Every year at the beginning of all my classes, I make the pitch for reading the New York Times--every day. The gist: if you want to be a a journalist, or even an informed citizen, and understand what's on the national agenda, this is a minimum daily requirement.
You can quibble about the Times--everyone does--about its arrogance, that it can be late to big stories, like the Occupy movement. And it sometimes gets it wrong, as it did with the Iraq war. Certainly these are not small quibbles.
But the Times is still a daily miracle of journalism. And it's one of those adult pleasures that I believe all young people should start to engage in. (Plus, students get the college discount rate! All you can read for a month for about the price of a six pack.)
Still, I get resistance. Years ago, when I told the class they should read the Times every day, one student replied in disbelief: "The whole thing?"
Students tell me that the Times is a boring publication, with nothing interesting for today's young audiences.
I thought about that today, as I was engaging in my favorite Sunday ritual, reading the Times. I started with the front-page story about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the disgraced former International Monetary Fund head whose candidacy for the French presidency was thwarted after he was arrested for raping a hotel maid in New York awhile back. Apparently, the guy was a Libertine (go look it up on Wikipedia), one of many professional men in public life who engage in sit-down-dinner-sex parties all over Paris!
Then there was this piece, a column called Diagnosis, which begins with the hair-raising story of a 20-year-old young woman who was unresponsive when a "friend" dumped her at a hospital emergency room the morning after a concert, at which she may or may not have ingested...what? Find out at the end.
Boring stuff, right?
There's the story by Dan Barry about a small cafe in a small town in Ohio, that's really about the economy in a state that will play an important role in the presidential election.
I also read a piece about Christopher Kimball, who was one of the media entrepreneurs we studied in Entrepreneurial Journalism. This story explains how Kimball created a magazine/cookbook empire that generates $50 million in annual revenues. Hmm. A writer doing what he loves. Isn't that what you want to do? Maybe you can learn something by reading about him.
Oh, and here's a little something about different performers whose busses are being busted for drugs in West Texas, including a hip hop performer named Nelly.
If you're a fashion geek, you HAVE to get into Bill Cunningham. The guy's in his 80's and still rides his bike around New York City documenting fashion. He covers everything from the Met Fashion Gala to street fashion in the lower East Side to the fashion weeks in Paris and Milan. Here's the Times Topics page on Bill.
I just love Bill Cunningham because he exemplifies the spirit that brought a lot of us to journalism in the first place: a passion for people and the things they love, a sense of curiosity about the world, a desire to bring stories to his readers. This documentary about him is a super-pleasure to watch.
That's the Times, kids!
And if you're still reading, here's a more serious tip. If you have a friend or family member headed for or back from Afghanistan, honor them by reading up on the situation. This editorial in the Times explains why we should be out of there. Now.
If you want to be a good writer, you should be reading good writers. The Times is a good place to start.
Now excuse me, I have to go do the Times Magazine Crossword Puzzle.