Tales out of School: The New York Times

I like being naughty here in this blog, I gotta say, insofar as I can be naughty, considering my mother, daughter, old editors, potential employers, and maybe even that shithead who fired me with only two weeks’ severance are reading this. I mean, I have to keep the sex, drugs, and rock and roll…not exactly to a minimum, but—hi, honey!* So.

I actually wrote a pretty scathing post about a couple of not-so-courageous editors at that yucky rag Cosmo, but I took it down because Maudie said I had to keep the gossip, the nasty nicknames, and the stuff that would keep me from being hired to a minimum. But I thought I’d share this one story, because it’s tame and it has a tiny bit of news, sadly, that you can use. It’s only a little bit naughty. I’ll do better later, after I make sure that a big paw doesn’t come out and knock me off my stool at Doma because of this damn blog.

So, anyway, one time the New York Times hired me to write about this playwright who had done super well in regional theatres over the course of his career, but had never had a play produced in New York. Or maybe he’d had just a couple produced, but nothing significant. Anyway, finally it was going to happen—Broadway. Or maybe it was off Broadway—doesn’t matter.

So this editor from the Times** said she wanted me to write the piece around this premise: that the playwright (who I think needs to remain nameless) was having his big break. The trouble was, that he didn’t see it that way; turns out, he didn’t care about New York. I went back and told the editor that the premise didn’t really hold up without the playwright’s support—in fact, the premise should be that he didn’t care—and she said that that couldn’t be right: of course that damned yokel cared, and of course this should still be the premise of the piece. She said to go back to him. So I did—I called him again. And he said again that he couldn’t care less about New York or the editor’s premise.

The long and short of it is that the editor called him herself, got basically the same answer, but took my piece and manipulated it so that it supported her original premise. Nice, huh? All the news that’s fit to print plus the fantasies we like to add in there!

Oh, I still read the Times every day—or the website, at least, for some semblance of the truth. But for the real skinny I read Rick and George and Amy, all of whom are very clear about journalistic integrity.

*That’s a joke, Loo-loo. I know you love that shit.
**I think I have her name here in my email somewhere—hang on (scroll, scroll, scroll, no, search inbox, shit, search sent): oh, yeah—here it is!

Yes We Can And We Did

Today, The New Yorker is posting short blogs by great writers about yesterday’s health-care-reform victory. Amy Davidson, an editor at the magazine who reads all the news before any of us do, and writes about it brilliantly in her daily blog, Close Read, will be m.c.’ing this victory-blog extravaganza. My favorite so far is by Atul Gawande, whose pieces in the magazine are all fascinating. Here’s the start of today’s blog:

I went to the Capitol with my fourteen-year-old son to see the vote on health reform yesterday, and as we watched from the House public gallery, I realized I was—for just this one day—jealous of the politicians swirling in and out of the chambers. The scene was extraordinary and tumultuous. Roiling, frenzied Tea Party activists roamed the hallways of the Congressional offices and swarmed the sidewalks on the south side of the Capitol. Shouts of Stalinism, totalitarianism, tyranny, baby-killing rang inside and outside the chambers. It was havoc. Our elected representatives were at last going to take a final up or down vote on health reform. More specifically, they were going to take a final up or down vote on whether to embrace the principle in our country that if you are in medical need, you should be able to get quality health care without bankrupting yourself.

In another post on the site this morning, Steve Coll says

There are at least two glaring anachronisms in American society today, through which it is possible to discern how much one’s children, when they reach power in adulthood, will regard their parents as Neanderthals. One is the country’s retrograde treatment of gays and lesbians under the law. The second is that we succored for so long a political economy with a social-insurance hole so large that forty million people managed to drop through it before we got around to fixing it.

I’d like to comment on this: I think the laws protecting gay people need to be reformed, sure, but before that our government needs to make some serious headway, and fast, on environmental and energy issues. (And we’d be wise to participate in this reform on a grassroots level, starting, at rock bottom, with cultivating what Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche calls “little needs, much contentment.”) Otherwise our children won’t even be around to call us Neaderthals. I think it’s frightening we’re in such deep denial about this issue that even our best and brightest don’t put it on their top-two list.

Anyway, I’m awaiting Rick Hertzberg’s post about yesterday’s vote. He’s on my top-two list of political bloggers, and led many Neanderthals like me through Obama’s campaign and election.

P.S. Barack Obama rules!