Results tagged “New York Times” from ARTicles

On the misery-loves-company front, Michael Cunningham offers some solace to those who, in meeting their deadline and staying within their word count, have written something that falls short of the crystalline and indelible prose they'd meant to achieve. He's speaking of the novelist's experience, but it's not far removed from the journalist's:

A novel, any novel, if it's any good, is not only a slightly disappointing translation of the novelist's grandest intentions, it is also the most finished draft he could come up with before he collapsed from exhaustion. It's all I can do not to go from bookstore to bookstore with a pen, grabbing my books from the shelves, crossing out certain lines I've come to regret and inserting better ones. For many of us, there is not what you could call a "definitive text."

Cunningham's larger discussion of translation, meanwhile, put me in mind of editing, and how difficult and essential it is for the editor to both respect and -- where necessary -- channel the writer's intent.

His essay in today's New York Times Week in Review section is here.

October 3, 2010 2:49 PM |

On Friday in the Los Angeles Times, Mike Boehm reported more fallout from the cash crisis that recently imperiled that city's Museum of Contemporary Art: damning findings by the state and an embarrassing official slap.

The California Attorney General's office determined that the Museum of Contemporary Art skirted state law for years enroute to financial meltdown in late 2008 and ordered the museum to hire a consultant to help improve its financial management. The attorney general also required MOCA board members to receive special training in their fiduciary duties.

The findings and "required corrective actions" were included in a two-page letter to MOCA last November. The attorney general's office provided it to The Times this week after repeated inquiries.

Now comes news in The New York Times that the little-known, publicly funded New York State Theatre Institute "is rife with corruption, mismanagement, nepotism and possibly illegal conduct, according to a scathing report released on Tuesday by the state inspector general's office."

The report alleges that the artistic director, Patricia Snyder, treated the group as a personal fiefdom, routinely doling out acting roles, directing jobs, production work and other benefits to herself and her family members. Ms. Snyder steered a total of more than $700,000 in payments to her husband, her two sons, her two daughters-in-law and to herself, the report said.

Danny Hakim's story mentions that the report comes "four years after a New York Times article" -- his own -- "detailed nepotism and questionable spending practices by the institute."

Note those "repeated inquiries" Boehm made, and his aggressive reporting on the museum's crisis at the time. Note that long-ago Hakim story, the result of a careful examination of the theater's own records.

Boehm is an arts reporter, one of a diminishing number on staff at newspapers. Hakim covers Albany, not the arts, at least not usually; in this case, the two intersect. In arts journalism, we have a little habit of forgetting to include hard news in the definition of what we do. But it's one of the most important aspects of our coverage. It's also time-consuming, expensive, and therefore endangered. As these stories illustrate, killing the watchdog is a dangerous thing to do.

April 20, 2010 12:05 PM |

There's a great scene near the beginning of the movie "In & Out" where Oscar nominee Cameron Drake (Matt Dillon), walking the red carpet on the way into the ceremony, pauses for an interview with entertainment reporter Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck).

"Everyone's saying that you won't be going home empty-handed," the reporter says. "How do you feel about that?"

"Well, basically, to me, uh, awards are meaningless," the star replies. "Um, I'm an artist, uh, it's about the work, all the nominees are artists -- we shouldn't be forced to compete with each other like dogs."

"Well, I hear ya. Good point," the reporter says. "So then why're you here?"

"'Case I win," the star says, flashing a smile. Then he turns and waves to the screaming fans.

I mention this because all day I've been trying -- futilely, as it happens -- to resist the urge to respond to Ben Brantley's take on this year's drama Pulitzer. "I have never bought a book, read a poem or seen a play because it was by a Pulitzer winner," he writes in today's New York Times. "So any indignation being vented over this year's Pulitzer Prize in drama leaves me a bit mystified."

Even if he hadn't qualified his lack of respect for the Pulitzers by confining it to "the categories devoted to the arts" -- a handy asterisk for a newspaper reviewer -- that would be a curious, rather navel-gazing thing for a critic to say. He's right, of course, that "the Pulitzers have usually gone to firmly middlebrow works." Even so, dismissing the awards as measures of artistic merit is one thing; denying their power is another. The Pulitzer Prize may be a marketing tool, but that doesn't make it meaningless.

April 14, 2010 3:46 PM |
Arts journalism has always suffered from a perception that arts news isn't real news. Now The Dallas Morning News and its owner, A.H. Belo Corp., give cultural journalism a fresh black eye with what Morning News editor Bob Mong is calling "business/news integration," a.k.a. what most sentient journalists would recognize immediately as a fatal, self-inflicted rupture in the wall between editorial and advertising.

As the Dallas Observer reported yesterday, "some section editors at all of the company's papers, including The News, will now report directly to [senior vice president of sales Cyndy] Carr's team of sales managers, now referred to as general managers." The sections in question are entertainment and sports.

In a memo to staffers, which the Observer published, Mong characterizes the new structure as "the next step toward becoming the most comprehensive and trusted partner for local businesses in attracting and retaining customers and continuing to generate important, relevant content for our consumers." It's hard to believe that the editor -- the editor! -- of a big-city daily could say that and mean it.

Although the memo suggests numerous sections are affected by the change, The New York Times reports today that Mong said only entertainment and sports are involved -- as if that somehow made it acceptable:

In an interview, Bob Mong, the editor of The Morning News, stressed that no other parts of the paper would report to people outside the newsroom, though advertising managers had been assigned to work with several other areas, like health, education, travel and real estate. Asked if there were plans to apply the structure in sports and entertainment to other parts of the paper, he said, "not at this time."

