In Gray Lady Down, his brilliant expose on the decline of the New York Times, author William McGowan explored how the paper became obsessed with pop culture, beginning in the late ’70s and ’80s. It was as if the Grady Lady “put on a miniskirt and her varicose veins are showing” while she awkwardly hit the discos, a journalist at a rival New York paper quipped during the transition. As McGowan noted, the Times’ embrace of pop culture destroyed the institutional gravitas the paper carried with it into the 1970s:
Over time, this transformation crowded out coverage of high culture in favor of an oddball, wink-and-nod popular culture. “The entire social and moral compass of the paper,” as the former Times art critic Hilton Kramer later said, was altered to conform to a liberal ethos infused with “the emancipatory ideologies of the 1960s” and drawing no distinction between “media-induced notoriety and significant issues of public life.” The Times took on more and more lightness of being. It became preoccupied with pop-culture trivia and über urban trends, reported on with moral relativism and without intellectual rigor.
The change was met by disaffection and derision within the paper’s newsroom. Grace Glueck, who ran the culture desk for a while as replacement editor, was one of the disaffected, and famously once asked, “Who do I have to f*** to get out of this job?”
Which brings us to John Nolte this week at Big Journalism. “New York Times Writer Claims She Baby Mama’d for Interview Subject:”
Rock star Liam Gallagher married singer Nicole Appleton in 2008. In 2010, the New York Times ran what the New York Post describes as a “glowing piece” about Gallagher that was written by Liza Ghorbani. Ghorbani has now filed a $3 million paternity suit against Gallagher claiming she is the mother of his child. Gallagher is now suing the New York Post for reporting all of this.
According to a Post source, the affair between the married singer and the Times’ writer began either during or directly after the interview, and ended just a few months after the child was born.
But of course, such devoted news coverage isn’t exclusive to the Times these days; our headline was inspired by Mickey Kaus’s 2007 post on one distaff Telemundo journalist’s own exceedingly personalized reportage of then-LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.