It all started with Louis C.K.
Specifically, an article in the New York Times Arts Beat blog* about how the prolific and hilarious stand up comedian Louis C.K. is going to stream his next stand up special on his website instead of going to HBO, Comedy Central or Showtime.
I posted this excerpt over at True Blue LA, a blog about the Los Angeles Dodgers**:
Louis C. K., the star and creator of the FX series “Louie,” said in an interview with Mr. O’Brien that his upcoming concerts at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan on Nov. 10 would be recorded and then posted in an edited version on his Web site, louisck.net, on Dec. 10 where it can be viewed for a cost of $5.
Asked in a phone interview on Friday morning why he was not bringing the special to a traditional cable television network, Louis C. K. said: “To me, I flip the question over: Why should I go through a cable network when I can just give it directly to the people who want to see it? It’s so much easier, and it’s an interesting experiment.”
Notice something? Conan O’Brien is “Mr. O’Brien,” while Louis C.K. goes by his full name. And an investigation is born!
OK, his real name is the unspellable Louis Szekely. It is pretty obvious why he would rather go by Louis C.K. than Louis Szekely. So why wouldn’t they go with “Mr. C.K.?”
Besides the fact that it would look ridiculous, they don’t do that for stage names. For example, here is how The Times opened a story about the rapper known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but named Russell Jones:
”I’m like a butterfly on your windowpane,” said Russell Jones, the rapper known as O. D .B., when he sauntered onstage during the Wu Tang Clan’s concert on Tuesday at Hammerstein Ballroom. It’s doubtful that O. D. B. knows the minutiae of rock history, but his phrase evoked an earlier incident involving pop stars who challenged the law.
So why no “Mr. Szekely” or “Mr. Jones” in these stories? Well, here is an excerpt of the New York Times Style Guide relating to courtesy titles:
Omit a courtesy title with a coined or fanciful stage name to avoid appearing overliteral. Meat Loaf and Little Richard, for example, keep their full names, without title, in all references.
Oh yes, Meat Loaf. Infamously, and it turns out apocryphally, Meat Loaf was referred to as “Mr. Loaf” in The Times. David Vescey wrote about it at ESPN’s short-lived ESPN3 back in 2004:
The New York Times is one of the few remaining publications to use honorifics as standard procedure, using a title for everybody except athletes, uber-famous artists and performers and infamous felons. That the Times once referred to a certain rotund pop singer as “Mr. Loaf” is, unfortunately, just urban legend. Though one NYT headline did suggest that Meat Loaf be called Mr. Loaf, it did so jokingly.
Vescey is now a copy editor at the New York Times according to Patrick LaForge (Editor of New Presentation and a great follow on Twitter). LaForge, in fact, helped greatly with the research for this post.
Sorry, “Mr. Loaf” never happened except in jest. This review of “Meat Loaf on Broadway” back in 1993 in The Times shows that he is referred to as “Meat Loaf” throughout the review.
There are, however, some exceptions to the rules. As with anything.
More from The Times style guide:
Omit courtesy titles with most names in sports articles (even on the front page), though titles are sometimes appropriate for names occurring in purely political, civic or business roles: Ms. Barany threw out the first ball. In other articles, omit a courtesy title for a sports figure mentioned in an athletic role, but use the title when the name appears in other connections. In an athlete’s obituary, omit the title in passages covering the sport, but use the title in those passages recounting other phases of the subject’s life — a later business career, for example. Copy about chess or bridge should follow the sports style.
It goes on to say that courtesy titles are not used in The Times Magazine and Book Review either.
Above it mentions obituaries. In O.D.B.’s obituary,*** The Times refers to him as “Mr. Jones.”
So death takes away all stage names.
Now what about “coined or fanciful” names that the person has legally changed?
One example is Chad Ochocinco, born Chad Johnson. You have to find a non-sports story (as outlined above) to test it out. Here is one from The Times’ Bits blog****:
One of RockLive’s first big sports clients was Chad Ochocinco, the Cincinnati Bengals football player. “Chad wanted us to do an entire social media campaign for him, so we helped get him set up on Twitter and Facebook,” said John Shadhidi, RockLive’s chief executive. “We quickly realized that the mobile space was perfect for Chad, so we built an iPhone application and eventually integrated a game into it too.”
After the success of Mr. Ochocinco’s mobile app, RockLive signed a deal with Mike Tyson, the former heavyweight boxing champion, to build an iPhone game along with a social media platform that would allow Mr. Tyson to communicate with his fans.
A ha! Why does Ochocinco get the courtesy title? I assume it is because once you change your name then it is no longer a stage name and instead your real name.
Therefore, they give you the normal courtesy title treatment.
Two examples from music are Elvis Costello and Elton John.
In a more tragic example, this blog post about an ex-companion of former NBA star World B. Free (born Lloyd Bernard Free) who was murdered, the article refers to him as “Mr. Free” on second reference.
Oh, and one more omission:
Omit courtesy titles with surnames of historic or pre-eminent figures no longer living: Curie; Hitler; Lenin; Napoleon; Newton; Woolf.
