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The Degradation of the "New York Times"

- Abstract

At 6:30 one morning in 1965 in Little Rock, Arkansas, the doorbell rang, waking me. There on the porch stood an older man, who, after announcing he was from Western Union, handed me a telegram. In my combined drowsiness and incipient panic, I neglected to tip him. My imagination of disaster told me that a telegram at 6:30 a.m. could only mean bad news: university degree rescinded; report to IRS with past seven years’ receipts in hand; family wiped out in flood.

With nervous fingers, I pried open the telegram, which, if memory serves, read: “Can you give us 1,000 words on Alfred Kazin’s ‘Starting Out in the Thirties’? Book to follow. Review due four weeks from today.” No fee was mentioned. It was signed by an editor of the New York Times Book Review. Calmed down, I later wired back that I would be pleased to comply. And pleased I genuinely was, for I was twenty-eight, trying to make a reputation as a writer, and it was after all the New York Times we were talking about, the august New York Times. How times—and the Times—have changed!

About the Author

Joseph Epstein is a regular contributor to COMMENTARY.