Columnists » Grinding The Edge

New York Times ’Reporter’ Alex Williams Is Lazy, Stupid or Both

by Steve Weinstein
Tuesday Nov 22, 2011

There's a story - apocryphal, I'm sure - that at a dinner party many years ago, someone asked an editor at the New York Times why the paper had a bureau in Nairobi but not in the Bronx. "Because," he dryly replied, "we have readers in Nairobi."

The Times' local reporting has been much improved since that nasty comment. But a recent Style Section story calls into serious question how much gumshoe work the Newspaper of Record requires of its staff. OK, I know what you're thinking: It's the Style Section. These glossy tissue-paper thin "stories" are little more than words stitched together between ads for upscale designer boutiques. (My favorite - and there are so many: how hip and cool it is for men to have a gut.)

But still. This section may have the same relationship to, say, the news sections as masturbation has to real sex. But it's still the Times, and it's still the Hebrew National Hotdog of daily newspapers - the finest in the world, and hence, held to a higher standard.

In the article in questions, "reporter" Alex Williams gave two short desultory paragraphs before launching into the meat of the article, a cut-and-paste job of quotes from 13 gay men, one drag queen and two real girls about their reminiscences of the Pavilion, the venerable nightclub that was destroyed in the fire.

Except that this list was ridiculous. It is painfully obvious reading through the comments that Williams simply took out her electronic address of publicists, punched in the words "gay" and "New York" and got the requisite quotes, to wit:

  • George C. Wolfe: It is painfully obvious that the playwright has never been to the club at night.

  • Lorenzo Martone, "public relations executive" and ex-boyfriend of Marc Jacobs. If you Google his name, you get a lot about his split with Jacobs but nothing about his public relations "executive" job. His response is worth quoting in full because it encapsulates the depth of questioning that Williams must have grilled her subjects with to get profound gems like this: ""I remember kis

  • Derek Lloyd Saathoff, of the reality show "The A-List: New York": 'Nuff said.

  • Michael Musto. I love Michael, but he's made it obvious in his columns over the years that he doesn't like the Pines and is more comfortable in the Grove. In his comment, he references going to Low Tea with hostess Robin Byrd, at the Pavilion. The only problem is that Low Tea takes place at the Blue Whale, about 80 feet away from where the Pavilion ends. Oh, well, that's OK: The Times, in its belated coverage of the fire, made the same mistake in a photo caption.

  • Bravo's Andy Cohen, who point blank said he's a "Hamptons guy" and basically never visited the place at night. His comment - "But the time that I have spent there, which is very little, I barely remember" - pretty well sums up the information.

    What's really hysterical is that there are plenty of people Williams could have quoted who would been more accomplished, nuanced in their responses and actually had danced the night away at the Pavilion. Andy Tobias, Hal Rubenstein, Paul Rudnick (OK, not the whole night), Alan Cumming and Carson Kressley come immediately to mind.

    None of this would hardly matter - except as an instance of how many Times writers have been phoning it in - did it not reek of condescension. When La Caravelle, the power-elite hangout, closed, you can bet the reporter did his homework about whom to talk to. If Sylvia's, say, the Harlem mainstay, closed, I highly doubt if the reporter would take to any old African-American "boldface" (ironic quotes here) and not the regulars.

    But it's just the Gays and just their silly little resort town.

  • Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).


    • , 2012-05-17 02:06:51

      How hypocritical for you to critise a journalist for not putting effort into their article when you cannot even correctly confirm the sex of your target. Male - not female. Does that make you lazy or sexist?

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