Monday, November 30, 2009

With Her First NYT Byline, Liz Leyden Offers A Sparkling Refresher Course In A Fast-Fading Art Form: The Metro Feature.

To us, the slow but steady disappearance of the young, hungry NYT reporter delivering the simple, stylish metro story -- of the sort Gay Talese, Anna Quindlen, Maureen Dowd and William E. Geist specialized in before they became media stars -- has become one of the most painful public markers of the NYT's economic decline.

We miss the days -- not so long ago, really -- when a recent arrival like Andrew Jacobs stopped us cold with his hilarious, graceful take on train travelers stranded at Grand Central Station after the final departure. Or when a newly-minted metro reporter named Alessandra Stanley drolly informed us one morning of the identity of T. D'Alessandro, the faceless elevator inspector whose signature we knew so well. Or when Anna Quindlen, before she ever even dreamed of writing novels, chronicled with poetry the futile search for a homeless woman, Alma Siegel, by a volunteer worker whose heart she had once touched:

''I know this woman,'' said a police officer in the Port Authority. ''This is the woman I had sent to Bellevue. Family in New Jersey, right? Some money in it?'' But then he looked closely at the picture and saw that it was someone else he meant.

It has been many, many mornings since the last time we read an article that caught our eye as the debut of a fresh, exciting new byline. But it happened this morning, when we stumbled on the metro feature on A24 about the Waldorf School in Saratoga Springs and its "forest kindergarten," and were introduced to the soft-spoken eloquence of a new NYT byline: Liz Leyden.

As it turns out, Leyden isn't a just-off-the-bus NYT kid reporter. We haven't quite been able to piece together her biography yet, but it appears she spent much of the 1990s as a staff writer for the Washington Post, and has since written for Salon. We also found her name on the website of a Saratoga Springs elementary school where she's a class parent -- so we're assuming she has relocated away from the Manhattan media meltdown you heard tell about in this morning's David Carr column, and is freelancing for the NYT.

We'll guess that in a week or two, Leyden will get a $1,000 check from the NYT for her article today, and no promises of future assignments. We'll happily correct this if we're wrong, but we're under the distinct impression that NYT reporters are getting laid off, not hired.

It isn't that Leyden's story is so special. It's a straightforward account of a group of young schoolchildren who spend three hours outdoors each day. It delivers the requisite supply of expert quotes and anecdotes. But right away, the lede lets us know we're reading the work of a writer who appreciates the cadence of words, and the value of verbs:

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Fat, cold droplets splashed from the sky as the students struggled into their uniforms: rain pants, boots, mittens and hats. Once buttoned and bundled, they scattered toward favorite spaces: a crab apple tree made for climbing, a cluster of bushes forming a secret nook under a willow tree, a sandbox growing muddier by the minute.

And at the end, we relished Leyden's choice not to cave to journalistic convention -- as so many reporters do -- and conclude with a summing-up quote. Instead, she meandered a bit, and left us after the last paragraph with our minds free to form a mental picture for ourselves:

Trails had been worn through the thickets. An old stone wall ran through the center of the trees toward huge tepees the children had built from sticks and vines.

Everywhere, there were things to discover. A branch balanced on a split tree trunk became a seesaw. A teacher sawed thick stumps into logs the children used to bridge bogs. A pit became a monster house, complete with boys standing in the rain shouting warnings: “You don’t want to come over here! You’ll get smushed!”

Piper Whalen, 5, turned toward her own treasure: an enormous fallen tree. She climbed on and lifted her arms. “I’m riding a roller coaster,” she said. “Come on and ride with me.”

The raindrops continued to fall until, finally, it poured, hard enough to splash though the canopy of trees. The children were delighted.

“It’s wet!” exclaimed one.

“My hair is getting a drink of water!” another said.

Piper began to laugh. She stuck out her tongue and turned her face toward the sky.

Leyden won't be winning any Pulitzers for today's story, or maybe even any more assignments. But her debut this morning reminded us of the thrill of discovery -- and of what's too often missing from the NYT these days, as its resources diminish and its supply of new arrivals drops to zero. There's no substitute for fresh perspective and restless ambition when it comes to poetry.

