The New York Times is getting curiouser and curiouser. Not only is the sports section absorbed with soccer and sexual harassment scandals near and far, now the news department seems short on news, especially spot news.
The result: the Memorial Day edition, print and digital, contained nothing about the violent rioting in Jerusalem on Sunday. Flag-wrapped Israeli nationalists provoked clashes with Palestinians by celebrating Jerusalem Day – the anniversary on the Hebrew calendar of Israel’s 1967 capture of the entire city – by marching through the Muslim quarter of the Old City, hurling stones and fighting as they went. One large group of Orthodox Jews chanted “Death to Arabs” as they entered the Old City. Scores were injured on both sides and tensions remained high as night fell.
Nothing new in Arabs and Jews fighting in Jerusalem, you might say. True, but a year ago the Jerusalem Day clashes provoked an 11-day mini-war in Gaza and tension has been rising throughout the West Bank in recent weeks. At least 19 Israelis have been killed; over 35 Palestinians have died during recent Israeli military operations in the occupied West Bank.
Surely Jerusalem Day violence merited some space in today’s paper. Given the current tension, there should have been a staff-written account from Jerusalem in print and online. But, of course, it was a three-day holiday weekend; maybe the senior editors who can recognize Jerusalem and the West Bank on a map were in The Hamptons for the weekend.
A curiosity: twice recently The New York Times has devoted copious space to two huge, sprawling take-outs or investigative pieces on two subjects that their regular readers already know or couldn’t care less about:
- A remarkable book-length analysis in three articles over two days into the racist and deeply reactionary views of Tucker Carlson.
- A page-one opus yesterday entitled: “The Secrets Ed Koch Carried,” with the subhead: “Friends Open Up About the Private Strain of the Former Mayor’s Life as a Gay Man.”
Excuse me, but Tucker Carlson is a widely-known manipulator of hapless Fox viewers and Trump supporters who can’t seem to separate fact from fiction or don’t try; while the vast majority of New York Times readers have long regarded the late Mayor Koch as gay. The man died in 2013, an era when a politician’s sexual orientation was a bigger issue than today.
Both projects were deeply researched and smoothly written, but what, exactly, is new here? OK, I didn’t realize how relentless Carlson has been in pushing his twisted ideas on his popular Fox broadcast, Tucker Carlson Tonight. Point taken. Seems some three million feckless souls tune in most nights and actually believe his nonsense. But multiple full pages of copy when Ukraine, Supreme Court leaks and a teetering economy are competing for our attention?
Ed Kock was gay? Hello? That’s news? The multi-page article did support its subhead, by detailing the toll his homosexuality had taken on the former Mayor back in the day when this was a problem for elected officials. Truly sad. But news? Relevant to exactly what?
Taken together, the two projects suggest that an executive decision has been taken at The Grey Lady to commit staff and resources and space to the kind of deep background pieces long featured in The New Yorker and Atlantic magazines.
It’s the subjects that are curious.