The Grey Lady Is Engaged in Some Serious Housekeeping (2)

Earlier today the hardworking stuff noted that it’s catch-up time at the New York Times.

We mentioned the slowbituaries at Overlooked and the shutterbug portfolio published yesterday as Scenes Unseen: The Summer of ’78 .

What we forgot was this piece in the latest Times Style Magazine.

Six Times Journalists on the Paper’s History of Covering AIDS and Gay Issues

The New York Times had a spotty record of covering the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s — and gay culture in general. Times staffers reflect on the paper’s past, and what we can learn from it today.

Any newspaper must, by definition, aspire to be the “paper of record,” and yet when it came to this newspaper’s coverage of gay people and AIDS in the early ’80s — when the disease was morphing into a national crisis, and when rights that had been won a decade earlier, after the Stonewall Riots, were once again being jeopardized — The Times’s own record was checkered at best. Information about the spread of illness was often scant, judgmental or distressingly vague — even while reporters on the Science desk were trying their best with an ever-evolving story. The social and emotional toll of AIDS and the resulting queer movement were, when covered, often buried in the back of the newspaper (on a page called Styles of the Times), far from national news stories that were deemed important enough for the front page. Famously, it would take President Ronald Reagan more than four years to acknowledge the disease publicly. And it took until 1983 for The Times to run an article about the disease on Page A1, two years after the first reports of symptoms.

That story turned out to be a literal sidebar.

From July 3, 1981, the first article in The New York Times mentioning a “rare cancer.” Inset: Jeremy W. Peters

The rest of the Style Magazine piece includes topics ranging from “What Makes a Front-Page Story?” to “On Sex Clubs – And How to Cover Them.”

So the Times is having a real media culpa moment.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes out of cold storage next.

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