Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

December 5, 2006

Why The New York Times Irritates

The New York Times is hardly the magazine of record it still pretends to be, but it remains so for enough people that coverage in its feature sections can have a noticeable benefit, and I think it's been that way for comics a couple of years now. But ever since it began to acknowledge comics in kind of a month-in, month-out way, its coverage has been odd -- a lot of pr-driven DC pieces and a few articles of that same, soft type about other companies that almost feel like apologies for lack of coverage, and then the occasional well-meaning but sigh-inducing article like this one in the Book Review extolling the virtues of Ivan Brunetti's recent comics anthology from Yale University Press.

Timothy Hodler does the detail work on why the article reads as odd, saying basically it comes across like a piece by a writer who hasn't done the amount of research necessary to engage with the material in as smart a way as the subject of any such profile demands. It's a piece that gives respect to the medium and Brunetti's book through its assertions, but disrespects the medium through its king-maker tone and lack of detail work. And while that's the kind of thing you might understand of a feature piece by a 23-year-old at the Ball State Daily News, the New York Times should do better.

Is that jealousy? I guess it could be; I know that accusation is made whenever writers about an art form grapple with mainstream-type pieces on the form, particularly when public curiosity begins to grow. Beyond the check that might be offered, I don't have any particular interest in working for the Times or other mainstream publications; for one thing, my prose would have to be worked over pretty mercilessly, and even then I'm not sure I'm a good enough stylist to work such gigs. I'm happy writing here for the rest of my comics-interested life. On the other hand, I certainly know a half-dozen qualified writers for articles and books that are eminently qualified to do either or both, writers that deserve to stand on any platform, that have actually read the whole of Ivan Brunetti's work, that know how and why Little Lulu is funny, that know Kim Deitch is a dude, that wouldn't have to have people do interviews afterwards explaining quotes that made them sound idiotic, and that have something compelling to say about comics beyond "Here's comics!"
posted 2:06 am PST | Permalink

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