Friday, April 17, 2009

Goodbye old friend, and don’t come back

Dear New York Times,

I have to tell you, old friend, that it’s over. I know this is a hard time for you lately and I really don’t want to kick you when your stock is dropping fast and, like most other newspapers, you’re in a panic about losing so many readers. But I still have to tell you that you can’t come back to my house. I’ll miss my old friend every morning, but you’re not someone I want in my life any more. I understand a lot of your old friends are telling you the same thing but you stubbornly refuse to believe that your behavior has anything to do with it.

It pains me that it has come to this. I’m trying to remember how long we’ve been together and I can’t really remember when you weren’t part of my life. For as long as I can remember, you were there for me. At first just occasionally, then as I grew older I had you coming around to my house every day without fail. I started every day with my good friend, and I looked forward to it. I sat down every morning with a cup of coffee and shared some time with the old friend that came to be my most trusted source of information, the old reliable source that I knew I could count on to inform me, enlighten me, educate me. I could have spent that time with others that promised bright colors and gossip about celebrities but no, I wanted something more serious, something with many years of solid reputation behind it, something I knew I could trust. I couldn’t start my day without you.

Sometimes my wife wasn’t so thrilled to see me spending all that time with you. But I explained that you and I went way back, that we had something special, that though I love her dearly, I wasn’t going to give up the relationships I had long before I met her. So she learned to put up with your daily visits, the time you monopolized every morning, the way I tuned out her and the rest of the world while you and I had our morning time.

But it also was my wife who first recognized that something was changing. She was the one who recognized that your visits didn’t always leave me feeling satisfied, comfortable in the knowledge that I could go on with my day informed about the world around me. Oh sure, that was still the result some days, but with increasing regularity you started leaving me agitated, frustrated, saddened even. And the worst was when you just insulted me right to my face, when you talked down to me and mocked me and my values.

It started out small, as I suppose it always does when old friends grow apart. There would be some snide comment that, I guess, you assumed I would agree with. But I didn’t, and more often than not, it was insulting to me personally. It created those awkward moments like when you’re having a chat around the water cooler and someone makes a nasty remark about another group, never even considering that not everyone in earshot feels the same way about them. Or that the other person might be even be part of that group you’re snickering about. You did that a lot, NYT, and I started to wonder why I kept inviting you to my home if you were going to just insult me.

But I also have to ask, is this really something new with you or am I just now recognizing how you have been all along? I’m ashamed to say that perhaps I was more like you when I was younger. I can remember smugly laughing at the way you talked down to everyone you disapproved of, how you mocked middle America and anyone who didn’t toe the line of eastern liberalism. I think I laughed and approved not so much because I was of the same mind set, though I certainly was more liberal back then, but because I wanted to be a part of that elite that looked down on everyone else. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I’m proud to say that I’m conservative, that I have traditional values, that I am exactly the kind of person you regularly mock as being stupid or oppressive, or frequently both. The same sort of smug superiority that we all had as college sophomores doesn’t sit well with me anymore, and I don’t think you’ve outgrown it.

The elitist, condescending attitude was difficult to take sometimes, but I kept telling myself, hey, we’re old friends. I know it’s just part of who you are, right? But then I started recognizing that... well, it’s difficult to say this outright, but... you were lying to me. There was a time when I trusted you implicitly, a time when I accepted what you told me about world events without question because you were The New York Times, for Pete’s sake! But then there came to be so many sources of information that it was hard not to notice that you weren’t always giving me the straight story. Either you were lying by omission, misleading me intentionally, or spinning it to your own political views.

And hey, you know what? That’s probably my biggest beef with you. Can’t we ever just talk about the news without you putting your political spin on it? We should be able to disagree on politics and still get along, but now it seems like everything you say is skewed by your political leanings. I can accept that you think differently about politics but I have to be able to trust you when you tell me something that is supposedly objective and factual. Sadly, I think I trusted you in that regard far too long and now I realize that you abused that trust to lead me astray over the years. That hurts.

There comes a point where an old friendship, no matter how good it might have been through the years, has run its course. I’m afraid we’re there. It’s not like it used to be. I don’t enjoy our visits anymore. I end up yelling at you, cursing you for lying to me or manipulating news for political gain, and its just not worth it. Many times I’ve finished our visit and wondered why I continue spending time with you if the experience only leaves me upset. It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend, one I once loved so much, but I just don’t like who you are now. It really does sadden me.

You can continue to blame it on lots of other factors, and I’m sure they play some part in your declining popularity, but your behavior is really the key. If you want to know why more and more people are turning their backs on you, take a hard look at yourself and how you’ve treated those loyal readers.

A little tough love from an old friend. Despite all your failings, I’ll miss you.