May 16, 2010

Times on a roll

Before I hint at analysis, feast your eyes on a photo I'll likely be long obsessed with: Andrees Letif in Thailand for Reuters. Startling and rich, buried there in black-and-white on page A5 (or so) of the Times today.

So I'm back to trying to read the Times, Post, and Journal each Sunday. From now on I'll be writing new posts for each week, and just carrying along the chart that follows below.

The Times thoroughly won the day today, with a front page that took me 30 minutes+ to read. Stories ranged from a deep profile on the Times Square bomber, to exposing continued US spying and controversy over girls' flag football.

Then things got really good inside, where reporter Elissa Gootman embedded herself into New York City's 311 call center. Not an Iraqi embed, no, but she wrote one hell of a feature story about the "questions, concerns, fears, suspicions, frustrations and gripes of city residents" that come into its 311 information call center. Great blend of fact and feature in the story.

And I've become obsessed with the writing of horse races, so delighted in today's Preakness narrative.

Garcia drank in the pretty hats and the sports coats that dotted the grandstand at historic Pimlico. He took in the raucous infield, with its bleary-eyed revelers lifting their plastic mugs.

Behind him, Calvin Borel was stone-faced, crouched over Super Saver, the winner of the Kentucky Derby, and looking as if the weight of his Triple Crown aspirations had caved him in.

Not Garcia, 25.
You can look back at a well crafted Derby story here (and a great photo here). The AP wrote of the Derby:

Calvin Borel deftly tucked Super Saver along the rail Saturday on a track turned into creamy peanut butter by heavy rain. Once again, he was in his favorite spot, getting a clear path all the way through the goo.

That’s why they call him “Bo-rail” and, for the third time in four years, he took the shortest path to the winner’s circle.

Borel found only one horse in his way, and once he steered Super Saver around front-running Conveyance, another Run for the Roses was his.

The most wide-open Derby in years ended with a sure thing — Borel crossing the finish line and punching the air with this right fist, this time raising it toward a leaden sky.

The Times ruled today in all aspects, but the Post's "War of Persuasion" reads well.

Times reporters are adept at telling even-handed, fair stories that include shocking information and records that must have taken great effort to obtain -- personal e-mails of the Times Square bomber, for example -- and rarely fall into the trap of sounding stuffy or oblivious when writing about "real people" type topics. All media has failed at writing about Facebook in a relevant way (except for recently about privacy), but the Times fails least on topics of that sort.

I wonder a bit what it's like to have such great "cherry picking" power as the Times. They dispatch a reporter to Nevada to write about contractors building new neighborhoods alongside totally vacant, unsold neighborhoods, because "consumers want new." They send another to Colorado to learn about sophisticated copper thieves. Not easy stories to get, I suppose, but you know before you go that those topics will bear fruit. What a treat it must be to travel for the Times.

DateWinnerReason Picks
2/21Times n/a n/a
2/28WaPo sharp A1 FBI and drones; Times ditch-senior-year story
3/7Times landslide basketballs, Axelrod
3/14 Times
A1; lively
Frumin, drug killings, femivores; WaPo FOX
3/21 -draw-
WaPo's A1 vs. Times misc.
Panetta; Times Greenberg baseball story
3/28 WSJ
Strong WSJ A1
WSJ: Divided by kindness; Times was so-so
4/4Timeshonestly, the sports section
tit-for-tat coverage ... Chavez ... gangs
Post & Times
Poles vs. 'Old Man Crew'
Journal & Times
Hasids v. Hipsters, states, fleeing violence



5/16TimesGeneral excellenceSpying, Preakness, 311

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Anonymous Econ said...

I've noticed that the Times tends to run a lot of calm and cool headlines even for stories that contain shocking revelations. It's nice not to have the sensational aspects paraded out front.

May 16, 2010 at 6:16 PM 
Blogger Tony said...

Econ: I know that in day to day reporting we will leap upon a little detail -- or a new document -- and slap it in the headline and build a story around it. Maybe good, maybe bad, maybe just a different beast.

But you're right on, and I admire it too.

May 18, 2010 at 10:43 AM 

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