So historical figures no longer need the courtesy title, right? Well… it depends.
The time period on when the courtesy titles disappears varies greatly. Martin Luther King, Jr., who was assassinated in 1968, was referred to as “Dr. King” just last month when writing about the dedication of the memorial dedicated to the Civil Rights leader.
Gerald Ford, who passed away in 2006, doesn’t get a courtesy title in an obituary of one of his advisors. Neither does Reagan in August.
This most got some media attention after the death of Osama bin Laden. From a piece by The Explainer in Slate:
According to the Times, dropping the terrorist’s title was a last-minute decision of minor importance, made just before going to press. The paper’s print edition was inconsistent on the matter: News stories mentioned “Mr. bin Laden” while the obituary referred to “bin Laden.” But the decision does seem to imply some form of moral judgment. Bin Laden is certainly a historical figure—defined as someone who will be talked about for decades—so he would have gotten the one-name treatment at some point either way. But why now? If George H.W. Bush died tomorrow, he would undoubtedly be referred to as “Mr. Bush.” Idi Amin was sent off as “Mr. Amin,” and Joseph Stalin was “Mr. Stalin.” The Times’ decision to forgo any transition period and jump straight to “bin Laden” indicates it had no fears about offending readers by shortening his name.
As such, Bin Laden joins a select crew of name-shortened Times evil-doers. Adolf Hitler was called “Hitler” even while still alive. The same went for fellow Nazis like Erwin Rommel. Pol Pot went without a courtesy title in his 1998 obituary.
No courtesy for dead terrorists, dictators or fascists — along with other historical figures after a certain period of time. Depending.
But Meat Loaf, it should be noted, will never be Mr. Loaf in The Times. Unless it is a joke.
Once again, thanks to LaForge (or should I say Mr. LaForge?) for helping out on Twitter.
* “The Culture At Large” is the blog’s broad tagline.
** “A place for Dodger fans to congregate without spending $15 on parking.”
*** You ask, “Why are you always using O.D.B. as an example, to which I counter, why not always use O.D.B. as an example whenever possible?
**** “Business. Innovation. Technology. Society.”
Posted 11/4/11 @ 6:21 PM
I was working for the New Mexico Independent when the Inspectors General report came out about politically-motivated firings of United States Attorneys during the Bush administration. One of those attorneys was the United States Attorney in New Mexico, David Iglesias.
Iglesias was allegedly fired (it will likely never be definitely proven although much evidence points to it) for not pursuing a voter fraud case that could have helped Republican Heather Wilson more easily win a congressional election (Wilson eventually won, but by less than 1,000 votes over a flawed candidate in Patricia Madrid).
The excuse for firing Iglesias was that he was shirking his duties. He was an absentee landlord. Other stuff.
But the picture of Iglesias, a Republican, that came out were glowing. He was lauded for his work on voter fraud. He had a sterling record. The time spent away from the office was because he was in the Navy Reserve. He was even one of the lawyers that Tom Cruise’s character in “A Few Good Men” was based on.
Or was he?
The New York Times finds that Iglesias is one of four attorneys to make the claim that Cruise’s character in the movie, penned by Aaron Sorkin, was based on him.
Each of the four men who believe Tom Cruise brought them to life on film played a role in that case. (The script calls the Cruise character “almost impossible not to like.”) Ten Marines faced assault charges, and each had a military lawyer.
Several of the lawyers had good hair, including David C. Iglesias, a Navy lawyer at the time. He later became nationally known as the United States attorney in New Mexico who said he was fired for political reasons along with six other United States attorneys in 2006 by the administration of President George W. Bush.
Seven of the 10 Marines originally charged did not go to trial, including Mr. Sorkin’s sister’s client. But Mr. Iglesias, Mr. Johnson and Donald Marcari, a Virginia lawyer, represented three Marines who claimed in trials that the hazing had been indirectly ordered by officers.
“The Cruise character is a composite of the three of us,” Mr. Iglesias said in an interview. His version, simplified by various interviewers, has appeared several times before. A Washington Post article in 2007 said that the “strong-jawed” Mr. Iglesias was “said” to have inspired the “dreamy” Lieutenant Kaffee. Simplification played out elsewhere as well. Mr. Marcari declared on his Virginia-North Carolina law firm’s Web site that “his exploits as a young defense attorney with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps became the basis for the motion picture ‘A Few Good Men.’ ”
So, was Iglesias, the likely wrongly-fired and good-looking, Hispanic lawyer part of the basis for Cruise’s Lt. Daniel Kaffee? Or was it one of the other three?
Sorkin responded, through a spokesperson, in an email:
“The character of Dan Kaffee in ‘A Few Good Men’ is entirely fictional and was not inspired by any particular individual.”
Posted 9/16/11 @ 7:15 AM
The New York Times has some great reporting on the operation that the United States undertook to kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan Sunday.
Like the fact that, “In all, 79 commandos and a dog were involved.”
And that not everything went according to plan.
