September 14, 2006

Special sections and hidden themes in the NYT.

I have the extremely well-established habit of reading the New York Times every morning and, in the last two and a half years, spotting what's bloggable (in my idiosyncratic opinion). Sometimes, like today, I keep a list as I read. Looking at today's list, all the stories have a gay theme. It made me think -- what? -- is it gay day for the Times? It's as if they have a new special weekly section, but they've distributed it around the newspaper instead of collecting it in one place. Hmmm.... what are the special sections on Thursdays? Fashion ("Thursday Styles") and decorating ("House and Home"). So, then, it kind of is -- stereotypically speaking -- gay day at the NYT. I've got to think the NYT is saving up gay stories and putting them on Thursdays. Anyway, let's look at the stories.

1. Here is the obituary for Tyron Garner, who died on Monday of meningitis. We remember the name of the man with whom he was arrested for violating the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law, because it is John G. Lawrence's name that is memorialized in the case name Lawrence v. Texas. The obituary tells the story of the arrest this way:
Shortly before 10:30, an unidentified man called the Harris County Sheriff’s Department and told the dispatcher that “a black male was going crazy in the apartment and he was armed with a gun.”

The caller turned out to be Mr. Eubanks, who told deputies he was jealous of Mr. Garner, with whom he argued that evening and had fought physically in the past.

Mr. Garner and Mr. Lawrence were then alone together in the apartment, fueling Mr. Eubanks’s rage.

Mr. Eubanks stood at the door when the police arrived and directed them to go inside, where, he said, a man was threatening neighbors with a gun. No gun was found, but the police entered with trepidation. Inside, a still-mysterious man on a telephone directed them to a bedroom in the back.

They shouted out several times and entered the bedroom. They said Mr. Garner and Mr. Lawrence were engaged in sex. One deputy said they continued obliviously for as long as a minute. Another deputy said they stopped immediately.

Why the deputies enforced the sodomy law, a rarity, is unclear, wrote Mr. Carpenter, who said he doubted that the officers actually saw any sex. He dismissed widespread speculation that the event was staged as a vehicle to test the law, saying that among other reasons, the men were too inarticulate for appearances in the news media.
Garner is described repeatedly as very quiet and unassuming. R.I.P.

2. Here's a story about the "revival" of activism against the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (datelined Madison, Wisconsin):
In August the gay rights group Soulforce opened a national campaign by recruiting openly gay people, including the three young men in Madison, who would have enlisted in the military if not for “don’t ask, don’t tell.” [As part of that campaign, two young people who were rejected as applicants on Tuesday at a recruitment center in Chicago returned there on Wednesday and engaged in a sit-in. They were arrested but later released without charges.]

The move to change the policy faces stiff resistance from the Pentagon and Republicans in Congress, who, in a time of war during a tough election year, have no longing for another contentious debate about gay troops. The House bill, introduced last year by Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts, has picked up 119 supporters, but only five of them Republicans.
Republicans, Republicans... spare me. The Democrats aren't gay rights heroes on this. There are 201 of them in the House, and you know they have constituents who are more likely to want the policy changed, so it's less politically risky for them. I'm not impressed by either party on this issue. [ADDED: Captain Ed links to the NYT article and states his strong support for allowing gays people to serve in the military.]

3. Next, "Is This Campus Gay-Friendly?" A few days ago, I heard a street preacher try to alarm the passing students with the news that Madison is the "Capital of Lesbianism," but nevertheless, my campus is not mentioned in the article. The article reports on the book “The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students," and I wonder how well the book does at really finding the places that are truly friendly to gay people:
Jeremy Marshall, a 20-year-old junior at Duke University and the president of Duke Allies, a student organization for those who support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said he was surprised Duke was listed among the top 20 friendliest schools.

“I don’t think Duke has warranted that position yet,” he said. “We were ranked one of the most homophobic schools in 1999,” by Princeton Review.

Mr. Marshall said he believes tolerance will improve eventually, but he was unhappy with the funding to Duke Allies this year and said that homophobic slurs can still be heard on campus.

