NBC's Brian Williams Puzzles Over Countercultural Cornucopia of Sunday NYT

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams revealed a puckish sense of humor in his April 28 entry on his msnbc.com "Daily Nightly" blog, "What Times Is It?" in which Williams admitted his puzzlement over the countercultural cornucopia that is the Sunday New York Times, with subjects ranging from gay grilling aficionados to sex chairs.

I read that the New York Times Sunday (and weekday) circulation is down. I must admit that on Sundays it becomes a tough paper to figure out. While this week's paper featured an op-ed piece by Elizabeth Edwards bemoaning the lack of serious, in-depth coverage of the political race, it's tough to figure out exactly what readers the paper is speaking to, or seeking.

Consider this: the Sunday Styles section lead story on April 13th was "Scavengers on the Urban Savannah" (people buy things at flea markets!), and promoted on Page One was "A Sex Chair Becomes A Battlefield." Alrighty then.

This Sunday's lead story was "Through Sickness, Health, Sex Change..." in a section that included the essay, "Was I On A Date Or Baby-Sitting?," and "Let's Say You Want To Date A Hog Farmer" (and who among us hasn't?).

The magazine cover story this week was "The Newlywed Gays!" (happy gay men in Massachusetts who are married outdoor grilling enthusiasts!), and another feature story profiled a man who "lives and paints" in New Mexico (one of those states west of New Jersey) and has an old-fashioned typewriter!

Williams was also bemused by the lead Travel story (nudist resorts) and a wedding where the groom wore "the obligatory sneakers with his tux." Perhaps most controversial for his blogs liberal readership, Williams praised iconoclastic conservative columnist Peggy Noonan:

On the other hand, one sparkling piece of journalism (which touched on a lot of themes frequent readers of this space will recognize) was by Peggy Noonan in this weekend's Wall Street Journal . Curl up with this one and give it the quality time it deserves. I'll say it again: Peggy is doing the work of her career and must be considered an early favorite for next cycle's Pulitzer for commentary.

The majority of online commenters were either indignant at Williams's dissing of the Times, angry at his praise for Noonan, or both. (None of the rants did much to shatter the stereotype of humorless liberals.)

Williams responded by assuring his angry left readers that he does indeed cherish the paper in an April 29 follow-up entry, "Different Times."

So, in this space yesterday, I had a little fun with the New York Times. I hope it's obvious to our frequent readers that the Times 's news pages are normally my first journalistic stop every morning -- for all the arguments over ideology, the paper's depth and breadth are often without parallel. In fact, it is quoted here more than any other publication, for good reason.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center . Read more: http://archive.newsbusters.org/bios/clay-waters.html#ixzz3CdgxLFgQ