UPDATE: It turns out Leyden is married to the NYT's Albany bureau chief, Danny Hakim, who shared the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news reporting for the paper's coverage of the Eliot Spitzer sex scandal. Leyden and Hakim were married on July 14, 2001.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Writer Suzy Buckley Uses NYT's "T" Travel Section To Praise Restaurant Owned By Her Old Boyfriend -- An Accused Fetus Killer.

The NYT Magazine's "T" Travel section isn't exactly where you look for tough investigative reporting -- especially when writing about Miami tourism as it did yesterday in an issue paid for, in part, by a huge advertising supplement about Florida tourism.

But its writers probably shouldn't be promoting business ventures owned by their old boyfriends -- especially ones recently arrested for killing a 13-week-old unborn fetus.

But that didn't stop the NYT from publishing freelance writer Suzy Buckley's five-page spread on Miami nightlife, leading off with her recommendation -- prominently displayed with a photo on the feature's front page, in an attractive time-clock design -- to try the popular South Beach burger joint co-owned by Josh Woodward, until recently her boyfriend:

2 p.m.: Have a grass-fed beef burger topped with Bel Paese cheese and a Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale at 8 oz. Burger Bar. 1080 Alton Road; (305) 397-8246;

Woodward and Buckley broke up just recently -- apparently right before October 29, when the Miami Herald reported that the restaurateur had been taken into Miami police custody on charges in connection with the death of a 13-week-old fetus, reportedly his child. The Herald later reported that Woodward had been charged with murder.

The Herald's story said that Woodward "was suspected of placing an unspecified powder in the pregnant woman's vaginal area," causing a miscarriage.

While the police didn't reveal the name of the pregnant woman, the Herald noted that "the only girlfriend most people associated Woodward with was Miami writer Suzy Buckley." The two were widely reported to be in a relationship, which was repeatedly referenced in society columns.

At the time of Woodward's arrest, Buckley denied being the mother involved in the miscarriage. Sort of. But not really!

"We were planning to get engaged soon and married,'' Buckley told the Herald. "We had a long, incredible and beautiful relationship, and he is loved and respected by so many people in the Miami community. These extensive allegations are obviously outlandish, but I have -- understandably -- ended the relationship.''

The whole sordid situation didn't stop Buckley from promoting Woodward's restaurant in this past Sunday's NYT -- alongside numerous plugs for other local businesses.

Buckley is a frequent fashion and travel writer in Miami. In one website bio, published alongside a fashion column that appears on the website of "The Starter Wife," the USA TV series, Buckley is identified as "a fashion writer and television personality" who appears regularly on E! Entertainment, is the lifestyle editor of Ocean Drive, and writes for multiple magazines and guidebooks.

Buckley "is often found traveling to exciting global destinations," her bio reports.

Buckley's reporting on her boyfriend's burger joint is, of course, a direct violation of the NYT ethics policy, which clearly states:

No journalist may report for us about any travel service or product offered by a family member or close friend.

The NYT has been policing such conflicts rigorously of late, having fired the Styles section's Critical Shopper columnist Mike Albo for accepting free travel on a JetBlue/Thrillist junket -- even though he wrote nothing for the NYT on anything connected with the trip.

At the same time, the NYT has applied a different set of rules and standards to David Pogue, its popular freelance tech columnist, who accepts travel, speaking fees and expenses from corporations the NYT covers, on a regular basis.

We've contacted the NYT public-relations department for comment, and will update if/when they respond.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh, Right.

A correction appearing on today's NYT op-ed page:

An Op-Ed article on Wednesday, about the founders’ debates about climate, misstated the status of the United States in the winter of 1783. It was an independent country, not a collection of colonies.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Read It And Weep: Dan Barry Borrows Yet Another Story Idea From Newspapers and TV, Adds Sugar And Spice, Serves Cold.

Dan Barry has done it again.

Today's "This Land" would-be tone poem from the flowery columnist -- chronicling a South Carolina program that encourages prisoners to help solve cold cases with playing cards -- is a story that has been done repeatedly over the years in the national press. It has been a piece done on CNN, Associated Press, CBS This Morning, USA Today and the Denver Post, not to mention WSPA in Spartanburg, S.C. and WISI in Columbia, S.C., in stories that date back to 2006.