The school has several gay awareness programs that make it look “good on paper,” Mr. Marshall said, yet “the real challenge is changing the hearts and minds of students.”
Googling, I see that UW did end up somewhere near #20 on the Advocate's list. I think we'd be much higher if it weren't for some issues at the state law level, which must have affected how we were scored on the 20-factor checklist.

4. This isn't directly a gay story, but it's on my list of things I found interesting, from one of the articles in the fashion section: "a men’s suit of heavy blue shirting with an 80-inch-drawstring waist." There's a photo on the second page of the article. Of course, a skinny guy is modeling it, but the text of the article indicates these pants would be useful for a man with some "body flaws" to hide. I can't really picture a fat guy in 80-inch waist drawstring pants that purport to be part of a suit. If there is one thing that hides a man's body flaws, it's the traditional suit, with unobtrusive pants. This thing on a fat guy would not only keep him looking fat, it would make him look crazy.

CORRECTION: Sorry I had 1, 2, 3, 5 on those items all day. There actually was a fifth item on that list I referred to, but it didn't fit the theme and it became the next post. Hence the foolish numbering! That was not some "hidden theme" of innumeracy or some inside joke. Corrected.


Bruce Hayden said...

This may or may not be conscious on the part of the NYT, but if it is conscious, it may be a decent marketing move.

The problem being faced by the paper is that their readership is declining as fast, if not faster, than that of other major dead tree publishers. They have two choices on bolstering their circulation: local and national. My guess is that they can't really do much locally, as there only so many people in the NY City area.

That leaves people like Ann who are willing to subscribe to the newspaper while living hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. My guess is that this would be the better place to try to build circulation.

The problem that the paper faces nationally is that it is starting to appear to be fairly shrilly to the left on political issues.

So, one demographic across the country that is more liberal than conservative and has a lot of disposible income is the Gay community. Another selling point there may be that "sophisticated" people read the paper (and that is in keeping with the public persona of the gay community).

So, there may be a conscious decision at the paper to make it more Gay friendly, on the hopes of increasing circulation in that demographic across the country.

noah said...

Ann, you might consider blogging about the response to the NYT hit piece about the Walton Foundation supposedly buying favorable opinion from conservative think tanks. But then you might have to reconsider exposing your mind to such garbage on a daily basis.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, there is also a huge market consisting of people who live in a place that doesn't have a paper that is substantial enough, which is nearly everywhere in the U.S., including Madison. I've tried subscribing to the local papers, but the amount of paper in proportion to actual readable news is sickening. And the political bias is so much worse than what you complain about in the NYT that it's not even funny.

Ann Althouse said...

Whatever the flaws of the NYT -- possibly hideable in 80-inch-waist drawstring pants -- it's better than any alternative, and my devotion to it remains unshaken. If there are problems, I'll just blog about them. I need something to blog about every day, you know. I can't think of a better source. Plus, they keep publishing crap I write. I kind of like that.

Jake said...


We are happy that you are spending $624 a year for Times so we do not have to.

noah said...

Ummm, you may have a point. But then I stopped reading all newspapers years ago. Used to read the WSJ but it's too predictable on the editorial page. Sigh.

MadisonMan said...

Re: The Gay Guide.

Using lists to decide which college to attend strikes me as weird. I'm hoping my kids will know what they want to do and pursue the 2 or 3 colleges that offer the best program in their chosen field of study. A trip to 2 or 3 colleges will help them get the feel of the place. And then I open my checkbook.

Unless we're talking about physical security, using a list to find the place where you fit in defeats part of the purpose of college -- to grow and learn how to handle adverse situations.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm sure that those drawstring pants would hide many flaws, but as they also make the wearer appear as though he has just escaped from an institution, I think that the benefits of such pants are greatly outweighed.

SteveR said...

So how do you decide on what basis to rank a school as a "party school", "gay-friendly", etc.? Its gotta be arbitrary as hell.

Teams of evaluators going around with checklists..

Dave said...

"If there is one thing that hides a man's body flaws, it's the traditional suit, with unobtrusive pants."

I don't understand this. Seems to me suits are cut close to the body, which would highlight those who are rotund.

RogerA said...

Noah's comment about the WSJ editorial page did get me thinking: I am curious about how many people buy a paper because of the editorials vis a vis, say, the news coverage overall? or the sports page? Do we buy a newspaper for the overall coverage? or one particular slice of that paper's coverage (OK--false dichotomy, but still.....)

