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Ebola

October 20, 2014 at 10:05 am

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The New York Times coverage of Ebola has been erratic, as Twitter commentators have pointed out effectively. My former colleague Josh Gerstein notices a Times article that manages to describe the disease as "extremely infectious but also tremendously hard to catch."

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Krugman on Amazon

October 20, 2014 at 9:12 am

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Paul Krugman's column is about a force in the book industry whose "power is really immense." He explains that "Book sales depend crucially on buzz and word of mouth (which is why authors are often sent on grueling book tours); you buy a book because you've heard about it, because other people are reading it, because it's a topic of conversation, because it's made the best-seller list." And he says that this force in the book industry, the one he is writing about, "possesses ... the power to kill the buzz."

The force that Professor Krugman is writing about is Amazon, and he calls for the federal government to break it up, or at least "curb its power," on antitrust grounds the way it did with Standard Oil.

But imagine if Professor Krugman's argument were applied to another "immense" power in the book industry — The New York Times itself.

Professor Krugman faults Amazon for its supposed "selectivity." He writes:

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Times Touts Tours of Iran

October 12, 2014 at 10:43 pm

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For the price of $6,995, the New York Times is offering 13-day tours of Iran guided by Times journalist Elaine Sciolino. Promotional material for the tour on the Times website promises "luxurious hotels" and describes Tehran as a city where "the young and fashionable adopt a new trendy joie de vivre." Also on the itinerary: "a pleasant evening stroll around the colorful bazaars," along with insights into the "accomplishments" of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

The U.S. Treasury Department website advises that notwithstanding the American economic sanctions on Iran, "All transactions ordinarily incident to travel to or from Iran, including the importation of accompanied baggage for personal use, payment of maintenance and living expenses and acquisition of goods or services for personal use are permitted."

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Friedman's Secret Service Scapegoat

October 8, 2014 at 10:47 pm

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Thomas Friedman's New York Times column is about the Secret Service scandal. Who does he blame? Not President Obama, who as head of the executive branch is in charge of the agency. Not the secretary of homeland security, the department into which the Secret Service was dumped by the George W. Bush administration. No, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner blames Congress, for going on recess. The one villain named by Mr. Friedman in his column is, wait for it, Eric Cantor, the former House Majority Leader, whose crime, in Mr. Friedman's view, is going to work for a Wall Street firm. Give the Times columnist credit for originality. Who'd have thought there'd be a way to blame the Secret Service scandal on House Republicans?

 

Relatively Few

October 7, 2014 at 12:22 pm

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"Health Plan Cancellations Are Coming, but for Relatively Few" is the headline over an article on page A3 of my print New York Times. It is labeled "The Upshot" but otherwise carries no indication of whether it is news, opinion, or something else. The article begins as follows:

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Unregulated Immigration Smugglers

October 6, 2014 at 9:53 am

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A front-page Times account of the extortion of immigrants by those in the "ruthless," "ugly business of human smuggling" features some vivid and valuable reporting but runs astray in an ideological lecture:

Behind the surge of young migrants showing up for a shot at the American dream is a system of cruel and unregulated capitalism with a proven ability to adapt. The human export industry in the region is now worth billions of dollars, experts say, and it has become more ruthless and sophisticated than ever, employing a growing array of opportunists who trap, rape and rob from the point of departure to the end of the road.

The Times sees the problem with this smuggling arising from the fact that it is "unregulated capitalism." I see it the opposite way — it is an excess of government regulation that caused the problem. Without the government-imposed limits on legal immigration, these smugglers would be out of business.

 

Two Views on Pot

October 6, 2014 at 9:41 am

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The lead editorial in today's New York Times calls for passage of marijuana legalization measures in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia, describing the drug as "far less dangerous than alcohol" and denouncing "harsh criminal penalties."

Meanwhile, over in reality — I mean, the sports section — a "news analysis" of swimmer Michael Phelps entering a six-week inpatient alcohol rehabilitation program after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence reports:

So much of Phelps's bad behavior over the years has been enabled by people invested in him carrying his sport on his broad shoulders. Would he be guilty of continuing lapses in judgment if USA Swimming had suspended Phelps for more than three months in 2009, after the marijuana pipe photograph surfaced, and he had been forced to sit out the World Championships in Rome that year?

