If There’s a Heaven, It’s Parody

Your neologismic servant, a spastic parodic — or is it “parodian” —, speaks his title. For one crowning moment, the Gray Lady really was “fake news.” An October surprise, so to speak.

In September 1978, a strike by pressmen had shut down New York’s major newspapers. In the resulting vacuum, a “living room full of New York writers… wrote, designed and distributed a satirical replica of The New York Times.”

In one parody column, the writer, walking past a pile of skulls to interview Genghis Khan, praised his ability to “get things done.” It took a “six-month investigation by a team of 35 Not The Times reporters” to determine that cocaine “appears popular.”

“The first person I called was the New Yorker writer Veronica Geng…. She came over and handed me the piece on the front page, ‘Carter Forestalls Efforts to Defuse Discord Policy.’” (Rusty Unger)

“I wrote the James Reston column. It wasn’t entirely about him, but it was about [the foreign correspondent and columnist] Cy Sulzberger and people like that who have this rather elevated view of the world, and were always meeting with princes and presidents, and giving the authoritative word on what’s going on.” (Frances FitzGerald)

“There was an air of secrecy about my involvement. I’m sure I told my parents, but not many other people. There was a great fear that The Times was going to hate this, and they would go off on some Trumpian purge of employees who’d had anything to do with it.” (Steven Crist)

“Nobody was being paid and nobody was going to get credit, and there was never a better atmosphere of creativity and freedom and camaraderie. Where are you going to find those parameters again?” (Rusty Unger)

(Alex Traub, “When All the Zingers Were Fit to Print,” NYTimes, 4-1-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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