George said...

The NY Times also frequently runs news articles and features about transsexuals and drag queens. And there was even a piece this summer reviewing an S&M street festival. (Just a typical Saturday 'outing,' so to speak, for the whole family!)

It may not be the newspaper of record any more, but the stuff they publish sure is memorable. It's the Penthouse magazine of daily papers....

These stories all serve to reinforce the notion, correct or not, that gay men are obsessed with sex. If I were a newspaper publisher trying to further a gay political agenda, I'd be running stories trying to show how mainstream my community was.....

noah said...

I chose my college based on a one paragraph entry in the World Book Encylopedia which followed the discussion of "mass" when I was a fifth-grader. True story.

chuck b. said...

If this was the gay issue, they would have mentioned the gay Republican winning in Minnesota.

The first page of yesterday's WSJ (print edition) had men in shorts on fahsion runways yesterday. I thought of you and your commentors shed tears of joy.

(The WSJ runs enormous numbers of articles about fashion--sometimes it seems out of proportion to other industries one might also write about.)

(I'm following the comments on this post to see how long before an argument develops where someone deploys the super-fresh and wittily dismissive retort "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." Haw, haw, haw.)

The Drill SGT said...

Bruce said...
So, one demographic across the country that is more liberal than conservative and has a lot of disposable income is the Gay community.

I thought the presumption was that being gay was genetic, and I assumed, distributed across racial groups, social classes, and intelligence.

To which I ask with serious but innocent intent:

Why does the gay community have a lot of disposable income?


Fewer Kids?

More paired up than straights?

Do well educated gays come out more than blue collar gays, thus altering the perceived gay income distribution?

Balfegor said...

Re: Madisonman:
I'm hoping my kids will know what they want to do and pursue the 2 or 3 colleges that offer the best program in their chosen field of study.

Unless your children are exceptional, I think that's likely to be rather rare. Other than people who thought things like "I want to be a doctor" or "I want to be a lawyer" (and have in some cases since gone out and done that sort of thing), I don't think any of my friends in high school had a clear idea what they wanted to do. Certainly my sisters (one just entering and one just finishing college) had no clear idea.

This is possibly just an upper middle class phenomenon, in which our anxiety about dropping class and ambivalence about pursuing traditional upper middle class career paths (medicine, law, academia, banking, etc.) leave us unduly ready to dismiss the actual alternatives available. I don't know. But my guess is that it's true beyond our particular class.

In any event, even if they "know" what they want to do (e.g. I knew I wanted to study particle physics), they may well be wrong (I ended up studying math and linguistics, and became a lawyer -- I hated lab writeups so much).

SteveR said...

"I hated lab writeups so much"

aaaargh! Me too.

J said...

"The move to change the policy faces stiff resistance from the Pentagon and Republicans in Congress, who, in a time of war during a tough election year, have no longing for another contentious debate about gay troops"

I left the military a long time ago - when Democrats controlled congress and the White House. Even then, almost nobody on active duty cared about this issue, so I'm glad you pointed out that it's disposition isn't the solely due to the Republicans, and I'm skeptical about the "stiff resistance" The Pentagon is putting up. But what irritates me more is the harrassment of the recruiters, who are simply obeying the law. If you have a problem with the ban on gay soldiers, you have a problem with congress, not the military.

chuck b. said...

Re: I hated lab writeups so much.

Talk about hate...try grading lab reports sometime.

MadisonMan said...

balfegor -- I knew what field I was going into (and it's not law or medicine) when I was in jr. high. My brothers and sister also left College with the degree they sought on entry. Maybe I have a weird family.

My advice to my kids will be: if you don't know what you want, go somewhere cheap. Save your money for post-college travel. Or, go somewhere cheap and then transfer to the good college when your goals have clarified. But who knows if they'll listen to me! But I do think they know I'll laugh if they say "I want to go to Hawaii 'cause this guide says it's a good school." I'll be much more receptive to the "I want to be a world famous Pineapple Breeder, and only U of Hawaii can offer me the opportunity to do it."

Richard Dolan said...

