Krazy Kevorkian’s Klinik

This is a pretty blatant plug for Jack K’s new weight-loss clinic. Huge party on circle 6: Jack looked exactly the way he looked topside. The launch party for the “klinik” was a smash. All 130 of Jack’s “patients” were there, lined up like Riverdance and dancing their legs off, literally. They served ribs. It was more a homecoming than a reception. All the docs were there. Ran into Mengele, Wirths and Tiller making “ash angels.” What a scream.

I asked him how he liked the new scene. “Love it!” he said. “Can’t wait until Geoff Fieger gets his butt down here.” As if circle 3, the so-called “Lawyer Loop,” isn’t crowded enough.

Posted 04.06.2011 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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Pinch and Jill go up a hill…

…but only one comes down.

I’m begging the kid to let me put strings on Abramson’s back. Her first quote as the new Howell Keller, and she’s eating her shoes.

“In my house growing up, the Times substituted for religion,” said Abramson, the former Washington bureau chief. “If the Times said it, it was the absolute truth.”

The bell on circle 8 started ringing before she even got to “the absolute truth.” The pneumatic tube – we call it the “Pinch pipe – the kid usually uses to send Herb Matthews and me Krugman’s columns for fact-improvement and Friedman’s columns for translation into English suddenly coughs up a kidney with a tag on it reading “Peters”. Poor Jeremy was being eviscerated for reporting what his new boss said.

Then comes more paper. Pinch is writing corrections again. I grab the last one to drop. He’s written “Better???” across the top of this:

CORRECTION: Because of an editing error, Jill Abramson’s claim that the Times “substituted for religion” in her house was misreported. Ms. Abramson actually said that in her house, the Times substituted for puppy carpet, but that the entire family worshipped the dog. The Times already regrets its error.

What the hell can you do? I read the thing to Matthews. He listens, then says, “Well, ‘dog’ spelled backwards…I get it. I hope the mutt goes for Pinch’s face.”

Better Pinch’s than Keller’s, I suppose. We yanked the quote and packed Kevorkian’s kidney into poor Jeremy.


Posted 03.06.2011 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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No room on the ropes!

I’m tired of sitting in the basement of 620 Eighth Ave. bailing out Pinch. It’s no secret that we’re in trouble. In fact, it’s barely been six weeks since Jeremy Peters wrote the pre-obit for the paper, and already the ropes dangling from the newsroom are filled with departing rats. Net income down 57 percent? Losses in every franchise? That’s news that fits? I told Pinch to kill the story, but the kid told me the upside part of the story would sell:

The Times did report growth in one significant area. In the first glimpse at how its digital subscription plan is faring, the company said it had signed up more than 100,000 subscribers since March 28, when it began limiting the number of articles that visitors to could read free. While it said the program was still too young to be declared a success, early signs indicated that readers were responding well.

Well, 100,000 subscribers! Except for this:

The New York Times has built in one more loophole to its online pay-meter scheme that it did not mention yesterday: Interstitial ads from Lincoln on The Times’ website are offering some readers “Free, Unlimited Access to” for the rest of the year.

The value of that offer is close to $150. There’s no catch, either — you just have to be selected.

The offer will be made to about 200,000 of the Times’s heaviest online readers who aren’t home delivery subscribers, according to Lincoln, which expects about 100,000 people will actually activate it.

“Pinch,” I said, “it’s not good news when you offer a $150 subscription to the paper to 200,000 people and only half take it. But to admit that all your paywall ‘customers’ have climbed over with comp tickets in their hands?”

He didn’t want to hear it. “The Lincoln stuff isn’t in there, Walter,” he said.

“But the Dollar-Tree traffic is,” I said. “How are you going to convert them to Tiffany customers?”

He puts on his best quizzical face: “What’s Dollar Tree?” Sometimes, I feel like he’s the one who’s been dead for fifty years. Anyway, when Peters’ piece ran, which ad did Google serve up on the page? As Lucifer’s my witness: an ad for True story.

So now it’s first-rat-to-the-rope. First, it was the drama critic-who-wanted-to-be-Dowd, Frank Rich. Not even the paper’s stalwart tribe of aging, pet-doting women, the cat-talkers, could stand to read that guy.

Then it was that Schott kid. Ben. You have to figure that when even the funny-words columnist decides it’s time to go, it’s time to go. You don’t need a walking Roget’s when the writing on the wall says, “Emergency Exit.”

As the jumpers lined up on the window ledges, Pinch panicked and started loading the place with helium hacks. The new Frank Rich is the restaurant guy, Frank Bruni. How is he better than Rich? To quote the paper, “Mr. Bruni, 46, is the first openly gay Op-Ed columnist in The Times’s 160-year history.” That’s the kind of line that makes closets scream. (Dan Schorr was telling me he could hear Frank Rich saying, “Dang!” all the way down here.) To really boost Bruni’s self-esteem, his boss, Andy Rosenthal, pointed out that the new guy was “not a replacement for anyone or anything.” Anything? Not even an office chair? Not even Frank Rich?

