The New York Times and Wall Street Journal in their Wednesday editions showed the glories of print newspapers. While each had comprehensive news pages, both excelled in their cultural sections.
The Times had one of its strongest days in recent memory, with a news-filled front page, strong editorials and a good business section.
Op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman in one of his best pieces, "We Are All Noah Now," pointed to the appalling loss of natural diversity through the accelerating extinction of species. Friedman avoided his usual cutesy wordplay, showing a sober and tragic moral outrage. The column was Pulitzer worthy.
The Arts section reached for its old-time vigor with Hilarie M. Sheets' heart-rending profile of photographer Sally Mann, whose troubled oldest son recently killed himself.
Sheets visited Mann in her hometown of Lexington, Va. Mann is opening a New York exhibit of photos she took of the Lexington studio of artist Cy Twobly, also a Lexington native who returned to the town.
Sheets writes about walking with Mann through Lexington's downtown, revisiting Twobly's former studio. The feature blends Mann's grief over her son's death with her memories of her friendship with Twobly.
Mann gained fame/notorieity for nude photos of her then young children playing at their farm near Lexington. Her recent memoir defends the photos against charges that she violated her mother's responsibilities and exploited her children for commercial purposes.
The Arts section also offered an informative interview with N.K. Jemisin, who recently won the Hugo award for her fantasy novel "The Fifth Season." Jemisin, the first black writer to win a Hugo, criticizes the well-worn cliches of the genre and science fiction traditionalists - "sad puppies" - who think the award is now awarded based on political correctness.
The Times' food section had a piece by Michael Kimmelman, one of my longtime favorite Times writers, on the building of a new location for the Union Square Cafe. The food section ads were also entertaining.
The obituary section came through with two interesting obits. The one on TV director Leslie Martinson, who died at age 101, recounted his professional career guiding many Westerns and other popular shows, many of which entertained me during my childhood.
The most intriguing obit was that of Namon Hoggle, one of three men accused of the 1965 beating death of James J. Reeb, a Boston minister who participated in the second Selma march. I thought I knew about every civil-rights era case, but I'd never heard of the Reeb murder, for which Hoggle and the other defendants were acquitted by an Alabama jury. President Lyndon B. Johnson cited Reeb's death in pushing for the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
The obituary does a good job of recounting the trial, noting judicial abuses along with evidence that Hoggle's guilt couldn't be established beyond a reasonable doubt. Hoggle, whose brother was also a defendant, established a Selma car dealership still run by his grandson.
My favorite Times article was a small one inside the business section reporting that Cosmopolitan editor Joanna Coles is moving up to a new position as the Hearst Corporation's first content editor. The article captivated me with this Coles quote, “I love Cosmo, but I gave it everything I had. I just didn’t have another sex position in me.”
The Journal also shone with its always worthy Personal Journal section. Nina Sovich's front page feature reported that the Bullet Journal scheduling system that relies on traditional paper notebooks is drawing adherents even among technology-focused young people. They remain connected to their cellphones and iPads, but find the discipline of writing in a notebook with a pen or pencil rewarding.
The arts page had a fascinating story on a Metropolitan Museum exhibit of Joseph Siffred Duplessis' iconic portraits of Ben Franklin. Barrymore Laurence Scherer ably compares two Franklin portraits by Duplessis, an 18th century French court painter.
Allan Kozinn weighs in with a review of a new album that puts together two Beatles live concerts. While Kozinn finds the recording of good technical quality, he wonders why Apple hasn't put out a complete recording of a single Beatles concert, with an exact set list.
Sports columnist Jason Gay has a witty piece on the late tennis writer Bud Collins and a light-hearted dispute over whether the Australian, French and U.S. Opens and Wimbledon should be called "slams" or "majors."
Collins believed the word slam should be reserved for the grand slam, winning all four in a year, accomplished by just a handful of players. But many players and writers now call winning one major event a slam.
Such an informative and entertaining performance by our two major national papers give me hope that like vinyl records, print newspapers can make a comeback. All of these pieces can also be enjoyed online, but the print version gives them a special quality.
If young people can rediscover the joy of writing in notebooks and listening to vinyl records, perhaps they can return to turning pages of ink and paper.