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Ebola Victim Profile

October 6, 2014 at 9:34 am

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The lead news article in today's Times is a profile of the Dallas Ebola victim. It carries the byline of two-time Pulitzer-prize winner Kevin Sack, and it also carries some pretty compelling and fascinating reporting. Alas, it also carries a real clunker of a sentence that some editor should have caught and fixed: "Tragedy befell Ms. Troh in February when a daughter in Liberia died during childbirth."

Yikes. Can't Times readers be counted on to react with the appropriate emotion to the news of a death during childbirth without being clobbered over the head with notification that it is a "tragedy"? And who communicates in this passive-voice, non-idiomatic language — "Tragedy befell" — other than journalists?

 

Leaderless Protest With a Leader

October 1, 2014 at 8:21 pm

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"Hong Kong Protests Are Leaderless But Orderly" — Headline, page one, New York Times, October 1, 2014

"Joshua Wong Emerges as Unlikely Teenage Leader in Hong Kong Protests" — Headline, New York Times website, October 1, 2014

It's hard to see how both of these headlines can be accurate. The second story doesn't claim that Mr. Wong became the leader of the protests in the past 12 hours. How can the protests simultaneously have been leaderless and led by Joshua Wong? Both articles carry the byline of Times reporter Chris Buckley.

 

Fashion Critic Opposes Hong Kong Democracy

September 30, 2014 at 9:04 am

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A fashion review in the Times begins as follows:

PARIS — Ever since Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq let slip during his United Nations visit last week that his government had uncovered information about an ISIS plan to attack the subways in New York and Paris, there has been a niggling sense of unease hanging over the final fashion city of the season.

"You aren't too worried about taking the Métro?" said one showgoer to another when the subject of how to get to Givenchy came up on Sunday. (Though Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York had come forward to reassure his city, in Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo had done no such thing.)

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Vets Worry Over Fleas

September 30, 2014 at 8:56 am

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"Vets Face Rising Worry Over Fleas" is the headline over a Times article on the front of the Science section. This struck me as a less-than-good headline for several reasons. First, I thought it was about military veterans. Then, once I realized that the headline was about veterinarians, it once again seemed inapt, because the ones worried about fleas are the pets and the pet-owners, not the veterinarians. Maybe the veterinarians are the ones "facing" the rising worry of the pet-owners, but the veterinarians interviewed in the Times article all seemed pretty calm.

 

Israel, Banks, Intern

September 29, 2014 at 3:12 pm

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Some recent Times-related writing of note from other publications:

In Ha'aretz, Noah Efron has a strong rebuttal to a ridiculous New York Times op-ed that ran under the headline "How Israel Silences Dissent."

In Salon, Daisy Hernandez has a first-person account of her experiences as an intern at the New York Times editorial page and on its metropolitan desk.

At Medium, Felix Salmon has a piece headlined "Annals of NYT Innumeracy, Bank Rossiya Edition."

 

David Brooks and the American Revolution

September 23, 2014 at 2:20 pm

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David Brooks has been writing some fine columns lately, but today he writes about something that I know quite a bit about — the American Revolution — and he stumbles. He writes:

This leadership crisis is eminently solvable. First, we need to get over the childish notion that we don't need a responsible leadership class, that power can be wielded directly by the people. America was governed best when it was governed by a porous, self-conscious and responsible elite — during the American revolution, for example, or during and after World War II. Karl Marx and Ted Cruz may believe that power can be wielded directly by the masses, but this has almost never happened historically.

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Baquet's Kidney

September 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm

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When the New York Times reported on the cancer surgery of its executive editor, Dean Baquet, the newspaper told readers that Mr. Baquet "had a malignant tumor removed from his kidney." It quoted Mr. Baquet describing the procedure as "minimally invasive."

Now Women's Wear Daily, in a feature article about Mr. Baquet, reports that the surgical procedure, at Lenox Hill Hospital (a detail the Times omitted) was to "remove the kidney altogether."

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Loeb Classical Library

September 19, 2014 at 9:50 am

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The Times reports that Harvard University Press's Loeb Classical Library is going digital "on a fee basis."

What's the fee? The Times article doesn't say, though the HUP web site says pricing is "tiered by size of institution," and that the set is available to individuals for a fee of $195 for the first year and $65 "for subsequent consecutive years."

While the Times doesn't report the pricing, it does devote two sentences to the news that:

The 1914 edition of Suetonius's Lives of the Caesars, for example, declined to translate some of the bawdier passages, instead presenting the Latin text on both pages, in deference to the anti-obscenity laws of the time. Harvard University Press confirmed that the digital edition, like the current print edition, includes full translations of the dirty bits.

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