• The best Times of my life

    Today’s announcement by David Leonhardt is personally significant for obvious reasons and another that is less so: there’s a special place in my heart for The New York Times.

    I grew up with The Times. It was on my family’s breakfast table. My dad kept some front pages with all caps, banner headlines like “KENNEDY IS KILLED BY SNIPER,” “MEN WALK ON MOON,” “NIXON RESIGNS,” “THE SHUTTLE EXPLODES,” “CLINTON IMPEACHED,” OBAMA: RACIAL BARRIER FALLS IN HEAVY TURNOUT,” and many more. A few, protected in plastic, hung in my childhood home. The others were in my dad’s files, which he showed me.

    At an early age, my dad taught me how to read The Times. That may sound silly to an adult, but there’s a structure to the paper that isn’t obvious to a child. He showed me how to find the sports section, figuring that’d be a good gateway to the newspaper reading habit. I followed the Yankees and the Knicks. I read my first box scores in The Times.

    Later, my dad showed me that there’s a news index in The Times where I could get a quick synopsis of the prior day’s events—those that were “fit to print,” of course! As I grew older, he encouraged me to read more of the paper. I recall his advice as something like, “Read the front page and the op-eds. Look at the index. Find something international to look at. Find something local. Not everything, just something. Enjoy the sports section. Devote a half hour to the paper every day.” That half an hour grew to an hour, sometimes more.

    When I was older still, my dad taught me basic, financial literacy by helping me invest in mutual funds. I tracked their progress in The Times‘ business section. Of course, there was the beloved Science Times, which I devoured every Tuesday.

    I learned Times trivia, like that there used to be a period printed after “The New York Times.” Boy did that seem dumb to me as a kid. It’s not a sentence! To my relief, The Times editors had agreed with me, and in the late-60s, the period was dropped. A decade or so later, the format changed from eight columns to six. (Other changes to The Times are documented here.)

    Periods change, The Times with it. I recall when “The Grey Lady” added color. It seemed sensible, but it looked wrong to me. Still does. I remember when the paper’s width narrowed. That still looks funny too.

    But, I don’t actually look at the paper, as paper, much these days. The Times is online. I read it on my iPad. I get other news electronically too, and in different ways, through blogs and via Twitter. The Times is well aware aware of changes in the media biz—more aware than I am! Its very existence depends on keeping up, after all.

    So, it has blogs and new ways of delivering news and information too. Its latest initiative, “The Upshot“, headed up by David Leonhardt, is under development. And I’m very proud that Aaron and I will be part of it. We have been invited to contribute several posts per month, joining other great scholars and journalists. (TIE will stay right here, and we’ll be here too.)

    I—we—could not be happier or more excited. The Times has long been in my life. Now I will be in its.

    @afrakt

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