Comments: Week of February 2, 2009

1. The New York Times as we know it may be sinking like the Dow, but there was plenty of love—and even an offer of cold hard cash—for the hallowed institution in response to Emily Nussbaum’s story about the team of Times staffers who are trying to reorient the newspaper for the digital age (Goosing the Gray Lady,” January 19). “I know it’s fashionable to trash the Times and make zealous proclamations on how the newspaper industry is as good as dead,” wrote one reader, “but if newspapers are going to evolve, it will be because of the work that folks like these guys at the NYT are doing. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if in 50 years the New York Times brand is still relevant and wunderkind sites like Facebook are decades into a dirt nap.” Boogiedowner blog noted, “We, like many other news junkies, cannot imagine a world (more specifically, a New York) without the New York Times. However, we must admit that we are not subscribers. Like tons of bloggers, we visit their website freakishly often throughout the day and regularly do posts featuring Times content, but we do not pay a dime for all the content we use. I know, we’re terrible people. [But] we can honestly say that if the New York Times cut us off cold turkey from their site, like any good junkie we’d do anything in our power to get our hands on the good stuff. So yes, we’d pay to subscribe as long as it was under $100/year.” Another blogger, who said he worked at the paper’s early Internet operations, wrote, “I’m glad someone is paying some attention to this effort because the newspaper began pulling out all stops recently. They’re willing to try almost anything, and I think some of the efforts are marvelous. We’re getting a better idea of what works and what doesn’t, but it’s clear that we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of this Internet thing. Even now, after 12+ years, we’re just beginning to understand what else we can do with the multimedia tools.”

2. Last week may have been Barack Obama’s triumphant moment, but John Heilemann’s analysis of the new president’s independence as a political leader (Party of One,” January 19) still managed to ferret out a skeptic who is not ready to hail the arrival of a new era. “Obama has never run a city, never run a state, and never run a lemonade stand! He has never held an actual job. He has never had to handle a budget. He has never even had a job where he had any real responsibility! This is exactly like hiring a kid still in high school to sweep the floors at McDonald’s, then three days later making him the store manager! The next four years have disaster written all over them! Thanks a lot, Obama Kool-Aid drinkers!” But another reader was moved in the exact opposite direction: “I voted for McCain not because of the man, but because of the worldview he represented. But the economic crisis, and Obama’s obvious pragmatist bent, has changed my way of thinking. Competency, not party or ideology, trumps everything right now. When I look at Obama, I don’t see party anymore. When I look at him, I see a competent, steady-handed manager.”

3. In this issue, you’ll notice the first of a few alterations in the magazine we’ll be rolling out over the next few weeks. This one involves the listings section in the back of the magazine, which we’ve remodeled in the interest of making it more useful, informative, and attractive. Within each of the disciplines, our critics will be making a major weekly recommendation of something they strongly advise you to see or do, and then the shorter items will be augmented with a series of playful icons that will help you locate what you want. What movies are kid-friendly? Which ones contain nudity? Which bands play loud and which play soft? Which plays are tear-jerkers and which are laugh riots? We hope this new system will not only enable you to make intelligent choices about how to spend your cultural buck, but also give you a better sense, at a glance, of the vast range of the city’s cultural offerings. Your comments, of course, are always welcome.

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images (Franklin)

4. Even in these hard times, fashion will not be forgotten, which explains the rather vituperative debate on and elsewhere about the hat that Aretha Franklin wore to the Inauguration (“The Cut: So What Was UP With Aretha Franklin’s Hat?”). But more than the nasty remarks, we admired this heartfelt defense: “Whether going to church or a day at the Kentucky Derby, you can never go wrong with a large hat and an appropriate pair of shoes. Men and women no longer get dressed up, so most of the comments here are from people who would not know quality fashion if it ran them over.” And this: “You know the Queen of England probably loved Aretha’s hat. She’s probably thinking, ‘I wish I could pull that off.’ ”

5. We received a number of letters complaining about last week’s issue—not the issue per se, but that it was a double issue. We appreciate the fact that subscribers look forward to receiving an issue every week, and want to remind everyone that we are committed to being a weekly publication, with only occasional breaks. And for the record, the next double issue won’t be until “Best of New York” in mid-March, which ought to take you two weeks to get through anyway.

Comments: Week of February 2, 2009