Some students are casual users; others need a fix every morning. A few take hits 10 or 15 times a day.
Their drug is The New York Times.
“All the news that’s fit to print” is all the news some Yalies care to read. The Times is a definite presence on campus, true. But those looking for real breadth of coverage seek alternative sources. Bona fide news junkies follow a wide variety of news media — from national, local and foreign papers to online publications and Web logs.
Students who think the paper has a liberal bias often seek publications with a different slant. Al Jiwa ’06, a Democrat turned Republican, reads The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post as well as The New York Times.
“I’m just trying to get a full picture of what’s going on,” Jiwa said. “It’s very difficult to have good dialogue if you don’t know where the other side is coming from.”
When students tire of mainstream media, they turn to independent local publications like The Village Voice or The New Haven Advocate. Slate, a humorous and brainy online magazine, is another favorite. Nirupam Sinha ’06 occasionally peeks at The Drudge Report, a right-leaning gossip Web site that in January wrongly claimed John Kerry ’64 had an affair with an intern. (Psst: Sinha is president of the Yale College Democrats.)
As New York Times Magazine fans can attest, Web logs have also become a popular pastime and news source. (See the September 26th issue.) Several students regularly read Wonkette, a raunchy gossip blog about Washington’s public figures.
Josh Eidelson ’06 is an equal opportunity blog-reader. His top five include conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan and labor lawyer Nathan Newman. Eidelson even keeps his own blog, Little Wild Bouquet, on which he spends several hours a week. He said the blog serves two purposes: it forces him to stay informed, and it facilitates communication with other politically minded techies. Eidelson said even his rabbi visits his site.
International students often look beyond American mainstream media for foreign coverage. They claim papers in the United States focus disproportionately on areas where either a humanitarian crisis exists or American interests are at stake. That means countries like India, where Akash Shah ’06 has family, get short shrift.
“U.S. newspapers rarely ever talk about Indian politics,” said Shah, who lived in New Delhi for four years.
Shah regularly reads The Times of India and the BBC’s Web site, which has an exclusive section on South Asia.
Tendayi Achiume ’05, who moved from Zambia to Zimbabwe when she was 12, finds The New York Times’ treatment of Africa meager and largely sensationalist.
“It’s always famine or genocide,” said Achiume, who reads South Africa’s Mail and Guardian instead. “I wouldn’t call it comprehensive in any sense.”
But despite its shortcomings, The New York Times remains a favorite among Yalies. Students read the Times partly out of convenience: copies are available in every dining hall. But many claim the paper merits its popularity.
Students interviewed for this article described the Times as thorough, well-written and well-respected. Zvika Krieger ’06 called it “the common denominator” for discussion at Yale. Some students can even recite the opinions of Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman at the drop of, well, a name. (Fanatics will now point out that Friedman has only just returned from a three-month book leave.)
“There’s a cult of New York Times,” said Tasha Eccles ’07, who has the paper as her homepage. “And I am definitely an active participant in this cult.”
For Eccles, reading the Times online and in the dining hall is not enough. She selects a few treasured pieces — like recent ones on decarceration and Edith Wharton — to paste on her dorm room wall.
If Yale were still in the technological stone age of the early 1990’s, Eccles would not be able to put the Times as her homepage. Sinha would know nothing about the latest right wing conspiracy theory. And “little wild bouquet” would be just a lyric in a Leonard Cohen song.
Thanks to high-speed ethernet in every dorm, students can access an overwhelming volume of information. Slate, The Drudge Report and Web logs like Wonkette owe their existence to the Internet. National and international publications, once difficult to obtain in New Haven, are now available to students online. Even though News Haven sells national papers like The Washington Post, students can read them for free in electronic form.
As Yalies turn to online news sources, they rely less on print media and television. When Professor Steven Brill surveyed students in his journalism seminar, all 15 said they read most or all of their news online. None watched the network evening news.
The results of Brill’s second poll are unsurprising; some people do not have a television in their rooms, while others are busy during broadcasts. Most do not want to structure their evenings around 60 minutes with Dan Rather (especially after his botched National Guard story).
But newsprint still has its devotees, and Zoe Palitz ’05 is one of them.
“It’s much nicer to feel the paper in your hands,” she said. “There’s something about holding it. It’s not easy to explain.”