I spent the weekend with my head under the kitchen sink, experiencing that loop of doom that makes old San Francisco houses so charming. The drain was stopped up, so I figured I'd pull the trap and clean it out, but the pipe broke in half the minute I tried to unscrew it. When I bought a new one, the pipe it attached to started to crumble, and when I replaced that one, the seals on the next pipe were shot, and after the third trip to Cole Hardware, I realized that I was going to have to pull out all of the kitchen plumbing and replace everything.
So I was lying there on my back, with dirty water and little pieces of whatever foul gunk had adhered to the insides of the old pipes dripping into my eyes, and all of the Sunday ads and advertorial sections of the Chronicle next to me to sop up the mess, and I started thinking about why I subscribe to The New York Times.
We've considered cutting it off it costs a lot of money, and we're trying not to spend a lot of money these days. Also, if I want to, I can find all the entire paper on the Web anyway. I don't even get most of my world news from the Times; I read the British papers, the Guardian and The Independent.
But every morning while I'm sitting at the counter eating my breakfast, I turn to the Times op-ed page and get some of the most intelligent, interesting insight and commentary you're going to find on a single sheet of paper anywhere in the world. And I thought: If the Times was in such dire financial straights that it had to fire half its staff, and Bob Herbert was one of the unfortunate souls chosen for a pink slip, I'd be joining the national uproar. There would be petitions, and editors' inboxes would be jammed with e-mail, and marchers would mass in Times Square.
Ditto Paul Krugman, who is one of the few prominent economists in America who isn't full of shit. And Thomas Freidman, who is sometimes full of shit but thinks so clearly and makes such cogent arguments that it's a pleasure to get mad at him. And Nicholas Kristof, who routinely travels to some of the nastiest places on the planet to bring back the stories of how American policy affects human beings who otherwise would have remained in the shadows for life. That page alone is worth $1 a day; in fact, it's one of the greatest bargains on Earth.
I don't know whom the Chronicle is going to fire March 31 when the cutbacks are supposed to happen. I have kinda, sorta friends there, and there are some good, honest reporters, and I hope they all survive. But is there any political opinion columnist whose pending demise would get me out of my chair to a rally? Uh, no.
I love Jon Carroll, but he writes a lot about cats and mondegreens and there's a good reason he isn't on the op-ed page. Debra Saunders? Sorry, she's an idiot. (And not just because I disagree with her William Safire is one of my favorite writers ever. Saunders? Idiot.) C.W. Nevius? Belongs in the suburbs. John Diaz? Eh. Whatever.
I still pay for the Chron, but I'm not surprised that hardly anyone else I know does.