It's interesting that it was the act of keeping a list that caused Ann to pick up on the "gay themed" articles in the Thursday edition. Perhaps that's because gay themes are now just part of the general culture, and like the weather you don't notice them unless something way out of the ordinary is going on. That's certainly true in NYC where, except for those who insist on making a public statement about sexuality, it's hard to know (and really no reason to care) whether a person, situation or theme is gay, straight or something else (life having gotten way more complicated than it used to be).

More than the "gay theme" stuff in Ann's main post, however, I was struck by Ann's comments about the qualities she still finds in the NYT. So many have gotten used to knocking the NYT coverage of specific topics, and its weird insistence on trying to create big news stories out of small events -- the campaign that Raines put on about the Masters golf tournament, and the refusal of Augusta Nat'l to admit women members was a classic, as the story appeared day after day on the front page -- that it's easy to forget the many strengths of the NYT. I read the NYT daily for 25 years, but don't read it regularly anymore -- I look at it during the work week on the web briefly most days, don't miss the TimesSelect stuff, and usually skim the Sunday edition in print. I stopped partly because NYC has an abundance of other sources of good journalism, partly because I got tired of the constant lectures disguised as "news analysis," and partly because I wanted to devote my reading time to better stuff than journalism. Still, it's nice to be reminded how good it can be. So, thank you, Ann, for the reminder. Ann is certainly right that the web would be a poorer place without the NYT (even if it didn't publish her stuff, but I'm glad it does).

The Drill SGT said...

One wonders however, how long the NYT will be around in its current incarnation. I saw the other day that they are selling off their very profitable (33% operating profit on a dollar of revenue) TV stations to "focus on print and online pubs".

Just go to Morningstar or some other stock analysis site and see that NYT stock has lost half its value in the last 5 years or so while the WaPo has increased.

Pinch is running the family business into the ground, even ignoring the changes in editorial tone and the rampant bias of the paper.

Note: I subscribe on weekends to keep my wife happy

Fatmouse said...

Why does the gay community have a lot of disposable income?

Besides not having kids, the overwhelming attribute common attribute of the majority of gays is that they live in dense, urban cores. This means:

1. They have a higher income, period, as opposed to those living in rural areas.
2. They rent, so their money isn't invested in real estate and its maintenance.

Fatmouse said...

Heh, remove one of the "attributes" in the last post. :P

the pooka said...

Ann --

You know you counted "1..2..3..5"?


The Drill SGT said...


The first point makes perfect sense. I'm not convinced about the second however. The conventional wisdom being that home ownership is the single most important factor in building wealth

knoxgirl said...

It's time to get rid of "Don't ask, don't tell" already. It's an embarassment.

As is any policy that denies a person who wants to serve their country.

knoxgirl said...

drill sgt, would you share your take on gays in the military? I respect your opinion and would like to know the viewpoint of someone with real-world experience.

Joseph Hovsep said...

There are currently 119 co-sponsors for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R.1059), which would replace Don't Ask Don't Tell with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. (see

Only six of the 119 co-sponsors are Republicans (Boehlert, Gilcrest, Hastings, Kolbe, Ros-Lehtinen, Shays), two of whom are retiring this year. Democrats have hardly been gay rights pioneers, but its clearly the Republicans who are keeping Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on the books.

Elizabeth said...

I second that, knoxgirl. Most people go into the military out of a variety of reasons: family tradition, love for country, and desire to serve are high on that list. Shouldn't we honor those values across our whole population?

Drill Sgt., I'm suspicious of that whole assumption that gays have more disposable income, or at least that gays have some sort of high-falutin' lifestyle. I certainly don't. As the song says, "There's too much month at the end of the money."

