MAGAZINE REVIEW: Invention in New York newspapers
by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., June 15, 2002 – New York City’s newest daily newspaper made its debut this past April. The New York Sun is on newsstands in the city Monday through Friday. Of particular local note is that the paper’s founder and editor is South County native Seth Lipsky, the former Wall Street Journal editor who is perhaps best known as the founding editor of The Forward, the English-language successor to the Yiddish newspaper Forverts.

The New York Sun

A look at a few early issues of the Sun show it to be a witty, imaginative newspaper with a cheeky attitude and a global sensibility that belies its pretense of being a local paper. It covers the world with wire stories from the Daily Telegraph and the Jerusalem Post, among others. It makes bold use of photojournalism, with stark, telling shots from New York and around the world that you never see in the New York Times, like one of the bloody body of a Palestinian killed by Yasir Arafat’s henchmen hanging from a power pole.

The Sun’s editorials and op-ed columns bear the well-considered, literate sophistication of those one typically finds in political journals. The paper’s conservative/libertarian bent differentiates its opinions from the predictable liberalism cranked out by most of the nation’s dailies. The paper’s cultural coverage is expansive, ranging from a review of a recent CD by Elvis Costello to the latest fashions on Seventh Avenue or on the streets of Jackson Heights. New York’s museums are closely watched, as are its theaters and concert halls, and some papers include three or even four book reviews in one issue, putting the Times’s measly one-per-issue to shame.

While the paper is strongly focused on New York City and New York State, it’s too bad the Sun has no current plans for distribution in the Berkshires. For one, a lot of us Berkshirites care about New York or have family or business connections there. Also, what happens in New York, for better or worse, has an indirect if not a direct effect on our lives here in the Berkshires, just a few hours away from midtown Manhattan.

Note to Lipsky: truck a stack of Suns up our way.

The New Yorker

Meanwhile, over at the New York Times, a revolution is brewing, according to the inside scoop dished out in Ken Auletta’s “The Howell Doctrine” in the June 10 issue of the New Yorker.

Nine months ago, editorial-page editor Howell Raines became executive editor of the Times. In that time, according to Auletta, Raines has “quickened the pulse” of the paper. He had a baptism of fire: his first day on the job was September 5, and one week later his paper was covering the story of the century from Ground Zero, coverage that would ultimately garner the Times a record seven Pulitzer Prizes this year. A nation challenged, in this case, meant an editor challenged, and with “A Nation Challenged,” the Times’s daily section covering the terrorist attacks, the war in Afghanistan, and the still-unsolved mystery of the anthrax letters, Raines and company more than lived up to the challenge.

Soon after the smoke cleared, however, Raines began his slow effort to remake the Times. Part of this involved changes in key personnel. It’s interesting to read the inside scoop, for example, on how Nicholas Kristof wound up writing a twice-weekly op-ed column on international affairs. What might look like a plum assignment from the oustide, it turns out, was in fact the result of a power struggle between Raines and and Kristof, who was previously in charge of the Sunday Times.

Raines also has emphasized the importance of breaking news stories before every last “i” is dotted and “t” is crossed. And he is described as favoring a skeptical if not cynical approach to the news – a far cry from the once-sacred but much discredited pretense to “objectivity” by which great newspapers once abided.

Other changes in the past nine months credited to Raines are the Times’s enhanced coverage of popular culture, and the frequency with which soft news or lifestyle features – such as the Cornel West controversy, Botox injections, and supermodels at the World Economic Forum – make it to the front page. Presumably we also have Raines to thank for the new “Escapes” section and beefed-up sports and home coverage.

The New York Review of Books

When Ehud Barak took office as prime minister of Israel in July, 1999, it was his stated goal to complete what his predecessor, the late Yitzhak Rabin, set out to do: to make peace with all Arab neighbors including the Palestinians. Toward these ends, he pulled Israeli troops out of Southern Lebanon within a year. He established no new settlements in disputed territory, and began planning for withdrawal from them. Most important, he came to Camp David in July, 2000, prepared to offer, with the approval of President Clinton, virtually everything that Yasir Arafat had demanded: nearly all of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, dismantling of settlements, a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, and a return of refugees to Palestinian territory.

Arafat’s response can be summed up thusly: no. And after his refusal – not only to accept the offer, but even to negotiate – he launched the war that is still being fought to this day, with little indication that he has any intention of returning to the peace table.

Last summer, an article by Deborah Sontag in the New York Times launched a “revisionist” view of who lost the peace at Camp David, suggesting that Barak and Clinton shared the blame. The battle over who balked on the way to the altar is still being waged, most recently in the June 13 and June 27 issues of the New York Review of Books, where Barak and Hussein Agha continue to debate just what went down at Camp David.

At this late date it’s so sad it’s almost pathetic to be arguing over what might as well be ancient history. No one on either side is going to be convinced by the arguments of the other, and the debate won’t save any lives. It’s long past due time for the peace of the brave.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on June 15, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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