The Breakfast Table

Hard Questions


Your comments raise the larger issue of how journalists are doing their jobs. Reporters need to bring more nuance and depth to social issues, as Ehrenreich did in Harper’s. Her piece, describing a month she spent undercover as a server in greasy spoons, has some of the virtues you found in Stephen Kinzer’s Times reporting. It is thoughtful, unflinching, and heavily shaded with compassion. It focuses tightly on people who lead small yet finely textured lives. I couldn’t help thinking about “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men,” which I know is a particular specialty of yours.

I doubt many writers could have pulled off the stunt without seeming foolish. More to the point, most publications wouldn’t give them the column inches. A friend recently pointed out, “It’s as if the war is over and USA Today won.” When was the last time you heard someone complain about the fracturing of information into bite-size chunks–the sorts of items USA Today itself proudly called “McNuggets”? Now even the New York Times is full of them (though I’ll grumpily admit that I like the way the Times has been using color).

I seem to have run out of steam for the moment. Will load up on indignation as I await your thoughts.