I live in an urban area, but it means higher costs than if I lived in a less-populated area. I don't have child-rearing expenses, but many, many of my gay friends do. I have family expenses, though, with elderly parents and with helping out with siblings' kid expenses (school tuition, band uniforms, etc.) As for renting, we rent because we can't afford the downpayment and insurance involved in buying right now. But again, I don't see any trends among my gay or straight friends that confirm gays rent and straights buy. That just seems nonsensical.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think that gays and lesbians have more disposable income to the extent they are less likely to raise kids, but I think its generally a misperception that gays and lesbians have lots of money to throw around. I think the myth stems from the kinds of gay images that tend to be shown in the popular media: highly-educated, childless, white gay men (e.g., Will & Grace), who do in fact tend to have more disposable income than average, but so do highly educated, childless, white straight men, the explanation for which is independent of sexuality. And there are other factors that diminish gay wealth, such as the lower propensity to form couples and consolidate wealth and expenses, the less secure access to health insurance, tax disadvantages, etc.

Fatmouse said...

The Drill SGT,

You mentioned disposable income - a home is more of an investment, and the more one spends on a mortgage and home upkeep, the less one has for luxuries. It pays off in the long run, but for isn't appealing for those who want to spend their money on fun stuff now.

The Drill SGT said...


I gave my opinion away in my last question.

Do well educated gays come out more than blue collar gays, thus altering the perceived gay income distribution?

I think it's an iceberg thing. That there are a lot of blue collar gays in the closet, and that skews the perception.

I do agree though now that I think about it, that gays are much more urban, and thus therefore more visible as well.

and we have the mass media, trendiness, that tends to raise visibility (positive and negative)

The Drill SGT said...

drill sgt, would you share your take on gays in the military? I respect your opinion and would like to know the viewpoint of someone with real-world experience.

Mixed opinions. As public policy, I think we should allow open gays in the military.

On a personal level, I have gay friends in civilian life, but have seen some portents of additional problems that will become more visible once we stop , don't ask don't tell.

An example: The military has basic problems enforcing its non-fraternization policy among straight men/women. The policy varies from service to service and should be made consistent, but at the simplest level.

1. don't date somebody in your chain of command (above or below you)
2. officers don't date enlisted.

now with hetero fraternization, things are a bit more visible than gay fraternization so:

Once don't ask don't tell is abolished, expect the numbers of fraternization cases gay and hetero to go through the roof as the military attempts to control good order and discipline via another mechanism.

knoxgirl said...


chuck b. said...

Elizabeth said, "I'm suspicious of that whole assumption that gays have more disposable income, or at least that gays have some sort of high-falutin' lifestyle. I certainly don't."

Of course she's repeating the talking points of Homosexual High Command.

The fact is that most of us make good money selling Christian children into white slavery.

Imo, the more we can talk about this, the easier it is to demystify the lifestyle. And that really helps with recruitment.

Stay focused on the numbers, people. We can make 2007 another banner year.

RogerA said...

I am shocked...shocked!! are you telling me that all gay men are NOT rich florists or interior designers? Some serve in the military? Wow--who knew! Does Karl Rove know about this?

Steven said...

the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy

I hate that phrase. The military takes orders. Sodomy is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice not because some generals decided to put it there, but because Congress, under its power "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces", said so.

Are there people in the military opposed to a change? Sure. But they don't get a vote. It's Congress's policy, not the military's, that persons engaging in homosexual acts are criminals. Under that condition, which the military cannot alter, the military policy of offering discharges instead of prosecuting is lenient and tolerant.

Unless, of course, one's position is that the military should ignore civilian control whenever its orders are unjust. Me, I'd rather not have the military adopting a policy of ignoring the laws of the United States.

Elizabeth said...

chuckb, I've reported your breach of Eyes Only intelligence to the High Command and you should be hearing the rap of stillettos on the stairs soon.

Drill Sgt., I don't know whether to trust the assumption that more white-collar gays are out of the closet over blue collar. I have seen plenty of exceptions on both sides. There are white collar gays who have success and social status as a motivation to stay in the closet, in fact to marry and live double lives. I have met quite a few such folks here in New Orleans, where there's still a small strata of society that sees itself as aristocratic. On the other hand, most of the gay people I know are a mix of working class and middle class professionals. The urban thing happens because young gay people tend to leave those little towns, whether out of fear, discretion (worrying about either embarrasing their parents or being rejected by them), and to meet other gay people. But there are magazines, social groups, and events that cater especially to rural gay people, so they're out there, living their lives on their farms and in their small towns.

tjl said...

"I don't know whether to trust the assumption that more white-collar gays are out of the closet over blue collar."