Still, Barry's story goes to some lengths to suggest that his story is new. He writes this morning:

The South Carolina Department of Corrections started selling these decks in its prison canteens for $1.72 about a year ago; since then, inmates have bought more than 10,000 packs.

But the WISI-TV story about the South Carolina program -- which was posted over a year ago on its website, on September 16, 2008 -- the station reported:

Prison officials say playing cards is a popular pastime behind bars. In the past year, the 24,000 inmates in South Carolina prisons bought more than 14,000 decks of cards for their own use.

Who's right?

We wouldn't keep harping on the NYT "This Land" columnist's frequent half-baked retreads -- stories that have been reported elsewhere earlier, that he repackages for NYT consumption -- because as journalism crimes go, it's a petty misdemeanor.

But at a time when 100 NYT newsroom employees face the possibility of a layoff -- and executive editor Bill Keller has declared that "we intend to use merit to decide who is laid off and who is not" -- it seems reasonable to wonder whether Barry is worth the considerable salary he's paid to roam the country in search of clippings and news reports.

Barry's sin is simple: the Pulitzer Prize-winner doesn't seem to much care that -- in a column devoted to chronicling the quirky off-the-beaten track stories that bring America to life -- the stories he tells have sometimes already been told in other newspapers, or on television.

Just since February, The NYTPicker has noted three previous Barry columns on topics and characters that have been previously covered elsewhere:

On February 2, Barry wrote about a 115-year-old murder case in North Carolina that had been chronicled one week earlier in the Winston-Salem Journal.

A June 1 Barry column about a New Hampshire bakery had been reported on the Boston Globe's front page ten days earlier.

On July 31, Barry's story about a homeless enclave in Rhode Island -- chronicled repeatedly elsewhere in the local press -- contained stale information and neglected to report the fact that his central character was a twice-convicted child rapist.

It seems to us that a journalist's calling ought to involve shining a light where others can't or won't go. But at times Barry seems attracted to the lights shined by others, as if to challenge himself to produce a better, more effective chroncicle of a story than the one already told.

But can he? Barry's oveheated prose style tends to call attention as much to itself as to the topic. In today's column, describing the playing cards used by prisoners with pictures of murder victims on their faces, Barry writes:

Hands are won and lost as the inmates shuffle and toss the cards on top of one another. Their discards form kaleidoscopic arrangements in which the dead and the missing peer up together, as though from a deep, shared hole.

Or this:

The “unsolved” decks, long since stripped of any reverence, are now part of the everyday prison culture here. Inmates say that the cards are too expensive, that the cards are not as sturdy as those they replaced, that sometimes a card is just a card.

“I’m tired of seeing James,” says a man hunched around a hand he’s just been dealt. James is James Oneal Boulware, shot to death in Rock Hill a couple of years ago. The two of spades.

James and 51 others are soon shuffled and spun across tables to form new combinations of faint possibility. Read ’em and weep.

Barry knows whereof he speaks. All too often, he shuffles the pile of clippings on his desk to form new combinations of faint possibility.

One of the things we love about the NYT's wonderful "One In 8 Million" series is its assurance to readers that its subjects have never been written about before -- and the feeling of freshness that derives from that promise. In a country with 304 million people, isn't it possible for Barry to make a similar "This Land" pledge?

Maybe it's time for the NYT to put Barry on the layoff list, and find a new, talented columnist to take his place -- someone with the energy and determination to find original ideas and undiscovered characters for a "This Land column worthy of its resonant name.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NYT's "Douche" Move: Page-One Trend Story Based On Numbers Requested From Arch-Conservative Parents Television Council.

Today's NYT offers one of those tasty page-one trend stories everybody reads -- this one noting that more television shows now use the word "douche" than ever before.

It may be true, and probably is.

But seeing TV reporter Edward Wyatt and the NYT base its front-page reporting on numbers the paper actually requested from the Parents Television Council -- a notoriously conservative TV watchdog group that has brought 99 percent of all indecency complaints before the FCC (we learned that from an excellent 2004 NYT story) -- makes us a little sick.

The PTC has been around since 1995, founded by conservative commentator L. Brent Bozell, and is responsible for complaints to the FCC about the Janet Jackson nipple slip and cursing on "NYPD Blue."

