Murray Chass puts world on notice: Talk to me or be mocked in my columns

July 28th, 2006 → 12:23 pm @

If we’re really lucky, we’ll get several more first-person pieces before the season’s over in which Chass complains about his lack of access.

From the Talk of the Town to Hardly Talking
The New York Times
April 12, 2006
By Murray Chass

This is about the day that George Steinbrenner almost talked to me.

George always used to talk to me. … [W]e talked more often than not, then he disappeared…

I called [Steinbrenner spokesman Howard] Rubenstein yesterday morning and told him I would like to talk to George at Yankee Stadium before or during the Yankees’ home opener with Kansas City…

I said there would be reporters there who hadn’t even been born at the time Steinbrenner saw his first home opener as the Yankees’ principal owner. Indeed, four of the Yankees’ nine beat reporters had not made their appearance in the world.

”I’ll ask him when I get to the Stadium,” Rubenstein replied.

Early in the game Rubenstein called and said: ”George will talk to you on the telephone. Is that O.K.?”

Not really. With Steinbrenner in his loge-level office and me in the loge-level press box, we were no farther apart than home plate from first base. But with my editors waiting for a ”George talks” column, I couldn’t very well turn down a telephone interview, so I said yes…

”He decided he’s not going to do it today,” Rubenstein said. ”He’s entertaining up here. Maybe he’ll do it tomorrow.”

I will not sit by the telephone waiting for the call.

Wilpon Joins Steinbrenner’s Vow of Silence
The New York Times
July 28, 2006 Friday
By Murray Chass

Now New York has two owners of baseball teams who are incommunicado. We know what George Steinbrenner’s reason is. He’s aging and ailing, and his ego is too large to let his public see him as less than the man he was for his first 30 years or so as owner of the Yankees.

On the day the Yankees opened at home this season, I was in the press box at Yankee Stadium and told Howard Rubenstein, the owner’s spokesman, that I would like to speak with Steinbrenner, who was in his office not 100 feet away.

”George will talk to you on the telephone. Is that O.K.?” Rubenstein responded after relaying the request.

Three and a half months later, I am still waiting for the phone call.

Post Categories: Murray Chass & New York Times

Somewhere, Howell Raines is smiling

July 23rd, 2006 → 11:09 pm @

“But at some point, saturation coverage of a story begins to raise more questions about the newspaper’s motives than about the story being covered. The Times reached—and passed—that point this morning with its 40th-plus news story, column, or editorial (since July!) about the Augusta National Golf Club’s refusal to admit female members. Only a five-star general like Raines could have commanded such extravagant coverage as this.”

— Jack Shafer, “The New York Times’ Augusta Blog,”, November 25, 2002

(On July 13, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art confirmed that, as of August 1, it would be raising its suggested admission price from $15 to $20.)

“Museum Is to Raise Its Admission Fee to $20”
July 13, 2006
By CAROL VOGEL, The New York Times

“For $15, Admission to the Metropolitan. For 50 Cents, a Real Museum Experience.”
July 15, 2006
By RANDY KENNEDY, The New York Times

“Into the Metropolitan Museum: What’s It Worth to You?”
July 21, 2006
By DAVID LEONHARDT, The New York Times

“Should Art Museums Always Be Free? There’s Room for Debate”
July 22, 2006
By ROBERTA SMITH, The New York Times

At this rate–which, admittedly, will be hard to sustain–the Times will have churned out 60 pieces on the Met’s new (suggested) admission price by the end of November. Girodet and Cai Guo-Qiang fans: the new multi-millionaire female golfers.

Post Categories: Flooding the Zone & Howell Raines & New York Times

Somehow, this makes it sound much more like prostitution

July 20th, 2006 → 4:21 pm @

So, anyone wanna take bets on when we’ll see a story like this in the Times?

The hiring of personal assistants, according to the National Association of Hired Help, is at an all time high. And with the rise of men with increasingly hectic schedules come assistants in their mini-skirts, which, for many an employer, carry a romantic charge. (Women who don’t get it might want to consider the Speedo.) They invade living quarters, taking charge of the intimate details of their employers lives. Often, even today, these men are on the road for weeks at a time.

Who can blame him for harboring dreams of the assistant?

“It’s been totally sexualized, like the masseuse,” said John Franklin, the editor of the Robb Report.* “I can’t tell you how many times when I hear somebody give a recommendation for an assistant it inevitably ends with the five words, ‘And she’s so wicked hot.'”

Which only makes sense, he added. “It’s all very intimate. You’re making plans for how you are going to live your life with this person in enormous detail. And let’s face it, they often have great racks.”

Franklin Stilts, the assistant editor of Disposable Income Magazine**, says he has heard more and more stories of assistant-employer romance stories in the last few years.

