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.


Anonymous said...

It should be "78 times with his dog" not "78 times sith his dog", though I'm all for Star Wars references.


Anonymous said...

I thought Newman's piece was great. Its whole point seemed to be "who really gives a rat's ass about the Marathon?"
The answer, as presented in the stroll around one Brooklyn block, is "not many." Without all the usual bucks to throw at covering the thing, the Times made do with a couple of little stories and skipped the usual junk about travellers from abroad, marathon grandmas, one-legged marathoners, the whole lot it used to take to meet the expectations the paper set for itself.
And now it's just about over, and we're just as well off not knowing, or more to the point, not having been battered with pre-event hoopla for the past three weeks.
Maybe next year they could just skip the whole thing and see if anyone notices.
Andy Newman will still walk his dog.

Anonymous said...

Last week's Metropolitan cover story was on the Park Slope Food Coop. This week's was about a guy walking around his Park Slope block. Shouldn't the section be devoting some space to other neighborhoods once in a while?

Anonymous said...

I think you need to give actual reasons why this piece was bad. All you really do is say it's bad but not with anything to back it up.

Not all stories in the Times have to be newsworthy. I can point you to many many examples of stories that don't break news.

I thought it was fun and amusing and the video with him and his dog is priceless.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this story is, it's BORING.

Anonymous said...

How about the Obama marriage story today? That deserves consideration. A million words, adding up to nothing.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to let us nominate a few pieces for this award

Anonymous said...

The Obama marriage story was bad? OMG, that can't be. I'm still starstruck and looking forward to three more years of magic! How could any writer go wrong with the Obamas?

Anonymous said...

There's something a bit wrong with this premise. On one hand, you want the writing in the NYT to be livelier and more experimental. On the other hand, you want to reserve the right to crucify those who don't hit the mark. There's a general consensus about good reporting but humor is very, very personal. The best wit is often the most controversial and open to debate. Some love David Letterman's edginess and some think it's self-absorbed foolishness.

So what's it going to be? Solid, workman-like prose that offers just the facts, mam, or reporters sans frontiers? No one is going to take chances if they're worried that dear, old Nytpicker is going to nominate them for the worst article of the new millennium.


A writer who isn't willing to take chances and experiment -- out of fear that someone, somewhere won't like it -- probably ought to find a new line of work.

Anonymous said...

No, the Kantor/First Marriage story is a model of restraint; after all, the writer waited until the seventh paragraph before lapsing into her preferred mode, first person.
Good journalism does not include letting feature writers pose as reporters while filling the pages of the magazine.
At least it wasn't a news section.

Anonymous said...

Experiment? What happens when Nytpicker experiments and fails? He/She just deletes the post and moves on. Those kind of rules make life soooo much easier than being a deadline reporter.

Anon is right. You can't have it both ways: pushing the envelope means that some pieces will fall on their face. Adding spangles to the text is pretty risky because the best you can hope for is that 50% of the audience likes the spangles.

No one complains about straight-forward reporting. But everyone has an opinion about spangled text.

DavidNYC said...

Are you kidding? The NYT has had over a dozen stories this year about the travails of the poor, poor ultra-rich in this recession - each one worst than the last.

Here's one on the super-rich becoming slightly less wealthy:

No more $900 strollers:

Trustafarians in Williamsburg having their lifelines cut:

How Wall Street d-bags are using their bailout money on $2,500 bottles of champagne for brunch:

This is just a small sampling.