"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice


The 2 train was not part of the online revolution this morning. Everyone sitting, standing and leaning had their noses buried in a newspaper.

Robbie Ruiz from Mott Haven got his nose bent-out-of-shape when asked why he didn’t get his news online.

“Do I look like I’ve got a computer in my pocket?” he snapped. “They ought to try putting some more of that news in the paper so the rest of us can read it.”

Ruiz’s frustration came from The New York Times.

“They don’t care about us saps who read the paper,” Ruiz said. “I turn to page 4 and they tell me what’s on their Website: audio and video and special features. After I pay $1.50 they want to rub my nose in all the stuff they offer for free to people who have computers.”

The New York Times is still the standard for journalism in this country. And they show just how far that standard has fallen.

“You’ve got to dig for everything in this paper,” Ruiz explained. “The Metro section is part of the front section and the Sports section is buried in the back of the Business section. The first things I want to know are what’s going on in my neighborhood and what’s going on with the Yankees. They make me search for both and go online for the rest.”

There are some who say that online publications are the wave of the future. Declining circulations indicate that a lot of people aren’t reading newspapers anymore. But it was newspapers that first quit on readers a long time ago. They started by laying off reporters and photographers and then cutting pages and eventually whole sections. Some do it all online now and don’t even print.

Online publications may be good for business – there isn’t much overhead and they can certainly cater to the wealthy demographic that advertisers crave – but calling that journalism is like calling MLB 08 The Show baseball.

I know that newspapers are businesses, but I also understand that they are a critical piece of a functioning democracy. Limiting content and access can cause problems.

“I’m sure The Times is shafting me on the Yankees coverage,” Ruiz said. “Maybe they’re dumping more stuff online or something. They own a big chunk of the Red Sox and they’ve got it out for us in the Bronx.”

The standard for impartial journalism is certainly pretty low these days.

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1 Alex Belth   ~  Dec 3, 2008 9:32 am

One thing I've noticed this off-season is that there has been much less newspaper coverage of the Hot Stove, Times, News, Post, than usual. That might be because nothing much is happening but also, at least on the print side of things, because there is such a huge drop off in advertising (the auto industry getting killed is killing ad sales, especially in Sports), that there is just a limit to what they are printing.

Tough times all around.

2 Mark   ~  Dec 3, 2008 9:36 am

Nice article Todd, I miss the old-school newspapers to.

3 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 3, 2008 10:48 am

[1] That and the fact that George isn't supplying the bluster anymore, and Hank has probably been sent to PR Boot Camp now that Baby Bro is in charge (or so I hope...)

The 2 train is the Official Train of Bronx Banter. Who knew? >;)

4 Todd Drew   ~  Dec 3, 2008 11:00 am

There is nothing “official” about anything I do, Chyll Will. The 2 train is just what I happen to ride. In my neighborhood we call it: The Derek Jeter Express.

5 Joe L.   ~  Dec 3, 2008 11:36 am

If you drop a buck and a half for a newspaper, I think you have the right to expect better.

6 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 3, 2008 11:51 am

How about that? In my neighborhood, the 2 train is called the "Ugh, Finally!" At an average 110% passenger intake during the rush, better the 2 be the Official Bronx Banter train than the totally mythological 'G' >;)

7 Todd Drew   ~  Dec 3, 2008 11:51 am

[1] You are correct about times being tough, but The New York Times has always been above producing an inferior product. In past “tough times” they have actually made a point of plowing more resources back into editorial.

I love The New York Times. I’ve read that paper every day of my life. (Yes, even the day I was born I asked for a newspaper, coffee and a stack of pancakes.) But now I worry that they’re playing down to the competition. The Times could be a lot worse and still be the best. I just hate to see them go that way.

8 ms october   ~  Dec 3, 2008 12:14 pm

good post todd.
definitely agree with your conclusions about the role that newspapers should play.
it really comes down to what's valued - tough times or not.
and it's crazy that papers are able to own entities they cover.

ha chyll - the g used to be my train - it wasn't that mythological :}

9 Chyll Will   ~  Dec 3, 2008 1:47 pm

[8] Heh, I knew a G trainer would show up sooner or later. Okay, I saw the G train a few times; the last time I was in Brooklyn at a train station, I actually saw a G train pull up and I actually got on it! Then seconds later, a C train pulled up and since I actually had some place to go, I hopped on it and sure enough, the C train pulled out as the G train sat there. I was about to take a picture of the G train, too... but just like the picture of the kitty I took with whom I had a general conversation about the elections, that didn't happen either >;)

10 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Dec 4, 2008 1:20 am

[6] 110% my ker-booty...try riding a holiday weekend train to the moutains from Tokyo at 185% capacity...for 2 and half hours non-stop...see your raise and call!

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver