Bugs Bug Me in the Air … and in Print
New Year's Resolutions for my Beloved New York Times
I don’t mean to bug anyone, but some issues have been troubling me for a long time. So, in hopes of redress, I’m sending this letter to the new publisher of The New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger.
Dear Mr. Sulzberger:
Please accept my heartfelt congratulations on your ascension to the helm of the Gray Lady. What a terrific promotion, one that comes at such a critical time for The New York Times and our nation.
As a lifelong subscriber, I wish you the best of success. In addition, I would like to offer a few suggestions, call them New Year’s resolutions, you might consider implementing ASAP.
Before I begin, do you mind if I call the paper “The?” I feel we should be on a first-name basis since I’ve been reading The since, well, since I was old enough to read. My family always subscribed to The even when we lived out West and had to have the paper mailed to us in the dark ages before regional printing presses and the Internet.
Turning first to the Tuesday Science Section: Let me preface my remarks by affirming: I believe in evolution. I believe in vaccinations. I believe climate change is real.
That said, I must speak out on behalf of a neglected group of readers who—each week—are cruelly assaulted by your Sci-editors. I speak, of course, of those suffering from Insectophobia (also known as Entomophobia). I know of their pain because I am one of them. I also speak on behalf of those afflicted by two subset phobias, those who fear bees (Apiphobia) and those who fear ants (Myrmecophobia).
If you seek more information about these conditions, I direct you to the DSM-5 (or you can ask your Sci-editors), but you should at the very least know that an estimated 6% of people in the U.S. suffer from bug phobias.
Yet, your Science Section continually features buggy blurbs or lengthy stories with photographs. One week, it’s “ticks trapped in amber;” other week, it’s “ingenious insects—a fly that carries its own scuba gear.” Write about insects if you must. Just ditch the pics.
The November 14th issue was frankly beyond my ability to cope. There, on the section’s first page—above the fold—was a humongous color picture of a fly. Inside, more fly photos AND to add the proverbial insult to profound injury, a small fly photo “graced” the front page of the paper promoting the story. There was no way to avoid contact with the infernal, infested article entitled “A Trillion Flies Can’t Be All Bad.” Well, yes, they can and I’m still having nightmares over the photos, the title, and the idea of a trillion flies.
Once The even snuck an insect story into my beloved Arts Section. “One Insect’s Colorful Role in the History of Painting.” Perhaps the article was interesting. I don’t know. I didn’t read it or any of the Arts Section that day. Bugs infesting the Arts Section. That was a low blow.
I asked my husband to pre-screen the Sci-Section and place appropriately-sized Post-it notes over the insect images. Yet, while he promptly responds to my house-shaking screams to kill bugs, he refused this swat-free, squash-free request. Instead, he told me to, you guessed it, “Bug off.”
The result: All too often, I discard—in dismay and disgust—the entire Science Section. I’m sure I’ve missed lots of worthwhile Science-y stuff, but I just cannot risk these assaults on my insect-sensitive sensibilities.
So, I ask you, Mr. Sulzberger, with readership slipping, do you really want loyal readers like me to consistently avoid the Tuesday The, because of this cruel insensitivity to our plight?
And while I hate to pick on the Science Section, I must voice a second concern. While I appreciate the newsworthiness of diseases, epidemics and treatment plans, photographs of people—especially children—getting injections make me wince. Do you think readers fail to grasp the concept of immunizations without such photos? I promise you, we are a smart bunch. Please skip needling us with shot shots.
Regarding the Wednesday Food Section, I have just one objection: The seems to be devoting lots of coverage lately to restaurants in Brooklyn. Why? Don’t those B-hipsters have their own online Brooklyn-ish publications to pursue and peruse? Why must their dining-out needs invade the pages of my beloved Manhattan-based The?
Not to Bug You too Much, but …
Turning to the Thursday Style Section, I must voice two complaints: First, although I consider myself a stylish, “with it” woman, I increasingly find nothing I can relate to in The’s Style. Maybe coverage always skewed young. Maybe I’m only lately old, but still …
Now I appreciate The’s need to attract a younger demographic, but let me ask you: which group holds the discretionary cash to buy the pricey goods and services you tout? It’s us older gals. How about a little more space and stuff for us? Style recently did throw us middlers a bone with “You’re Getting Better with Age. Your Makeup Should, Too,” but all too frequently section editors spotlight the skin care regimes of 25-year-olds. The only thing that interests me about those articles is the question of how those youngsters can afford the $500 creams they slather on their faces.
My second Style Section gripe in some ways contradicts my comment about us older babes having the cash to spend on a whim. While that’s true, we’re not suckers. We do know the value of a dollar or ten or one hundred. Some of the featured merchandise is ridiculously overpriced. A recent example: a smoked glass vase on stilts (!), which can be used for flowers, fruits or whatnot. “And it’s so unobtrusive, (gushed your writer) it will work on just any table.” At $650, I think not about that whatnot.
And can we dish about Modern Love, more particularly about the criteria for selecting Modern Love essays? On behalf of the thousands of us whose submissions have never been published, can’t you show some pity? Perhaps you could run a list of Honorable Mentions or create an award for “People Who Keep Sending in Essays Despite Decades of Rejection?” Must I die before I see my name in print in The? (And yes, I know that even then my family will have to pay for one of those pricey memorial obituaries.)
I felt particularly slighted when The rejected my essay submitted in honor of Modern Love’s 13th anniversary. I understand you received 10,000+ submissions and that the chances of being selected were slimmer than acceptance to Harvard Medical School. But that said, I read the ones you printed and no disrespect to the individuals who wrote them, but honestly, I thought my contribution also merited publication.
Perhaps in the flood of submissions, The Love missed my 13-word epic. Just in case that’s what happened, I’m giving you all a second chance. Here it is:
Cowboy boots met Louboutin.
Boots were très cute.
He wooed. We wed.
And one final, seasonal lament: How is it that I, an avid reader of high-brow tomes, rarely succeed in reading one-tenth of the books selected on your annual 100 Notable Books list? Do you hack my iBook purchase list and deliberately pick books I haven’t read just to heighten my sense of inferiority? Don’t you do enough damage with the Modern Love essay rejections and the youth-focused Style and Brooklyn-hipster Food sections?
Now, Mr. Sulzberger, I am a reasonable reader. I understand you cannot address all my concerns overnight, but would you please at least heed my concerns about the insect and immunization photos? Please don’t make me switch allegiance and subscribe to The Washington Post. And please don’t make me go all Oxford comma on you!
A lifelong, faithful, and, until recently, happy reader,
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