutinize the caricature. my dad cultivated in me a special fondness for al hirschfeld!

Posted by: nikki | Jul 28, 2008 3:46:58 PM

I was absolutely HARRASSED because I refused to cancel my subscription to the NY Times when everyone ELSE was doing so. But they were all jealous and would glance at the paper when they came for Shabbat lunch. I loved the real estate section, the magazine, the dining section...I am proud to say I read every section....I enjoyed the obits (and found others who did as well, so, no I'm not the only crazy one), Lives and Vows (but had to start hiding that part when they started doing gay marriages)....It is definitely one of things I miss most.

But wait a minute--your family has a COMPOUND?????

Posted by: Baila | Jul 28, 2008 5:06:13 PM

The last straw with me and the New York Times was the Sunday they featured Saudi Arabia as a travel destination. When I told the guy I was cancelling and he wanted to know why, I asked him "Besides oil and homicidal maniacs, what has Saudi Arabia ever sent us that would warrant spending travel dollars there?
To Baila: I have been to the Bogner "compound" and Met The Bogner Parents. Lovely people, and while their lovely home IS on the water, David exaggerates. He does NOT exaggerate, however, when he says that "Yona is in charge". I just spent a lovely weekend with the B's, and if you can have something as cute as Yona Bogner look you in the eye, ask you for something, and you say no, well, you're a bigger man than I. If you only know David and Zahava (I know her as Cheryl) through this blog, you are missing the hospitality of 2 marvelous people. Hospitality above and beyond, and I really mean beyond because Zahava insisted that I not come back to the States with any dirty laundry. You don't get this kind of hospitality at the King David. I had a super time guys, and hope to come back soon. As long as Yona is still in charge..:-)

Posted by: Marsha, regretfully back in Stamford | Jul 28, 2008 5:53:13 PM

nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to sitting at the dining room table with bagels & fixin's and reading the Magazine section on a Sunday morning.

Add the right flavor of snapple and it might be heaven.

Posted by: triLcat | Jul 28, 2008 6:10:17 PM

nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to sitting at the dining room table with bagels & fixin's and reading the Magazine section on a Sunday morning.

Add the right flavor of snapple and it might be heaven.

Posted by: triLcat | Jul 28, 2008 6:11:00 PM

I can only say I miss when LA had two major papers; my family's -- the Herald Examiner -- lost the battle for the minds of LA, such as they are. Devouring a Sunday paper was a pleasure, though.

I wonder how many of my students are in the habit. I think, nowadays, it can't happen, except in households that curb the use of electronic media on given days of the week.

Al Hirschfeld, on the other hand, is a hero of mine, just for the length and strength of his career. I loved seeing through a time-window back to the Roaring 20's every time I found a new illustration of his, even up through the 2000's... it was like listening to Stephane Grappelli play the fiddle.

I am happy one can find the Times crosswords, isolated from the larger paper. There; I said it. I wonder also if the NYT will be able to step away from its myopic vision of "How We Think Things Ought to Be" before Teh Internets swallow it whole.

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Jul 28, 2008 6:20:12 PM

Personally, I prefer the Post. The Washington Post that is (what other paper did you think I was referring to?). Although as I moved to Israel, I started reading the NY Times online.

Although apparently someone else in Israel is looking for the NY Times - http://janglo.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=76890&Itemid=157

Posted by: Avi | Jul 28, 2008 7:00:59 PM

how wastefully enormous it was

I am curious. What made you think that?

I can only say I miss when LA had two major papers; my family's -- the Herald Examiner

There was a time when I was a kid when we received the Herald, The Valley News and the LA Times.

Posted by: Jack | Jul 28, 2008 7:40:46 PM

One thing, and only one, makes the NY Times ever worthwhile for me: William Safire's "On Language" column. Other than that, IMHO, it's a waste of good tree pulp. (Sorry.)

Posted by: psachya | Jul 28, 2008 9:40:43 PM

My only reason for ever opening the NY Times is William Safire's column, "On Language". Aside from that, IMHO, it's a waste of good tree pulp. (Sorry.)

Posted by: psachya | Jul 28, 2008 9:42:16 PM

Oops - that certainly wasn't worth double-posting. (Sorry again.)

Posted by: psachya | Jul 28, 2008 9:43:48 PM

"Since moving to Israel I have found that I am less well informed about world events than I once was. This is because, even after digesting several Israeli news sources, one is left with a sense of tunnel vision… meaning everything here is seen through the 'fish-eye' lens of 'how does it affect Israel?'"

So that the real reason behind my friend's tunnel vision. All these years I just thought he was this right wing fanatic who lacked empathy for other peoples plights and global social issues.

Thanks for the heads up.

Posted by: jaime | Jul 28, 2008 10:12:44 PM

I've been reading the NYT since moving to NYC (from Canada) 14 years ago. I really am puzzled by the constant charges of anti-Israel bias. Sure, they make plenty of errors (like every other news organization), and one is far more likely to notice the errors - and to take offense - when the subject is familiar and close to home. But really, there are plenty of news stories that hit the nail on the head. It seems that they never get any credit from right-wing cancel-my-subscription types when they get it 'right' - referring to terrorists as terrorists, giving a fairly correct background to a story, etc.

As David points out, it's hard to find a periodical that exposes one to such a broad range of both local (NY) and international goings-on.

Posted by: cyberdov | Jul 28, 2008 10:16:22 PM

Ever since college I've been reading the New York Times online, and have kept it up even as I live in Israel. In fact, they had three nice articles about Israel in the past few days - an interview with Dan Gillerman in the magazine, a big feature on Tel Aviv in the travel section, and an op-ed on Sunday about Shai Agassi's Project Better Place to bring electric cars to Israel. Not bad I have to say, given the terrible press Israel has gotten in the opinion section.

Posted by: nyt addict | Jul 28, 2008 10:47:54 PM

I loathe the NYT....the final straw was the huge front-page and double-page inside spread by the Dark Lady of American Pseudo-Intellectualism, Susan Sontag, who laid the entire blame for the failure of Camp David at Israel's feet, and did so by mendaciously reworking 'facts' to exonerate Arafat for not only this failure to reach peace but the subsequent outbreak of Arab violence orchestrated by Arafat's henchmen.

I informed the NYT that I would no longer waste money on their fishwrap propagandistic tripe. They were offended. But their content vis-a-vis Israel, is about on a par with that of the UN Human Rights Commission.

Posted by: aliyah06 | Jul 29, 2008 6:28:44 PM

The NY Times coverage of the Middle East used to infuriate me. Their obvious bias against Israel and the moral relativism they employ to white wash a bunch of murderers tainted everything else the paper had to offer. The last straw for me came when I read a snide political aside in an article about cooking. Their form of journalism seems to favor scoring political points over reporting facts or seeking the truth.

Posted by: David Bailey | Jul 29, 2008 6:50:29 PM

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