Okay, we'll admit it -- we have a horse in this race. We think the indecency obsession that governs television, and the NYT itself, is outmoded and anachronistic in the 21st century. Isn't it time for television and newspapers to realize they're not shielding anyone from anything?

For example, we know that when David Carr referred the other day in the NYT to a Twitter page with an "unprintable" word in its title, he was talking about "ShitMyDadSays." Is that really unprintable? No. It's unprintable only by the standards of a newspaper clinging to old rules and ancient ways.

But seeing Wyatt and the NYT team up with the PTC to do a story about "douche" as a new curse word reflected a new low in the NYT reporting approach. The PTC is an activist group with a cause -- one that got mentioned in Wyatt's story after the jump. He described them as "conservative interest group that monitors (and opposes) profanity on television."

Wyatt's story reports that the NYT asked the PTC to compile the numbers for its "douche" census.

Is that really a reliable way to compile statistics? The PTC has a stated, singular bias, and its interests are served by Wyatt's story in promoting its cause. Shouldn't the NYT do its own monitoring and reporting on these trends? Well, obviously it wouldn't be worth it. And, well, that's what the PTC does, right? They like to listen for bad words on TV!

Beyond that, Wyatt's story is merely ridiculous. He's essentially trying to prove that the increased use of words like "douche" show the effort that TV writers will make to avoid words that will get the network fined -- usually as a result of PTC efforts.

Wyatt admits that the word "douche" doesn't really merit attention alongside George Carlin's "Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television," which he cites:

And "while the word “douche” is neither obscene nor profane — although this usage is certainly offensive to many people — it seems to represent the latest of broadcast television’s continuing efforts to expand the boundaries of taste, in part to stem the tide of defections by its audience to largely unregulated cable television.

Offensive to whom? Wyatt doesn't say. Presumably he means to his friends at the PTC!

Wyatt goes on to quote the creator of the new hit comedy "Community," Dan Harmon, describing "douche" as "a thing that sounds like a thing you can't say."

Funny line. Unfortunately, it's just the kind of thing that will now incite the PTC, with its NYT page-one clipping in hand, to approach the FCC in search of a new ban.

Friday, November 13, 2009

NYT's David ("Not A Reporter") Pogue Gets A New Title. From Now On, Please Refer To Him As "New York Times Visionary."

Readers may remember the media kerfuffle a few months back, when NYT technology columnist David Pogue told an interviewer that he was "not a reporter" and declared in exasperation: "Since when have I ever billed myself as a journalist?"

Well, how about this for billing? In the online brochure for the Kids@Play summit at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next January -- where Pogue will be speaking -- Pogue's bio offers up a new official title:

"David Pogue, technology columnist, New York Times visionary."

This is presented not as marketing hype, but in the official listing of titles and bios for the event's speakers. It appears alongside other official titles, such as" Warren Buckleitner, Editor, Children's Technology Review" and "Jim Gray, Ed.D., Director of Learning, LeapFrog Enterprises."

In Pogue's case, the new title is followed by his official bio, reprinted word-for-word from his website.

Which raises the question: is this a new title that Pogue has bestowed on himself? Will it officially replace "reporter" and "journalist" on his NYT business card? Either way, it must be a comfort to NYT editors to have a official visionary in the building. Not that he ever drops by, of course.

[UPDATE: We received a statement Friday afternoon, in the form of a posted comment, from Robin Raskin, the creator of the kids@play event whose brochure identified Pogue as a "visionary."

"Not to bore you with the details, but the mistake was totally on our side of the fence," Raskin wrote. "David's name/bio and the word visionary came from an overzealous intern."

Before that we had received an email from Pogue about it. He described "visionary" as "definitely not a title I would ever use for myself." Pogue's email blamed the mistaken title on the organizer of the panel he was to appear. He named the organizer and suggested we contact him. But since the "overzealous intern" explanation comes from the event's creator, we'll accept that as the official version of what happened.

By the way, a note to commenters: Relax! We like David Pogue. We think he's funny and good at what he does. Our post doesn't accuse Pogue of wrongdoing, or attack him in any way. We made it clear that we didn't know if Pogue had been involved in the "visionary" thing or not. We were only reporting on the existence of the brochure, which was readily available on the Internet.]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

One NYT Article We'll Never Finish Reading... Lynn Hirschberg's NYT Magazine profile this Sunday of Megan Fox, which begins: "Megan Fox is a fox."

