Diamond, a journalism professor at New York University and media columnist for New York magazine, here dissects the progression of the New York Times from the formidable Gray Lady of the '50s and '60s to the multi-sectioned, reader-friendly bundle of the '90s. However, this is no slash-and-burn expose. Diamond had access to the players, from many Sulzbergers (the owning family) to rising stars (columnist Anna Quindlen) and veterans (former editor and current columnist, A. M. Rosenthal). What emerges is a portrait of a still inward-turned, often isolated culture. Diamond describes what makes ``good Timesmen'' in terms reminiscent of taking holy orders; Arthur Sulzberger Jr., who succeeded his father ``Punch'' as pubisher in 1992, has tried to encourage more women to join the Times' s priesthood. The chapter on the Book Review goes over familiar ground of outraged authors and supposed ax-grinding. Rebecca Sinkler, the present editor, as quoted here, responds to every accusation with the wry, resigned good humor of one who has said all this before. Although Diamond reports the paper's story as well as anyone, this book may tell more than anyone, except perhaps a Sulzberger, needs to know about the Gray Lady. (Jan.)
Those people who enjoy the tiny classified ads on the front page of the New York Times will relish all the minutiae media-watcher Diamond sees fit to print in this history of the venerable newspaper. Whether others want the blow-by-blow, day-in-the-life commentaries that run throughout the book is another question (Do we care when columnist Anthony Lewis reports to work?). Still, Diamond, the media columnist at New York magazine, has obviously had amazing access to the inner workings of the ``Gray Lady,'' and though he was a past contributor to the Times magazine section, he is certainly more objective--and more critical--than Times men Russell Baker and James Reston, both of whom have penned more avuncular, rose-colored histories. Diamond convincingly indicts the paper's recent sellouts to the bottom line and the lowest-common denominator, the most egregious being the ``little wild streak'' reporting in the William Kennedy/Patricia Bowman rape case. An essential update to all serious journalism collections, this will be news for serious scholars and the ever-growing legions of media buffs.-- Judy Quinn, formerly with ``Library Journal''
As Corry and Nan Robertson (in "Girls in the Balcony", 1991) carry on the tradition of the "Times"person's testimonial, so media writer Diamond addresses the newspaper's external performance and internal politics. Over the past 20 years, the span of his autopsy, the Ochs Sulzburger dynasty turned out old horses and installed a new set of editors to whom it appeared that hard news attracted fewer readers. Their come-hither solution for colorizing the gray lady? Lifestyle, fashion, and gustatory pieces for the sybarites of society; more op-ed pieces for professional bloviators; and a middle-brow elevation to page one of trashy ideas, such as the now-notorious review of Kitty Kelly's book on Nancy Reagan. Diamond disdains this as "enticement journalism," dedicated to snaring "omnidirectional yuppies." The snappy new dispensation extended to the "Times"' culture sections, including that "Tweedy Backwater," the weekly "Book Review". Bibliophiles will relish the routine blurb-swapping and a classic in cronyism, a gusher review for first-time author Eric Lax, Sulzburger's son-in-law. Diamond also sates the aficionados of personnel intrigue with a mountain of anecdotes, and for devotees of the day-to-day news cycle, he narrates the newsroom activity on February 28, 1989. Diamond is a standout in the crowded field of journalism's scolds, and his studied objectivity and head-shaking commiseration on the decline of the "Times" will inspire wide interest--especially on that insular isle of Manhattan.