“It’s fast, sexy, hot, but it doesn’t mean a lot — it’s like sexual chocolate, like sneaking out and getting that double scoop of ice cream in the afternoon,” Mr. Stilts said. He added that assistant-employer affairs are relatively safe: there is no need to worry about the assistant’s car being seen in a man’s driveway in the middle of the afternoon; it’s supposed to be in his driveway. And assistant-employer love, from what he’s seen, rarely threatens marriages because when the assistant gets a new job, the affair is over.

“Nobody knows,” Mr. Stilts said. “The assistant isn’t going to tell because she’s being paid, the employer isn’t going to tell, and you get a better job because he’s providing a fringe benefit. Everybody wins.”

Probably not anytime soon, right? Oops, wait: It actually ran today. (Start reading six grafs into the story.)

*Note: He is not really the editor of the Robb Report.
** Note: This is not a real magazine.

Post Categories: Gender roles & New York Times & Sex in the Hamptons

Howell Raines: There’s a wicked wind still blowing…

June 11th, 2006 → 9:41 pm @

“I’m a political reporter,” Howell Raines writes in his new memoir, The One That Got Away. “I can read an audience.” Only half of this is true: Raines was a political reporter, and, at times, a very good one. But in the final years of his career, he showed he was horrible at reading an audience. In the days after September 11, Raines, who’d been the executive editor of The New York Times for less than a week when the Twin Towers collapsed, took pride in the fact that his staff, as he once pungently put it, had been “rode hard and put up wet.” After hundreds of Times journalists performed truly heroic feats of journalism, Raines took all the credit for himself. And when Jayson Blair was outed as a plagiarist and fabricator, Raines misinterpreted anger directed at him as the griping of a complacent newsroom.

This passage in The One That Got Away is of particular interest to me because it’s where he takes a swipe at my own reporting and reputation. Referring to what he calls “a Bermuda triangle of angry druggies,” Raines writes, “[T]he guy hammering me in Newsweek had been treated for heroin addiction. … I had passed on a chance to hire this guy earlier in his career because I believed he was too easily spun by his sources. If I had known about the heroin, I might have hired him, too.”

This sentence is a beautiful example of Raines’s M.O.: start with some basic facts and twist them in a way that’s both inaccurate and demeaning. It was an approach executed with aplomb in Raines’s semi-hysterical settling of scores in his Atlantic Monthly article of May 2004, when he started with some undeniable premises—that the Times‘s cultural coverage needed to be updated, for instance—before misstating facts in order to create a new reality in which Raines’s predecessor at the paper had led a lazy and incompetent staff and he had been the savior cast off by bitter ingrates.

In the section I quoted above, Raines refers to me dismissively as a junkie, implies that my critical coverage of him had stemmed from the fact that he hadn’t hired me, writes that he would have hired me out of pity had he only known about my past, and disparages my reporting. I was, at one point, a heroin addict; that’s no secret. And I had sent in some clips to the Times in the fall of 2001, after and Brill’s Content shut down. But if Raines had ever even seen those clips, he would have known about my personal story: I included an essay I’d written about my treatment and recovery because, as I said in my cover letter, I wanted to give prospective employers “the broadest sense of my abilities” and not have them caught off guard. In fact, Raines had not “passed on a chance” to hire me; as I later confirmed, my clips—which I sent to Adam Moss, then the editor of the Times‘s Sunday magazine, Dave Smith, then the Times‘s media editor, and Trip Gabriel, the editor of the Times‘s Style section, had never made their way up the ladder. (Neither Raines nor anyone else at the Times contacted me at the time about a possible job.) And to the extent that I had a reputation in 2001, it was for being hard on my sources, something Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker discovered when, in my final story for Brill’s, I wrote how Whitaker had bungled (and possibly prevaricated about) the handling of a story detailing Bob Kerrey’s role in a massacre of Vietnamese civilians. Whitaker, to his credit, hired me soon after. What is undeniably true is that I had hammered Raines both before and after I sent clips in to the Times—for the very things that would lead to his downfall. I’d written critically about Raines since before he had taken over the paper, when, as the media reporter for Inside, I had written about the anxiety in the newsroom related to his appointment. After Inside closed, I reported on Raines’s roiling of the Times‘s national staff for New York. Then there was my coverage of Raines in Newsweek and in my book, Hard News.

By the end of his career as a journalist, Raines had come under fire in many quarters for letting his personal agendas get in the way of the real story. Three years after he was fired for this and for his mishandling of the best newsroom in the country, it’s clear not much has changed.

Post Categories: Bob Dylan & Hard News & Howell Raines & New York Times & Oblique Refrences to Killed Newsweek Headlines & Street Legal Lyrics