Monday, November 9, 2009

NYT's Bill Keller Blasts "Armchair Experts" Again. Except This Time, Keller Forgets That He Was The Armchair Expert.

NYT executive editor Bill Keller loves to regularly stick it to the "armchair experts" who attack his newspaper.

Keller did it again this past week in his latest "Throw Things At Bill" speech to the staff, in which he said:

One of the armchair experts quoted by the public editor wondered why we don’t eliminate the Sports section. I’d like to be as clear as possible: none of those things is on the table.

But hey, wait a minute...that "armchair expert" was none other than Keller himself!

Here's the line from Clark Hoyt's recent Public Editor column to which Keller referred:

More radical moves, like dropping the sports section, have been rejected because they would undermine the quality of The Times or would not save much money, Keller said.

To be fair, it's entirely possible Keller made the comment while seated in an armchair.

We remembered the line so well because the Sunday morning it appeared, it prompted us to email sports editor Tom Jolly, to find out whether he'd heard anything about a plan to drop his section from the paper.

Frankly, we'd been struck by the fact that Hoyt had attributed the idea to Keller. The prospect of killing the NYT sports section would seem unimaginable, especially to the paper's executive editor.

"All I can tell you is that the idea was never raised with me," Jolly replied via email that morning, when we asked if anyone had ever mentioned the idea.

Ten minutes later, we got an unsolicited followup email from Jolly.

"Just to clarify: That would suggest to me that it was not on the table in a serious way," Jolly wrote.

That second email got us to wondering why Keller would have even brought up the notion of killing the sports section with Hoyt. If it wasn't on the table, why refer to it at all?

So we wrote back to Jolly with a couple of followup questions:

Do you have any idea why Keller would have mentioned sports to Hoyt, even as a move they rejected? "Rejected" implies that it was proposed. And the elimination of sports is the only "radical move" mentioned in Hoyt's sentence, attributed to Keller.

We don't want to make too much of this, if it's truly a non-story. But the thought that anyone at the NYT even entertained the notion of eliminating sports coverage was pretty shocking to us. Was it to you?

Jolly, clearly a courteous fellow, wrote us right back.

"We're in an environment in which all ideas deserve consideration, no matter how radical," Jolly said. "As you might expect, my own belief is that our sports section helps distinguish the NYT from the Journal, which is probably our chief competition going forward."

Good answer. We agree. And so, apparently, does the armchair expert.

Did NYT's Unusual, Restrictive New Advertising Scheme Help Force Closing Of Broadway's "Brighton Beach Memoirs"?

It used to be that the NYT review could make or break the future of a Broadway show.

But in the case of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," an unusual, highly restrictive business deal between the NYT and the Broadway revival's producers -- one that offered substantial, heavily-discounted NYT advertising in exchange for exclusivity until after opening night -- may have hastened the show's quick demise.

In return for what was described to The NYTPicker by sources as a "three-ads-for-the-price-of-one" arrangement, the NYT deal dictated that "Brighton Beach Memoirs" couldn't advertise anywhere else. Those restrictions even included the far more powerful pull of local radio and television, and direct mail marketing.

A meager $500,000 in advance ticket sales led "Brighton Beach Memoirs" to close on November 1, after just 9 performances. The closing came despite rave reviews -- including a mostly-positive review from NYT theater critic Ben Brantley -- and a Neil Simon's long track record of success on Broadway.

And while the "Brighton Beach" producers don't blame the NYT arrangement entirely for the show's closing, they believe it was an important factor.

"We neglected the very audience we needed," one highly-placed "Brighton Beach" production source told The NYTPicker, referring directly to the NYT deal. "Direct mail builds a solid foundation and a healthy advance. We had neither."

The unusual arrangement was first reported last Wednesday in the New York Post, and has been confirmed to The NYTPicker by sources close to the production with first-hand knowledge of the NYT deal.

One production source told The NYTPicker that the NYT advertising deal involved a "very deep discount" for the full package, and identified Sharri Kaplan as the NYT advertising representative who presented producers with the so-called "pilot program" deal.

