New York Times vs. Washington Post

I have to pinch myself as I write this but I am becoming a fan of the New York Times (NYT).  At least a fan of  NYT reporters.

I am clearly a fan of Rachel Saltz, who reviews Bollywood films for the New York Times (see our articles on June 7 and May 10 about her reviews of Bollywood films).  Take a read of her review this morning of “Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic” (“A little love, A little magic“) at
movies.nytimes.com/2008/06/28/movies/28magi.html?ref=movies

On June 21, I showcased articles from the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times about a potential deal between Reliance ADA Group and Dreamworks. On June 23, Heather Timmons of the New York Times published the best article I have read on this deal ( (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/23/business/media/23dreamworks.html?pagewanted=1&sq=bollywood&st=nyt&scp=1&adxnnlx=1214621566-%20BEDr4rTAe3kRgeWnw4Y8gI

Her key points are:


  • Companies like Reliance are looking to Hollywood to expand their portfolios and “create a new genre of crossover cinema” with talent from India and abroad,

  • Whether the company can change the inward-focused culture of the American movie business is an open question. Directors that have worked in both Hollywood and Bollywood say that the Indian emphasis on autonomy and innovation could have a strong impact on Hollywood.

  • “I have complete and total creative freedom to do what I’m doing,” said Vidhu Vinod Chopra, director of “Eklavya,” an Indian entry in the best foreign-language film category at this year’s Academy Awards. Mr. Chopra recently signed a two-movie deal with Reliance Entertainment for close to $100 million.”Could you think of a studio in the United States that would give me $100 million and give me creative freedom?” he asked. “Even if they wanted to, I don’t think they could. I don’t think the system would permit them to do it.”
Another New York Times reporter I like is Andrew Ross Sorkin, a business reporter for the NYT.

Traditionally, the New York Times has been compared with the Washington Post, another celebrated newspaper. I read the New York Times and the Washington Post every day.  In all candor, I  do not think the Washington Post is in the same league.as the New York Times. The articles in the Washington Post come across as parochial especially when compared to those in the New York Times. 

Crystallization of views usually requires a trigger. In my case, there were two. The first was an interview by Jay Mathews, an education reporter for the Washington Post on CNBC. Mr. Mathews was accompanied by Bob Compton, executive producer of the education documentary  “Two Million Minutes”. The topic was “U.S. Schools: Passing or Failing?”.  It was a serious interview on a serious topic. The debate between these two points if view is worth watching at www.cnbc.com/id/15840232?video=770111630&play=1

The other trigger for me was the article on Sanskrut on June 19 in the Washington Post. Written by Rama Lakshmi of the Washington Post Foreign Service, this article, right in its headline, calls Sanskrut a “Hindu language” and questions its relevance in today’s India. The content of this article can be justified on reasonability grounds. But, the tone and the subliminal message of casting Sanskrut rasiks as old-fashioned Hindus not in touch with modernity is typical of a particular community of thought. 

It is this article that led me to write a series of posts in this blog about the renaissance of Sanskrut in US, Europe and China. You can read Rama Lakshmi’s article at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/14/AR2008061400892.html

I have some thoughts about why the New York Times is pulling so far ahead of the Washington Post. 


  • New York is a diverse city with a global outlook. Washington DC is still a parochial city focused inwards. 

  • New York competes with London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Mumbai every single day in finance, media, arts, trade and tourism.  Washington DC does not have to compete because it inherits its standing from the White House and the Congress.  Take away the seat of executive and legislative power. Washington DC will instantly become a trivial city.

  • New York is a stunningly diverse city. Just take the subway one day and see for yourself. Washington DC is far more ethnically concentrated. This lack of diversity shows up in the outlook of the Washington Post.
The fact is that New York is a self-confident city that builds and sustains its own magic whereas Washington DC is an inheritor of history. In any society and in any field, I will take a builder over an inheritor any day.

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