Friday, May 07, 2004

All the news

I'm in the middle of reading a fascinating article on the cover of the May 2004 issue of The Atlantic, "My Times," by Howell Raines. It's about Howell Raines's experience at the NY Times and the Jayson Blair scandal.

The first part of the article is Raines's analysis and critique of the NY Times. He writes how the Times lost its edge as a "must read" for its national readership and what he thought it needed to regain that edge.
To become a "must read" we had to think about who our readers were. We knew we were producing a paper for intelligent people, but we needed to be more intelligent about who those people were and what they wanted and needed to know. [. . .] I posited a New York Times audience with a Renaissance-like breadth of interests. [. . .] We knew that curiosity is the essence of journalism, but we weren't giving our readers credit for the range of their curiosity. (p. 63)
He also describes the Times's competitors and their coverage of culture and society, including the WSJ.
A managerial reformation would have to take place in the Times newsroom if our paper was to meet the information needs and expectations of the country's smartest, most affluent readers. Already The Wall Street Journal's new Weekend Journal section—a compendium of culture, lifestyle, health, and travel stories designed to appeal especially to professional women—was threatening our hold on that vital readership group. (p. 54)
I read the NY Times very haphazardly, occasionally reading articles online. The owner of a company I worked for shortly after college, which was headquartered in New York, got me a subscription to The New York Times Book Review because, he said, he wanted to "encourage young people to read." Well, I was pretty careful to read most of the review each week in case he wanted to discuss one of the books.

Later, I subscribed to the Times while living in Seattle. I lived in an upstairs apartment but the delivery person insisted on throwing the paper, very early in the morning, at the downstairs glass-paned front door. I credit the Sunday New York Times for distracting me from regular church going for a while. Curling up with a mug of strong coffee and the Sunday Magazine on a rainy Seattle morning. . . .

Now I read the online WSJ more regularly than anything. I'm not as diligent or systematic as I'd like to be. I scan the headlines and skim through work-related stuff at work, but I don't enjoy reading the online version via modem at home. Perhaps if I took more time to write about some of the articles here, I would feel I was taking better advantage of my access to the WSJ.

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