Diane McNulty, the NYT's spokeswoman, responded to questions from The NYTPicker Sunday afternoon with this emailed statement:

We don't discuss details of conversations we have with our advertisers. What I can tell you is that your sources' estimates are inaccurate, their description of the arrangement is inaccurate and their description of how the plan came about is inaccurate. In addition there are many factors which impact the success of Broadway plays including: ticket prices, reviews, subject matter, competitive alternatives etc.

No one disputes McNulty's last point. Reporter Patrick Healy's fascinating NYT page-one post-mortem on "Brighton Beach Memoirs" accurately noted other possible factors for its demise: changing audience tastes in comedy, the lack of any big-name stars, and the missing "wow" factor that sometimes turns flops into hits.

But unmentioned in Healy's account -- even though sources say the reporter was told of the arrangement by "Brighton Beach" producers -- was the NYT's advertising deal with the show.

For decades, the NYT generated a considerable portion of its advertising revenue from Broadway producers, who would routinely take out page after page of ads in the Sunday Arts & Leisure, Weekend and Arts sections to promote their shows. But in recent years, as producers seek a better return on their investment, much of that money has moved to television, radio and direct-mail marketing -- leaving the NYT with a tiny fraction of the theater advertising revenue it once commanded.

Now, the NYT may get even less -- as Broadway producers have been able to observe, via the "Brighton Beach" debacle, just how little influence NYT advertising has on advance ticket sales.

"Producers on other shows have seriously questioned this deal," the "Brighton Beach" production source told The NYTPicker. "While no one will abandon the Times, you will notice a huge reduction in the amount of theater advertising....I would seriously doubt anyone will ever take a deal like this again."

The results may already be evident. In yesterday's Arts & Leisure section, there wasn't a single full-page ad for any of the 35 shows currently on Broadway -- and less than two full pages of theater advertising in total, including the NYT's paid "Theater Directory" listings.

Broadway insiders blame the shift away from NYT advertising on the paper's exorbitant rates -- which are higher for theater than for some other forms of entertainment, and which don't deliver enough returns to justify the price.

"These days, a New York Times ad is a vanity thing, a way for producers to show off to their friends," one top theater advertising-agency executive told The NYTPicker. "It doesn't sell tickets."

The "Brighton Beach" insider told The NYTPicker that the lack of direct-mail advertising and radio -- specifically prohibited by the NYT deal -- helped doom the show.

"Theatergoers tell us that they choose the shows based on a variety of things: what they read, what they've heard from people they trust and some blend of advertising and press," the insider said. "They may not know the difference."

That may explain why, even with this exclusive arrangement in place, the "Brighton Beach" producers weren't able to reach today's target Broadway ticket buyers, those who attend at least three shows a year and are accustomed to getting direct-mail discounts.

"If you don't get the Westchester housewife to buy tickets for her and her husband, your show is going to close," the theater-advertising executive said. "She's listening to the radio in her car or reading her direct mail flyers, not flipping through Arts & Leisure."

Beyond that explanation, even simple logic suggests that the NYT arrangement was counterproductive to its revenue goals. Had outside advertising generated enough ticket sales to keep the show running, the NYT might have eventually gotten enough advertising to justify the discount. Think about it, guys!

Sadly, this arrangement appears to reflect, in part, the NYT's delusional arrogance about itself as an important player in the Broadway community. It appears the NYT myopically convinced itself that if the "Brighton Beach" arrangement worked, it could conceivably market the approach to other reluctant theater advertisers.

Now, no such luck.

And in a somewhat bitter irony for both sides, the NYT's arrangement included running a full-page ad for "Brighton Beach Memoirs" in the Arts & Leisure section on Sunday, November 1 -- the day the show closed.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

UPDATE: Turns Out NYT's Park Slope Obsession Easily Explained -- It's The Lifelong Home Of NYT Metro Editor Joe Sexton!

Earlier today, The NYTPicker posted an item about the curious (and highly imbalanced) quoting only residents of Park Slope and Prospect Heights residents in its page-one story on the mayoral election.

We also wondered why the NYT's metro section seems so obsessed with the Park Slope neighborhood, devoting two straight Sunday Metropolitan section cover stories to the topic.