An interesting question. As a lawyer living in a big city, it seems that most of the gay people I know are white-collar. But social networks are built in a way that makes it more likely you'll meet people who resemble you.

However, lots of time spent in bars back in my single days proved that there was a much broader social spectrum in the gay world than you might think. In addition to the expected doctors, lawyers, teachers, and so on, there were mechanics, cops, Marines, and similar types. In some ways it's the most egalitarian society imaginable because money matters far less than certain other assets.

There's lots of potential grist here for some academic's mill.

boston70 said...

You should also consider the fact that it is still a New York City paper. And NYC happens to have one of the largest, most visible gay populations in the world. Could it be that the paper just is catering to a large base who reads the paper.
As a gay man I read the paper everyday also. Not because of any gay themes but because I enjoy many of the international stories which are not in most american papers.
If they throw in a gay story here and there all the better for me personally and many of my gay friends who also read the paper.
Many of the large industries are dominated by gay people: interior design, fashion, retail, publishing, media, academics, public relations and also non-stereotypical areas: Wall Street, construction, science, health care.
It is refreshing to know there is a city in this country that is not obsessed about gay people's sex lives.
What major american city would have a "republican" mayor who supports gay marriage and a previous mayor who has dressed in drag multiple times and lived with a couple of gay guys during 9/11?

Ann Althouse said...

Boston70: I don't get your point. I read the NYT every day. It struck me that the gay stories were clustered on Thursday. You're not responding to that. Of course, I understand that there will be over time a lot of gay stories (which is obviously fine with me). I'm just saying they all hit on Thursday!

boston70 said...


As far as the gay theme stories being "clustered" I really don't have an answer for that. I am not sure why that is the case. Maybe the paper thinks it will sell more papers with these articles being "clustered".

My point was just that NYC has a large gay population and gay stories probably sell fairly well in NYC because of the larger population within many of the industries within NYC.

For me personally, I really don't follow many "gay theme stories".

For the most part gay stories bore me unless something tragic (Matthew Shepard) happens. Then I get pissed.

Recently, the NYT had an obituary for one of the dancers that started the "Vogue" scene back in the 80's named Willie Ninja. That story did interest me-he was supposed to work with Madonna when she stole "Voguing" from the black drag queens (who also tended to be pretty poor, not your sterotypical affluent gays).

I do believe that some gay people feel affirmation or support when reading gay stories in the papers and I can understand that.

boston70 said...

I do want to complement you. I do appreciate that you respond to your readers in the "comments" section. It is refreshing for a blogger to do this and sets you apart from many of the bloggers out there.
I don't agree with all of your politics but I think you are pretty cool.

Ann Althouse said...

I wasn't especially looking for the gay theme. As I said in the original post, I just make a list of articles that interest me. Today, I looked at my list and saw a gay theme and got to wondering if they deliberately saved them up for Thursday.

downtownlad said...

I'd say it's more coincidence, but we'll have to look for a trend.

If I want to look for gay news, there are hundreds of web sites to go to for that. I wouldn't have known to have looked for the New York Times on Thursday.

Also - I do like the Home section, but the fashion section means nothing to me. I think it's mostly straight women who read that. Many gay men are interested in fashion - but I don't think they read the New York Times for that. I don't.

As for gay safe schools, I was pleased to see that my school was in the top 20. Unfortunately, I was in the closet then - but even in the late 80's, I remember that it was extremely gay friendly. And if a high school student is out of the closet, I don't see how in the world he could ignore the gay friendliness of a school. Like he's supposed to choose Oral Roberts University over a gay friendly school, because it theoretically has a better religion department? Give me a break. Straight people are absolutely clueless about the abuse gay people can receive from bigots. Why should they deliberately subject themselves to that?

Heck - I won't even visit the bigot states that pass anti-marriage amendments.

downtownlad said...

And I think Duke only made the list of top gay-friendly colleges, because they have cute Lacrosse players . . .

RogerA said...

Holy Smokes!! I had a synapse fire. It seems to me when I was in High School (1957-1959) there was a thing that the students did: "queers" wear green on Thursday...if you wore green you were tagged as "Queer" and harrassed. Maybe thats the Gay Thursday link?