That structure, as Mong's memo explains it:

In the Sports and Entertainment segments, the senior news editors will report directly to the GM while retaining a strong reporting relationship to the editor and managing editor. These collaborations will bring new products that consumers want to the market more rapidly. We are proceeding knowing and trusting each other's distinct roles and responsibilities in the same way our News leadership and our Publisher have worked collaboratively for years.

Right. If you want to rip the heart out of whatever your newspapers have left to sell, this is an excellent way to start.

And, really, how ironic: Arts journalists and sports journalists, united at last.
December 4, 2009 11:01 AM |
The New York Observer reports that The Wall Street Journal is developing a New York-only culture section, an addition to the paper that would aim (as all such efforts here do) to give The New York Times a run for its money. It would also fill a void that opened when The New York Sun folded last fall, its always-iffy financial health finally failing with the economy.

From the Observer:

Several Journal sources have confirmed to Off the Record that a weekly New York-only arts-and-culture section is in the planning stages up at The Journal's new Sixth Avenue headquarters. It's early yet, but in the very near future, a budget will be drafted for the product, an indication that the effort is a serious one. The new section could be introduced into the newspaper early next year, according to our sources.

"It'll be arts-and-culture-oriented," said one staffer, describing the new plan. "The ad side thought they could sell ads on a local New York basis, given the Broadway scene and the arts scene overall."

Arts coverage always does sell ads -- a point that's consistently lost on newspapers, where sports sections that bring in very, very little revenue are staffed to the gills, while arts staffs are skeletal. One of the bizarre joys of working at the Sun, where I was deputy cultural editor, was that the culture staff positively dwarfed the sports staff. Likewise our page counts. This was a huge change from my experience as arts editor at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, a state with zero major professional sports teams and an abundance of nationally known theater. I was the sole arts staffer, yet the paper employed scads of reporters to cover the minor leagues and kids' sports. Thus my glee at working for the Sun, the only paper I knew where the arts and sports roles were reversed. Also the only paper I knew that put an arts story on page 1 every day.

Part of what's interesting in the Journal's plan is the focus on New York. Like the Times, it's a national paper, but it sees a local opportunity and appears willing to seize it. No question, there's plenty of room for arts journalism in this city, and there are plenty of smart readers hungry for professional coverage. The city still has three dailies, as well as Newsday on Long Island, but attention to the arts is minimal, and even the Times is squeezed now. What's particularly scarce is reporting on the arts -- something bloggers generally can't do, because reporting requires the kind of money, time and access that people writing for free tend not to have. Meanwhile, there's a surfeit of opining out there, however sloppy and far removed from true criticism much of it is, so that ought not to be the priority as the Journal formulates its section.

The biggest need is in filling the watchdog role on the cultural beat: reporting real news about New York City arts. Meeting that need is a job the Times can't, and shouldn't, do alone.
July 8, 2009 9:24 AM |

I can't take credit for the phrase, but I am wondering if there are readers out there who could add to the idea of Slow Journalism. Here's how it came to me...

Naka Nathaniel of the New York Times spoke to the Specialized Journalism students at USC Annenberg School for Communication about two weeks ago. His video reporting on dangerous, wartorn places -- a refugee camp in Rwanda, the slave trade in Cambodia, a wedding in a bomb shelter in Israel and genocide in Darfur, for example-- are usually accompanied by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nick Kristof's heart of darkness texts and narration and they hold their place as art.

Nathaniel's framing is void of sentiment, pity or looky-loo giddiness. There's no shred of journalistic competitiveness -- "We got the story and you didn't, CNN. Take that." Rather, as if Nathaniel and Kristoff were the arm of Human Rights Watch, their gutsy scrupulousness pervades. What could be an ignoble intrusion into the lives of desperate people on hospital beds and in other dispiriting situations they render transcendent. Poverty is more important for us to see than for us to see them seeing it. Make sense?

Hard not to respect Nathaniel and Kristof's advocacy and work. 

Then Nathaniel, sort of off the cuff, threw out to the USC students that what he was doing was part of the Slow Journalism Movement and that instead of being motivated to "feed the beast" and break news, he was more interested in his audience. "Why do a hundred photographers try to get the same shot of Michael Phelps? Why not stop competing with each other and share resources? One or two photographers will do the trick? Send the rest out for other stories," he argued.

Peculiarly, a couple of days later crackerjack blogger and one of my favorite journalists, Mr. Jalopy of Hooptyrides, said that what he was doing was not unrelated to the Slow Food Movement. He, the author of the Maker's Bill of Rights, is a major player in the DIY movement. Mark Frauenfelder, his friend and boing-boing journalism colleague, he said, was deep into tending his garden and practicing Slow Food habits, while also editing the succesful niche magazine, MAKE. Frauenfelder might be the living proof that Slow Food and Slow Journalism are cohabitating genially in real time.

Simultaneously...Slow Food USA is an organization in Brooklyn that's going gangbusters, spawned in part by the ideology of Alice Waters. Waters influenced opera and theater director Peter Sellars, who wove the political, philosophical and gastronomic pleasures of Slow Food into his New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna in late 2006. 

So, what's up? Have you jumped on the SloJo SloFo bandwagon? Maybe jumped is too active, let's say...sauntered over and sat down, setting your competitive ego aside to absorb, notice and deeply care about what's around you. To heck with deadlines or breaking the news -- these are things of the past. Distinguished journalists and artists have better things to do.

September 7, 2008 10:43 PM |


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