Josna Rege

346. Keeping Up with The Times

In Family, people, reading, Stories, United States on October 16, 2015 at 10:29 am


My father-in-law Ted is and always has been an avid reader of The New York Times. He is a native New Yorker, and although long-resident in New England, he still has a fierce loyalty for his hometown newspaper. The Times structures his day. When a New England snowstorm buries his morning copy or otherwise disrupts its delivery, the order of his entire day is upset, and he spends much of it on the phone trying to determine what went wrong and when he can expect it to be set to rights. But when the day’s edition is tossed onto the ramp up to his front door on schedule, then all’s well with the world.

Ted’s routine begins immediately after breakfast. He works through the Times methodically, section by section, alert to the interests of his children and the friends with whom he corresponds on a regular basis. Along the way he marks articles of possible interest to one or another of them, clips them out, and puts them in an envelope labeled with their name. Over the years he has had me earmarked for clippings on medicinal herbs, the dangers thereof (his scientist’s corrective to my missionary zeal); writers: postcolonial, Indian, British; single authors: Doris Lessing, Ruth Rendell, Salman Rushdie; and anything to do with India. In 1993, when we spent six months in India, we received a fat envelope every few weeks from my father-in-law, containing all the Times’ stories on India in that period. He still clips them for me to pick up, but now emails me regularly to let me know that my envelope is getting full, or to give special mention to a noteworthy piece.

I am not the only lucky person who is the beneficiary of my father-in-law’s volunteer clipping service. For each of his children he fills large manila envelopes on mushrooms, mystery novels, and book design (Eve); Japan (Vera); computers (Dan), letterpress printing and the Red Sox’s progress (Andrew); and for his grandson, dispatches regular packets of clippings on films and filmmaking, poetry, and anything of interest happening in his beloved New York City.

UnknownAfter his work is done, he tackles the Times crossword, which starts out simply on Monday and gets progressively more challenging with each day of the week, culminating in a near-impossible one on Saturday. Sunday being a day of rest—relatively speaking, since of course there is the massive Sunday Times to get through—a more forgiving puzzle lets readers off the treadmill.

It was a proud day when Ted got a story published in the Times, a piece about the childhood games he played on the sidewalks of New York. Of course we all received a clipping of the piece, as did the members of Ted’s ex-New Yorkers group, who used to meet monthly to discuss a different topic related to the city of their birth.

Sadly, print journalism is in a steep decline these days, and major dailies have been doing away with their print editions at an alarming rate, cutting back to online only. The time-honored ritual of going through the morning papers may soon be a thing of the past. Instead, people will get their news piecemeal, from a number of different online sources. It feels like the end of an era, one in which a whole segment of the population shared “All the news that’s fit to print.”

Although I haven’t dared to break the sacrilegious news to Ted, my own father recently discontinued his longtime subscription to the Times. Why? It was getting too time-consuming. He felt compelled to go through it, since he had paid for it, but what with Rachel Maddow and the rest of the gang on MSNBC, India Abroad, the London Review of Books, and the occasional New Yorker, he was saturated with news already, and decided that he would rather spend the time on more serious literature, both in English and Marathi. But he is grateful for the weekly packet of New York Times clippings from Ted, which he and I now share, and the Sunday Times Book Review and Magazine (minus the crossword, of course), which Ted passes on to him every week when he has gone through it.

In the past, I too have been a near-obsessive collector of newspaper clippings. Half our attic and basement is filled with boxes of them, unread, yellowing, waiting for Godot.  Now I just wait for Ted’s weekly envelope. Thank you, dear Ted, for keeping us up with the Times!


A note on word choice:  In British English we say “cutting,” not “clipping.” Although I use the American term above, I’m fond of the British one as well. While the former puts me in mind of dead nail clippings, the latter conjures up plants and new growth.

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  1. As a UK resident I always have a double-take when I see the phrase The Times of London as, insular as I am, I assume there is only one ‘Times’! The New York Times is a different creature! Having said which, the NY Times is probably closer to my politics that the Murdoch rag.

    Cuttings: my father sent these to me when I was young. These days if I see a good article in the print version of the Saturday Guardian I know it’ll be there online to give the link to an interested party.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, good point! While for my father-in-law it goes without saying that the Times is the New York Times, in Britain, of course, the Times can only refer to Times of London. In India there is the highly-respected Times of India, but we must say the whole name to distinguish it from another daily, The Hindustan Times. And yes, paper cuttings are now rendered unnecessary by sending online links, even though the NYT tries to get people to pay for an online subscription if they send more than a certain number of links to others within a certain period.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So many dailies now want you to subscribe: I understand the commercial imperative (staff have to be paid, for example, and advertisers want to increase their revenue) but respect and applaud the altruistic stance of news organs such as the BBC and The Guardian which make their resources open to all.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a lovely and thoughtful habit! A tradition that has lasted that long shows the degree of love and care, not to mention devotion Ted has for the people he cares about.

    Sadly, I too have given up the newspaper and sadly too, the news these days seem to be written by semi-literates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, over the years there has been a documented dumbing-down of even the most respected newspapers. I think I heard quite some years ago that New York Times articles were now being written for a 7th-grade reading level. (Note to self: Must look that up before irresponsibly posting it online.)When I was in Germany last year I was heartened to find that this has not happened to the same degree there, where the weekly Die Zeit is an unashamedly highbrow paper.
      And yes, we are in danger of taking Ted’s habit for granted, but it indeed is a very thoughtful one. I would guess that for some of the faraway people to whom he sends clippings by post, his regular envelope is a rare arrival that is not a bill or junk mail.


  3. Hi again Thought you might get a kick out of this post…reminds me of you…in a good way!

    From: Tell Me Another To: Sent: Friday, October 16, 2015 9:29 AM Subject: [New post] Keeping Up with The Times #yiv6761615424 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv6761615424 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv6761615424 a.yiv6761615424primaryactionlink:link, #yiv6761615424 a.yiv6761615424primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv6761615424 a.yiv6761615424primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv6761615424 a.yiv6761615424primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv6761615424 | josna posted: “My father-in-law Ted is and always has been an avid reader of The New York Times. He is a native New Yorker, and although long-resident in New England, he still has a fierce loyalty for his hometown newspaper. The Times structures his day. When a New ” | |


  4. I love this post! When I am leading tours in Times Square, I always talk about the New York Times, the namesake of Times Square and urge my guests to buy a copy and take it to one of our parks along with a bagel before it is out of print. I am forwarding this to a friend who always sends me clippings from the Times and other publications with articles mostly about India. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You lead tours in Times Square as well, Nina? Should I contact you next time I have visiting relatives who want to see NYC?
      Thank you for your warm response. Yes, The NYT is a defining New York institution, and its demise would be as much of a loss as the demise of the real New York bagel. Cheers to your clipper friend!


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