Earning a first person voice reporting for the NY Times

The New York Times has been the world's greatest newspaper for some time now, but also has a long tradition of formality — speaking of all public figures as Mr. This and Mrs That. Even if the rest of the world is on a first name basis with LeBron and Hillary. 

Another aspect of this formality is a reluctance to allow its reporters to use the first person. 

That's changing. Now it appears — for example, last week in the Science Times section, and occasionally other sections — veteran Times people can write in the first person on the front page. When it's appropriate, and even if they're not writing a column.

Here's a wonderful recent example:

The Republican Party has long claimed to be the champion of business, large and small, and an advocate for fiscal responsibility. Yet now Republicans in Congress have precipitated a shutdown of the federal government and are threatening to let the nation default on its once Triple-A-rated debt.

How could this be?

Since no one in Washington seems to be listening to anyone on the other side of the standoff, I spent much of the week listening to voters and business people in Iowa’s Fourth Congressional District, a sprawling, mostly agricultural region that runs from Sioux City, on the Nebraska border, to Mason City, close to Minnesota in the northwest quadrant of the state. I picked the district because its representative in Congress, the Republican Steve King, has been one of the most outspoken advocates for blocking Obamacare, even if that means shutting down the government or defaulting on the national debt.

Great lead from James B. Stewart. Such a respectful approach to interviewing. Why not? 

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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