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New Day for Metropolitan Diary

I’ve been a long-time fan of the NYT’s weekly Metropolitan Diary feature. Fellow readers will know that each Diary consists of four to six short tales sent in by readers, each showing the human side of life in New York: conversations overheard on the bus; unexpected encounters on the street; clever remarks by storekeepers or taxi drivers; an appreciative note from a tourist. In recent years, the Diary has been a Monday staple. In the national edition, one would find it by turning a page or two forward from the editorial page.

As I began to move more of my NYT reading from the printed paper to the internet, I found that I would sometimes forget to read the Diary. Having already scanned the website Sunday night for most of the items of interest, I would take a quick look at the paper Monday morning and miss the Diary. Thanks to OmniFocus, I solved that problem — I added a weekly reminder that appears each Sunday telling me to read the Diary. Come evening, I do a search at the NYT website for Met Diary, find it, and read it. I no longer worry that the Diary will go unread.

Last night, though, something strange happened. I searched and searched without finding the Diary. Finally, I discovered that starting two days ago, the Metropolitan Diary has been converted from a weekly feature to a daily one. Online anyway. The weekly format will continue in the print edition, but each day a single Diary entry will appear online. Here is the explanation of the new system (along with perhaps a better description of the Diary than the one I attempted above):

For nearly 36 years, Metropolitan Diary has been a place for New Yorkers, past and present, to share odd fleeting moments at Bloomingdale’s, at the deli around the corner, in the elevator or at the movies. Since its debut, overheard conversations have shifted from the backseat of Checker cabs to Crown Vics, from pay-phone booths to cellphones and from the IRT to the JMZ. Still, punch lines delivered by surly waiters, witty train conductors, lively bus drivers, erudite window washers and adult children facing off with an overbearing parent continue to surprise us.

Glenn Collins, the third editor of the column, one of nearly a dozen diary editors, called it an “elegant cocktail of the city.”

While it’s hard to imagine a 20-pound mailbag as “interactive,” back in 1976, when Metropolitan Diary first appeared in The New York Times, a letterbox was the only inbox that existed. Predating the Internet and fax machines, the diary was an early example of a user-generated feature at the newspaper and served as a constant dialogue between readers and editors that captured the zeitgeist.

Taking this concept into the age of the Internet, we aim to make Metropolitan Diary even more interactive on City Room. For our dedicated newspaper readers, not to worry. You’ll still be able to read items in print on Mondays; but online, you can now share and comment on your favorite entries.

[snip]

Published contributors were once rewarded with a Champagne delivery, but today’s reward is a bylined entry into New York’s story canon, an ingredient of this “elegant cocktail of the city.”

Sometimes it takes readers years to gather the courage to submit, while others offer these New York moments unabashedly. Whatever your speed, whatever your medium, we hope you’ll share your tale with us.

You can read the initial four entries here. Plus, you can subscribe to the RSS feed. I did last night. No need anymore for my elaborate Sunday reminder and search system. I can instead await the new one each day in my newsreader.

I do have one beef with the Diary: the tradition too many entrants follow of concluding their tales with “Only in New York.” Geez. Really? If you’re standing on 34th Street, you look up, and you see a gorilla atop the Empire State Building, fine, submit a piece to Metropolitan Diary and say “Only in New York.” I get that. But otherwise, spare me. It just ruins the story.

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Categories: Humor, Newspapers
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