Now we know why, and it's the saddest and most obvious of reasons. It turns out the NYT's Metro editor Joe Sexton was born in Park Slope, and has lived there his entire -- or right nearby -- his entire life!

On page 213 of former NYT editor Douglas Frantz's 2001 book, "Celebration U.S.A.," the author wrote:

"Joe Sexton lives a few blocks from the brownstone where he grew up, in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn."

According to a tipster, Sexton now lives in the Flatbush-Ditmas Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, on the other side of Prospect Park from Park Slope -- less than two miles away.]

We've emailed Sexton to see if he feels his lifelong loyalty to Park Slope has influenced the NYT's ongoing and obsessive coverage of the gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood. The NYT has covered Park Slope incessantly in recent years, but the latest crush of stories and references to Park Slope has been especially egregious.

We can't wait to hear how it's all a big coincidence!

Seriously? Stylish NYT Page-One Election Wrap Only Quotes Brooklyn Web Developer, Designer, Cinematographer and Professor.

Somebody tell Joe Sexton, the NYT's Metro editor -- there's more to NYC than the concerns of the residents of Park Slope.

NYT reporters covering the mayoral election yesterday blanketed the city, but managed to turn up only a shamefully paltry cross-section of comments from local voters in two upscale Brooklyn neighborhoods.

On the heels of the last two Sunday Metropolitan Section cover stories -- both set in Park Slope -- the NYT has lately become bizarrely obsessed with upper-middle-class Brooklyn, to the exclusion of hundreds of other worthy NYC neighborhoods.

[UPDATE:  Turns out there's an easy explanation for the NYT's Park Slope obsession.  We've learned that it's the Metro editor Joe Sexton's lifelong home!]

The lead story included quotes only from the following NYC voters:

--Katherine Krase, a 34-year-old professor, in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

--Gerni Oster, no age or profession given, also from Park Slope, Brooklyn.

--Ken Ficara, a 40-year-old web developer, from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

--Stay Birnbaum, 37, a web producer, from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

--Paul Ranson, 56, a designer, from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

--Luke Geissbuhler, 39, a cnematographer from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

Seriously, NYT?

The story had two bylines -- the page-one story by Michael Barbaro and David W. Chen -- along with reporting credits to four more correspondents: Flora Fair, Joel Stonington, Matthew R. Warren and Karen Zraick. How many of those ventured outside of Brooklyn yesterday?

In a city as large and diverse as NYC -- and in an election that pitted a black Democrat against a white Republican -- it seems bizarre and inappropriate for the NYT's voter coverage to be limited to two gentrified Brooklyn neighborhoods.

We realize the metro coverage has been cut back, but come on, dudes -- NYC has five boroughs and millions of voters to choose from. Can't you work a little harder to find folks who aren't quite so similar to yourselves?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Metaphor That Block! With "Block-a-Thon," NYT's Andy Newman Becomes Leading Contender For NYTPicker's "Worst NYT Story of 2009" Award.

The judging has begun for The NYTPicker's Worst Story of 2009 award, and until this morning we were, frankly, a little worried about the lack of serious contenders.

Our file of entries has been woefully thin thus far; a Jill Abramson blog post about her puppy stuffed in next to a Dan Barry paean to a child rapist. A Tim Arango puff piece here, a Maureen Dowd plagiarism there.

All in all, 2009 has been bereft of obviously worthy candidates, slam-dunk disasters gunning for the gold. Frankly, our panel of judges has been getting impatient for a breakout front-runner for the prize. We knew last year's winner, Andy Newman -- the NYT metro reporter who penned the August 2008 faux-poetic ode to the end of the subway line, "The Curious World of the Last Stop" -- had to be at work on something!

Then suddenly this morning, Andy emerged with a late-breaking, likely winner: "Block-a-Thon," in which Andy walked around his Park Slope block 78 times sith with his dog, Barnaby, in search of a story. He didn't find anything, but that didn't stop him from writing a 1,699-word article with accompanying chart, video, and NSFW photograph of his feet, taken by Newman himself.

Kudos, Andy! And good luck! This year's prizes include a lobster autographed by NYT restaurant critic Sam Sifton.