The Sun Rises
It’s not every day that a new daily hits New York City. Hell, it’s not even every decade. The last one was New York Newsday, a laudable attempt to extend Long Island westward; it took a decade (and the sale of its parent company) for the suburban interloper to get beaten back.
Now comes the resurrected Sun, courtesy of Lord Conrad Black, a Canadian press baron with British monarchist pretentions. Black has been looking for a New York foothold for several years; he made a run at buying the Daily News and the liberal-ish weekly The Observer. But even Newsday was a tabloid, though a tabloid of a very high journalistic order. The Sun is a broadsheet; no one can remember the last broadsheet launch in New York.
The Sun is led on the editorial side by Seth Lipsky and Ira Stoll. Lipsky was a big deal at the Wall Street Journal, founding its Asian edition. He and Stoll met while working at at The Forward, of all places. The Forward has quite a history of its own: the Yiddish daily was founded in 1897, and now comes out every week in separate English and Yiddish editions. The masthead lists Lipsky as Founding Editor; quite an accomplishment at the dawn of the 21st century for a newspaper that started in the late 19th.
The Sun makes no bones about being a conservative counterbalance to The Times. The question (aside from the fundamental one of how these guys think they can survive) is just how far to the right the Sun will be. A website run by Stoll, www.smartertimes.com, has for the last year or so provided whiny and picky objections to The Times’ coverage. There is a long tradition of liberal Republicanism in New York, best represented by the late Sen. Jacob Javits and the late Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. That both lions of the political philosophy can be referred to as “late” is one indication that it’s in trouble; that Republicanism these days seems to be represented by Sens. Tom DeLay and Mitch McConnell closes the argument.
OK, so what about the paper itself? The inaugural issue, Tuesday April 16th, was not encouraging.
It’s a seven-column design with spot color. Pretty good color — way better than what the Daily News had for years, until they learned how their presses work. The design is quite crowded; not a lot of white space, but more than legible. The whole thing was 18 pages, and included two junior-page ads from friends and family of the top editors. Such kvelling. Not too impressive. The back page ad was for the Wall Street Journal.
The paper, on its first day, was way feature-heavy. The front page included an interview with Lech Walesa, who spoke at a local college and who made absolutely no news. On the
other hand, the piece was written by Peggy Noonan — reason enough for a V1N1 to front it. Other fronted stories included a hookless news analysis about Sen. Clinton’s need to appeal to all branches of the Democratic Party, the legal fight over wine distrbution in New York, an interview of a leader of the Iraqi opposition, a pic of the pro-Israel rally in WA, an interview with Mayor Bloomberg, a eulogy for the metal-covered Rolodex (what?), and a piece about the state Assembly bringing up rent control a year before it has to.
Wire stories were from AP, Bloomberg, and the Daily Telegraph.
Several stories looked very much like news, but read like (at best) analysis, and not good analysis, either.
The interview with Bloomberg was entertaining. The questioner floated the idea of a private company building the Second Avenue Subway. The mayor sputtered for a while, and then said, “What are you smoking?” That was the title of the lead editorial, explaining why the owners are bothering with the whole enterprise. Given Bloomberg’s reluctant starring role in a current NORML ad campaign, I bet the mayor wishes he had another turn of phrase.
Business coverage was nearly nonexistent. Sports was light. No TV listings. An opera review. Long leaden history of the old Sun.
Super-easy crossword — Daily News/TV Guide quality. To their credit, they carried the solution to the Sun’s last puzzle: Jan 4, 1950. I didn’t have time to get to the library to check the microfilm.
The second day was much better. Bloomberg’s budget zero-ing out the construction budget for charter schools, a good AP story about the Middle East, the news that recycled glass in the city isn’t actually recycled, the possibility of a Brooklyn state senator switching to the Republican Party (particularly important as the Legislature passes redistricting), and a nice roundup of two elections that augur the future of liberal Republicanism. Another story covered a new book with a new theory of who turned in Anne Frank and family. The main picture was of a shirtless Brooklyn Borough President and Vulgarian Marty Markowitz kicking off a badly needed borough-wide diet. Can’t say that I want to see a nekkid Markowitz with my corn flakes, but that may be the exact idea.
Four corrections, two of them for omitted cutlines, one for a misspelling.
A full-page public service ad with serious type formatting problems. Someone didn’t check the Quark file….
You won’t feel informed about the world by reading the Sun. But you may very well learn something new about New York City.
It’s good to see the Sun again.