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Warren Adler

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Why I Still Love the New York Times

Posted: 11/08/11 06:10 PM ET

Yes, I still love the New York Times. I have been reading it since I was 12 years old when I subscribed at a discount as a freshman at Brooklyn Technical High School.

I probably read parts of it earlier, since my father was an ardent reader and was an expert in knowing exactly how to fold its broadsheet for reading when he stood up in the packed subways that brought him daily from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

In those days, the Old Grey Lady reminded me of a diplomat with striped pants and a derby. It seemed formidable in its solemn uniformed columns and muted headlines. Its look and content seemed conservative by today's definitions, but I was not yet politically savvy to notice.

I assumed that only wealthy people read it since the ads hawked products that my parents nor I could not possibly afford, and there were pages and pages of financial news about which I knew nothing. I did read their extensive reviews of movies and theater, their sports section and tried to keep abreast of world events assuming that if they appeared in the New York Times they were worthy of my attention.

I suppose I read the headlines and felt that I was keeping myself informed and was certain that I was reading what they promised in their slogan "all the news that's fit to print."

Our family newspaper ritual also included the bulldog editions of the New York Daily News and Daily Mirror, which hit the New York street after dinner hour the prior day and both were avidly read by the vast majority of New Yorkers.

I read the Times daily through college and after. I suppose I was evolving politically and I began to read the editorials and columns and still had the impression it was conservative which was confirmed in my consciousness when it went for Dewey, the Republican candidate for President in 1948.

I can't remember when I began to appreciate the writing skills its reporters exhibited, but the story that Meyer Berger wrote about the killer, Howard Unruh, who murdered 13 people in Camden, New Jersey was and still is the most mesmerizing story I have ever read in any newspaper.

I distinctly remember being so absorbed in it that I missed my subway stop that morning. Mr. Berger was awarded a Pulitzer for that most brilliant piece of reporting.

Through the years, even when I left New York for decades, I continued to read the Times on Sundays, then every day when technology made it possible. Its coverage of the arts is incomparable, and its features are the best written of any newspaper I've ever read.

As I became more politically aware and my own leftish politics drifted somewhat rightward, I began to notice that the paper's editorial policy began to swing leftward at a rapid pace.

It seemed strange that the Old Grey Lady was moving so far off her perch and supporting leftist causes especially since its advertising catered to those who could afford the extravagant goods offered on their pages. One look at their coveted page two and three ads will confirm that.

It has, as we write, evolved into a kind of house organ for the Democratic party and mostly leftward causes, which we moderates can spot in a New York minute. This bias often invades its news stories, its headlines and its choice of stories to cover. It has invaded its Book Review section, its Sunday magazine and can be spotted in more esoteric and out-of-the-way sections. I don't quarrel with it. I'm just in a slightly different pew and I hope this admission won't inhibit my readers. Leave me to my illusion that I am the voice of sanity in a topsy-turvy world of extremes. Above all, I am not an ideologue and a practicing curmudgeon when it comes to beating the drum for self-reliance and personal responsibility.

But because I have so much affection and nostalgia for the paper, I continue to subscribe and enjoy it. I have learned how to read it using a kind of self-censoring technique, which I fantasize that I have perfected. I don't ignore their columnists or editorial sections but nine times out of ten, I can spot the bias. It baffles me why they have gone so far to the left, since their ads are pointedly aimed at the affluent.

I assume they have relied on extensive surveys of their readers, although I suspect that some segment of their decline in circulation may have to do with this bias. Indeed, why I might not agree philosophically or even politically with their viewpoint most of the time, I do respect it and read carefully its various arguments in support of their positions. At times they convince me that their editorials are on the correct side of an issue, but not often.

If I gave up reading the Times daily I would have to cope with serious withdrawal symptoms, especially having to give up the obits which I read religiously every day as a kind ringside seat observing my generation fade into oblivion. I eagerly read the movie, theater and performance reviews, and the various gossipy stuff about showbiz personalities. I do love their essays on offbeat local coverage and can be totally absorbed in their long stories about chicanery, criminality, conniving, and deception in high places. I read their social notes with great curiosity and their neighborhood stories with great interest.

And I marvel how they can put such a vast panorama of the living world on my doorstep every day.

Warren Adler is the author of 32 novels and short story collections published in numerous languages. Films adapted from his books include "The War of the Roses," "Random Hearts" and the PBS trilogy "The Sunset Gang." He is a pioneer in digital publishing. For more information visit Warren's Website at www.warrenadler.com.

 
 
 

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