'NY Times' Moves to New HQ: Let's Guess What Artifacts Might Turn Up

By: Joe Strupp So it's moving day for The New York Times' newsroom. After 94 years at the 229 W. 43rd Street headquarters, not far from its former home right in Times Square, the "grey lady" or "paper of record" or "liberal, left-wing rag" (if you're Ann Coulter) is pulling up stakes and heading west. Well, a block or so west, to the new Times Tower, a 52-floor glass hulk promising all the comforts of a multi-media center.

This leads to the inevitable packing up of, in some cases, decades of notebooks, files, newspapers, and likely a few souvenir pennants, Playbills and, perhaps, a leftover Scotch bottle or two. Anyone who has spent extended time in a newsroom has likely gone through the nostalgic chore of putting years of journalistic findings and experiences into boxes for a transfer to newer digs.

But at the Times, which has arguably seen more newsgathering successes, and controversies, than any other daily, such a spring cleaning could unveil a lot more than most newsrooms. Imagine what someone cleaning out the closets, desks and morgue might unearth.

You remember when Judy Miller found that missing notebook under her desk and it went on to play a key role in the Scooter Libby trial? Maybe they'll find a missing vial of Iraqi chemical toxins, or at least a photo of Chalabi.

Or perhaps a hidden stack of false ID's and fake T&E receipts for Jayson Blair, perhaps even a beard disguise. A half-eaten boudin sausage sandwich left behind by the late Johnny Apple. Oh yeah, that long forgotten file of "additional" Pentagon Papers somehow turned up in the bottom of an old filing cabinet. An editor's note to William Safire declaring that his idea for a column On Language "is a non-starter."

But some items might go much further back. Hey, there's Arthur Krock's White House press pass from FDR's days, and is that an old Washington-New York train ticket with Scotty Reston's name on it? You might dig up from coverage of the 1919 World Series the original manuscript for a guest column by famed pitcher Christy Mathewson.

There could be a long-lost telegraph dispatch from World War I that won the Times its first of numerous Pulitzer Prizes in 1918. Did Arthur Daley leave behind that scorecard from Game 5 of the 1956 World Series, the perfect game by New York Yankees Don Larsen? Ahh, what do you know, there's the notebook Brooks Atkinson used to review the 1947 opening of "A Street Car Named Desire." Hhmm, Atkinson called it "one of the most perfect marriages of acting and playwriting."

There's the first draft of Tad Szulc's controversial story about the Bay of Pigs invasion, which he wrote was "imminent" on April 6, 1961, but which never ran. The Times, of course, famously held off on the story at the request of President John F. Kennedy, who later regretted the decision. Further searches among the moving crates and cloakroom sweeping might uncover any number of items, such as candles used in the 1965 blackout, which the paper called a sign of the city's "enormous vulnerability"; or A.M. "Abe" Rosenthal's last expense report before he was expelled from Poland for coverage that eventually won him a Pulitzer in 1960.

As the packing and cleanout continues, there might be any number of ticket stubs, airline schedules, and even a few old ashtrays from when such vices were allowed, or at least tolerated, in the famed third and fourth-floor newsrooms.

Whenever the Times moves again, decades or more from now, it is unlikely the new, sleek, computerized, digitized and micro-itemized systems of gathering and storing news, and related items, will allow for such hands-on collectibles to be kept. Hopefully, whenever some historic, exciting, or just plain fun event happens, those in the newsroom will find a way to save a keepsake of it -- even if it means simply not hitting a delete button.


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