Then yesterday, Pinch calls. He’s in one of those self-pitying moods of his: “Do you know the story of beauty and the beast?”

Yeah, Pinch. What about it?

“Beauty has left the building.” And five minutes later, Keller’s down the rope. Better down it than at the end of it, I say.

This morning, Gerry Boyd comes shuffling up, all depressed about Jill Abramson taking over for Keller: “Ms. Abramson will be the first woman to be editor in the paper’s 160-year history,” Peters wrote.

And obviously, she’s a replacement for something, as she was once before. “It wasn’t enough for her to be the new Gerald Boyd,” Boyd says to me. “Now she gets to be the new Howell Raines, too. Some people have all the luck.”

Jill’s not one.


Posted 02.06.2011 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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Having a problem reading my dispatches?

Repeat after me: “Pay. Wall.”

That’s right. The Times has put me behind (and slightly under) its new stainless steel pay wall designed to keep poor, immigrant Mexicans and the unemployed from reading the Paper of Record. If you’d like access, send a check for $0.37 to Pinch Charming, the boss’s kid. Include a note saying, “This is to help with the Duranty problem.” He’ll know what you mean. My latest stuff will flow like lava on Etna. I mean that literally.

Just to entice you, I will say that I went to lunch with Gail and MoD. Same thing, every time: The Hot Flash special – soy and estrogen on a bed. Collins told jokes about her cat that weren’t funny. Dowd cougar-talked butts.

Posted 10.04.2011 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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The exoneration desk

Well, so much for my “mission.” By the time I’d responded to even one-tenth the references to me as a “useful idiot,” there was no time for drinks with Herb Matthews, not to mention my Brazilian. If I don’t get that wax once every 12 hours, I really start to itch. Hate that.

Besides, Bill and Pinch were doing suicide shots after it turned out Loughner, the dimwit in Tucson, wasn’t a right-wing crazy after all. He was a nihilist crazy, whatever the hell that means. What kind of a nihilist thinks nihilism has any meaning? Who knows. No way to find out, either: the Nietzche compound on 5 is completely surrounded by Dobermans, plus there’s syphilis in the groundwater, even. If I wanted that, I’d just pee in my corn flakes.

So I start getting worried notes from Pinch. “How do I play my Krugman?” “Any ideas about how we can make Rich more interesting?” “Who gave Charles Blow a job? He sucks.” Pinch gets all strategic when things go south. Keller, on the other hand, does a full-Smithers.

So we do meetings. Pinch suggests something – “Say, how about an op-ed by Loughner? If we just can get him to stay on the anti-gov theme, we’ll look good. Or maybe Charlie Manson on Loughner? Edgy!” Bill’s already on the phone to Squeaky.

My idea’s better. “We create an exoneration desk.” There’s, like, stunned silence. Keller hangs up the phone and pulls his pants back on. There’s something delicious in feeding useless idiots small morsels of useful genius. They physically freeze, like the idea’s so monumentally good they can’t breathe. “Give me two futureless reporters – maybe a guy covering cable TV and a guy writing about how magazines give prisoners meaningful lives by providing a place for them to send letters. Give me those and I’ll give you an exoneration desk. Every now and them we make them write stories that exonerate us of doing such a crappy job running a paper.”

Keller’s all worried looking. Whenever he asks what to him are searching questions, he has this really disconcerting habit of unbuttoning his short and looking into his navel while speaking. “Do we do a crappy job?”

“Idiot,” says Pinch. “You do a crappy job.”

“Of course,” says Keller, suddenly enlightened. He looks happy. Then he looks worried again. “Frank won’t like it.”

I explain it to them. “Look, if you lost Walter Cronkite, you could say you lost America. But if you lose Frank Rich, you can be sure you’ve lost nothing. Who cares about a guy who’s been throwing the same tantrum for twenty years? Frank’s a one-note samba, a one-trick pony, a one-fortune cookie. Frank’s not news.

“We need real news. What’s news is that The New York Times avoids the pitfalls that plague the competition! That’s news.” I wait for the coin to drop. With Pinch, you have to slow things down. The idea always has to be his.

He tries to look pensive, but that boyish grin just won’t sleep. “I like it!” he says. “It’s worth a story just to report that we got the news right. So what if that’s not quite accurate? That’s not news.”

So that’s how Peters and Stelter got their new gig. Pulitzers have been made with less. Ask me.

So I’m back home this week doing rewrites for Krugman. Much harder than rewriting Freidman. Nobody knows what Friedman’s talking about, so you can say anything. With Krugman, you have to marry the earnestness of a TED lecture with the economic wisdom of a Madoff. I get extra for that.

Posted 17.01.2011 by Pultizer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty
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