June 20, 2001
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This morning marks exactly one year since Smartertimes.com began publishing its daily critique of New York's dominant daily. And what a year it has been.
What began as an e-mail to 40 friends has now grown to reach a daily audience more than 100 times that size -- with no promotional spending or advertising expenditures by Smartertimes.com. Smartertimes.com has been named one of Brill's Content's "Sites We Like" ("encyclopedic griping . . .both irritating and addictive"); included in Forbes magazine's Best of the Web issue ("Reports have it that Stoll is getting under the skin of Times editors who are accustomed to basking in the paper's enormous prestige"); and cited in the columns of the New York Post, the Chicago Tribune and the Wall Street Journal. The Economist wrote a profile that described the site as "a rival to the New York Times" and said, "Mr. Stoll seems to have struck a nerve." The New York Press named Smartertimes.com the "Best New Media Website" in its annual Best of Manhattan issue, writing, "We wish every New York Times reader would follow up their daily dose of the 'Truth' with a visit to smartertimes.com." Germany's Suddeutsche Zeitung ran a full-length feature ("Der Fehlerteufel"). Established Web sites like overlawyered.com, kausfiles.com, opinionjournal.com and Romenesko's medianews.org have added regular links to Smartertimes.com.
That is a mere sampling of the reaction. Just as typical is that from one Smartertimes.com reader who wrote: "Thanks for taking the Times to task for their daily nonsense. It's sad that I am forced to subscribe to this rag (weekends only) because my wife wants to read about the weddings of people she doesn't know, but what are you gonna do?"
Even the editors at the New York Times itself have taken notice, distributing excerpts from Smartertimes.com to the paper's editorial staff on an occasional basis as part of the newspaper's weekly internal self-critique.
And all this as the result of the efforts of, basically, a single semi-intelligent guy operating from his basement studio apartment in Brooklyn.
In the year ahead, Smartertimes.com will try to increase its readership and broaden its coverage. More about that in the coming weeks and months. For now, though, the editor would like to mark this birthday with warm thanks to all those who have contributed to the site's success by spreading the word, by contributing letters to the editor, or by just wiring a private note of encouragement. Each of you has helped in the effort to illuminate the errors of fact and logic in the dominant daily, and you have advanced the task of assembling a community of readers to support a new newspaper that would offer an alternative.
Little Support: The "Lessons" column on the education page of today's New York Times asserts that "using public money for private school has little public support." Well, maybe it has little support among the public that Times columnists encounter, but out in America, the idea has substantial support. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted January 5 to 7 of this year, for instance, asked "Would vouchers improve the public school system?" Fifty-four percent of respondents said "yes," and 38 percent said "no." In that same poll, parents of school-aged children were asked, "If cost were not a factor, where would you prefer to send a child of yours -- to a public school or to a private or parochial school?" Fifty-four percent said private school and 46 percent public school. An ABC News/Washington Post poll of registered voters in October of 2000 found 40 percent in favor of "having the government give parents money to help pay for their children to attend a private or religious school," with 47 percent of parents of school-age children in favor. You can argue the wording of the questions or the sampling methods of the pollsters or the merits of the underlying issue, but it's just inaccurate to write that vouchers have "little public support."
Condit: A columnist on the New York Times op-ed page today writes about Rep. Gary Condit and missing intern Chandra Levy. "Even if he knows nothing about her disappearance, it's sad that Mr. Condit, who voted to impeach Bill Clinton, is now using Clintonian evasion," the column says. In fact, Mr. Condit, a Democrat, voted against every article of impeachment.
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