The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, May 14, 2005
Ink belt in decline
New York, N.Y. - Like the corpses that lazily bob along in the nearby East River, life obeys its own pace in this isolated island community of 8 million in southern New York State.
It is an ancient pace, its cadence dictated by the steady whirr and click-a-clack of word processors, plied by the gnarled hands of skilled opinion craftsmen who once supplied nearly eighty percent of the world's refined punditry output.
To some ears, the din from the mighty opinion mills of this gritty Ink Belt town may be grating; but it has served as a siren call for generations of hungry immigrant OpEd workers.
Each year they come here, from Cambridge and Ithaca and New Haven, young and eager social critics seeking nothing more than an honest day's wage for an honest day's condescension, and perhaps a decent squab pate in white wine reduction.
For the newest generation of polemic workers, though, the promise of that simple Anti-American Dream seems ever more distant. Most of the mills have long fallen silent, tragic victims of cheap foreign radio talk shows and the growing monopoly of multinational corporate blogs.
Now, even the grandest of the old mills - the venerated New York Times 43rd Street Opinion Works - stands at risk. A recent spate of quality control problems, product recalls, management turmoil and a painful round of layoffs is leading many here to worry if the plant is destined to go the way of automats, five cent Cokes and international socialism.