The tensest moment for those watching, he said, came when one of two helicopters that flew the American troops into the compound broke down, stalling as it flew over the 18-foot wall of the compound and prepared to land. After the raid, the team blew up the helicopter and called in one of two backups. In all, 79 commandos and a dog were involved.
President Obama considered other options that would have been less risky, like an airstrike, but ultimately opted to send in commandos because, Mr. Brennan said, “it gave us the ability to minimize collateral damage” and “to ensure that we knew who it was that was on that compound.”
Even a day later, not all of the details of the operation were known; some may never be. Officials did say that Bin Laden resisted arrest, but it was not clear, Mr. Brennan said, whether he opened fire himself.
In all, it took 40-minutes. And it was a 40-minute battle that the Pakistani government did not know about. Pakistan scrambled jets but the United States forces were apparently gone, with bin Laden’s body, before they arrived.
In addition, “the team removed a large trove of documents and materials from the residence.”
All of this went on while the President and his national security team monitored the raid from the Situation Room in the White House.
“The minutes passed like days,” Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan said at a briefing Monday.
Posted 5/2/11 @ 7:41 PM
Niemann Journalism Lab points out that The New York Times has a way to turn off its paywall on its website for breaking news. But the newspaper did not do so for the death of Osama bin Laden, perhaps because it was May 1 and the counter reset at the beginning of the month.
Obviously bin Laden’s death was major news, something The Times acknowledged by dedicating its entire front page to the news, including a massive headline of two rows and spanning all six columns.
From Niemann Journalism Lab:
Last night’s news about the death of Osama bin Laden would seem to qualify as one of those big must-read stories. So it’s interesting to note that the Times’ coverage of the news — all of its articles and blog posts — remained behind the paper’s gate last night. And they’ll remain there. “There are no current plans to open up the news and features about Bin Laden for free on NYTimes.com,” a Times spokesperson told me. “As you know, readers get 20 articles free each month, and they can access Times content through other means, such as blogs, social media and search.”
The Bin Laden story broke on May 1, just a few hours after all non-subscribing Times readers had seen their monthly 20-article count reset to zero. Barring a big Sunday-morning reading binge, most were probably still at the very beginnings of their monthly allotments. And while “any decision to make any content free on NYTimes.com will be made on a case by case basis,” the spokesperson notes, “in this case in particular, the fact that the story broke on May 1 was certainly a factor.”
If the news had broke on April 29? Then The Times would have likely opened it up to everyone.
As for me, I haven’t hit the paywall limit yet since the The Times instituted their new system. This is probably because nearly every time I see a story from the paper, I get to it from Twitter or Facebook.
Posted 5/2/11 @ 1:46 PM
The Onion is America’s Finest News Source. The satirical news magazine says so on the newspaper’s flag, and would The Onion ever lie to us?
The New York Times noticed this and actually wrote a story about it. Specifically about the stories and headlines that they have been doing on Vice President Joe Biden:
Political satire typically seizes on a public official’s foibles or flaws and exaggerates them — Gerald R. Ford’s clumsiness,Bill Clinton’s fast-food cravings, George W. Bush’s malapropisms, for example. Turning the craft on its head, writers at The Onion have created a caricature of the vice president that is entirely incongruous with his public image. Of all Mr. Biden’s imperfections, being a womanizer and a drunk are not on the list. In fact, he does not drink and has been, by all accounts, a devoted husband and family man for more than 30 years.
The Onion’s portrayals of Mr. Biden began as traditional vice president jokes (“Biden Pardons Single Yam in Vice-Presidential Thanksgiving Ritual”) but writers there had an epiphany last year when they discovered that tweaking their caricature of the vice president into someone virtually unrecognizable from his public persona — “Biden To Cool His Heels in Mexico For a While,” read one headline — was comic gold.
It is really weird to see a New York Times Media & Advertising article on stories that The Onion writes. The Onion is one of my most-read websites and it is weird to see a story about their articles (and hilarious headlines) in the pages (or on the screen) of a serious newspaper like the New York Times.
Posted 11/10/10 @ 4:20 PM
Wow. Check this out from a New York Times profile of Courtney Love.
Posted 11/8/10 @ 9:05 PM
Shortly after 8 p.m., Ms. Love burst into the room with the Marchesa dress slung on one arm and the noted German Neo-Expressionist artist Anselm Kiefer on the other. She was entirely naked and leaning on Mr. Kiefer for support. She made one lap around the room, walking in front of a photographer, an assistant, a hairstylist and me. She pulled over her head a transparent lace dress that covered up nothing, and demanded my assistance — “Not you,” she said to Mr. Kiefer, who was bent over trying to help her — to stuff her feet into a pair of black Givenchy heels that were zipped up the back and tied with delicate laces in the front. Then she applied a slash of red lipstick in the vicinity of her mouth.
“I really must get out of here,” Mr. Kiefer said.
“Just a minute,” Ms. Love said, as she pushed her feet, shoes and all, through a pair of pink knickers that she said cost $4,000. She grabbed a trench coat, walked through the hotel lobby with her breasts exposed to an assortment of prominent fashion figures, including Stefano Pilati, the Yves Saint Laurent designer, and then exited the hotel.