Friday, April 1, 2011

Hit the Wall - Project's Over!

Let me begin by saying I'm not angry at the NYT.

I'm not going to blame the NYT. And I'm not posting this to diss the NYT.

But after what happened, I've reached my limit. I'm declaring an end to the Van Winkle Project.

I guess it's fair to say the NYT was the catalyst.

A Brief History of Times
I've always liked the Times. I read the Times when I was in college where it was dropped each morning with an emphatic slap on the hardwood entryway outside my dorm room while I still lay in bed. I groggily claimed those newspapers and leafed through their many, many pages.

Maybe Robert Redford reads the NYT,
but would Jay Gatsby?
Some people opine that the Times leans politically to the left, not in an up-with-the-proletariat fashion, but in way that represents the interests of the moneyed, ultra-educated, morally decadent elite.

If life were a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, some suspect  the self-made, romantic, sunny Reaganesque millionaire Jay Gatsby would get his news from Fox or the Wall Street Journal. The Ivy League, polo playing, adulterous Tom Buchannan would read the Times...

I don't know about that.

Frankly, my favorite part of the newspaper, at least on Sunday, has nothing to do with coverage of domestic politics. I love the Arts and Leisure, Book Review, Style, and Magazine sections. I want to read about Broadway shows, interviews with choreographers and movie directors,and learn what's turning heads in fashion. I dip into consideration of new novels and nonfiction. Such riches!

All of which will no longer be denied to me.

The Sudden Arrival of Excessive Angst
As if my deprivation hadn't already bad enough, the NYT went and did something on Monday and I'm collateral damage. They sent me an email with this heading:

Important notice about your New York Times subscription

Well, I had to open and read this email, didn't I? Maybe I owed them money.

That's not what the email was about. Instead, I was learning that something that had been bruited about for a long while was finally coming to pass:

     As of Monday, March 28, The New York Times
     is charging for unlimited access to
     and our NYTimes apps.

I understood immediately Anyone wishing to read any Times material on-line beyond the home page is going to have to "pony up" and put some coins in the change jar.  This is a very BIG deal, I realize, to much of the world. In the balance rests the future of newspapers and how can they make money. On the other side there's readers who have had the equivalent of a free lunch all these years.

But guess what. That wasn't my problem and did not lead to my ensuing crumbling resolve to remain news-less.

You see, the Times' policy shift doesn't affect me. I already subscribe to the print edition of the Times on Sundays which means under the new regime I automatically get access to all on-line content without further charge.

Lucky me!

A message from the publisher...
My actual problem arose when I followed the email's suggestion at the end:

     P.S. For more information,
     click here
     for a message from Arthur O.
     Sulzberger Jr., publisher
     of The New York Times.

So I clicked. And I read, "Blah, blah, blah, this change...necessary...blah, blah, valued, subscribers, blah, blah...


    As you have seen during this
    recent period of extraordinary global
    news, The Times is uniquely
    positioned to keep you informed.

What! What's going on? I'm Van Winkled and that means I'm asleep and I'm not supposed to know about that. You pair the words "global" and "extraordinary" and what am I supposed to think?

All this is to say, to quote B. B. King, "You upset me, baby." The NYT got me agitated. It started me wondering and worrying.

And finally? I snapped like a stale pretzel that had lost all its salt.

All the News That's Fit to Ignore?
Of course, I have confessed on this blog that there have already been news "leaks." These have come from remarks that have dropped from the mouths of people in a public situation where I couldn't cover my ears in time or gracefully walk out, e.g. church.

Now, thanks to Mr. Sulzberger's way with words, I'm thinking there's likely more that I'm missing than I realize. Paradigm shifts? New generations arising? Old ones slipping away? The very planet groaning at its moorings?

I remembered that a friend emailed me mid-February and recalling his words added fuel to my emotional fires:

     All I can say is you picked quite a year to take a nap. You will never catch up.
    You will be reading books about this year not just newspapers.

I don't know what this is all about. I've begun to feel like a sort of dim bulb who is walking around faking his life, pretending that I know why people are acting the way they are these days. They seem a little bit bothered and distracted. Or is this just my imagination?

So if you were me, could you continue to go on?

Certainly not! I quit!!! - V.W.

Wait a minute. I just checked today's date. Delete the post title and most of the above paragraphs. April Fool's!

So I'm still "in." I'll find out about this extraordinary global stuff on September 11 as planned. But I just want to say to Mr. Sulzberger that when this project ends my subscription will be money well spent. I'm going to pig out on the news, so to speak. I hope, though, I don't get a stomachache - V.W. (for real)

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