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The First Time News Was Fit To Print

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Back in July, during my first trip into the New York Times archives, I made one promise: "I plan to run this feature into the ground." Twenty-one volumes and one NPR appearance later, it's safe to say I kept my word.

Here are my ten favorite first mentions uncovered these last six months.

1. Walkman

July 7, 1980

walkman.jpgStereo-to-Go "“ and Only You Can Hear It
Josh Lansing and the young blonde woman had never even met before, but as they passed each other on Madison Avenue the other afternoon, she waved and smiled and he tipped his headphones in salute....What the two well-dressed strangers first noticed about each other was that they were both possessors of the newest status symbol around town: the Walkman, a portable stereo unit (priced in most stores at $200), consisting of an ultra-light headphone set plugged into a cassette player that weighs in at less than 14 ounces, batteries included. "It's just like Mercedes-Benz owners honking when they pass each other on the road," explained Mr. Lansing, whose cassette hung from his Gucci belt.

2. E-mail

June 9, 1985

When Technology Outpaces Needs
1982computer.jpg Then there is electronic mail, that thoroughly modern offspring of a calcified postal service and a splintered Ma Bell. Currently, the companies promoting this service, nicknamed e-mail, are also offering such added services as a hookup of the subscriber's personal computer to the Telex network and a two-hour delivery of letter-quality documents to many parts of the country. They have all discovered that electronic mail alone cannot at this stage attract enough customers to stem the tide of red ink.
* * * * *
One of its alleged advantages is the so-called store and forward message. A user may send messages at any time and, unlike a telephone connection, e-mail does not require the recipient to be on the other end of the line. Then again, the old-fashioned postal service does not require that the recipient be there at the time of delivery either.

When all is said and done, electronic mail is no more efficient, in the vast majority of cases, than the telephone or the postal service it is supposed to replace. Nor does it have the flexibility to be able to deliver packages such as spare parts, in the manner of another innovation, the overnight express service pioneered by Federal Express.

3. Woody Allen

March 19, 1962

Young Men's Hebrew Association Presents 2nd Jazz Concert
woodyallen.jpeg On the bill were two well-established jazz groups"¦and a relatively unknown comedian, Woody Allen. It was the comedian who walked off with the honors for the evening.

Mr. Allen, who describes himself as "short and unloved," looks like a somewhat unkempt Wally Cox. A monologuist in the Mort Sahl style who ranges over almost every area except politics"¦he wandered off into what he apparently found to be more diverting topics"¦[for example] the problem of getting a divorce in New York ("The Ten Commandments say "˜Thou shalt not commit adultery,' but New York State says you have to").

Mr. Allen's quiet, underplayed style enabled him to get laughs with what might otherwise have been little more than casual remarks.

4. Barack Obama

February 6, 1990

First Black Elected to Head Harvard's Law Review
obama-harvard.jpgThe Harvard Law Review, generally considered the most prestigious in the country, elected the first black president in its 104-year history today. The job is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School. The new president of the Review is Barack Obama, a 28-year-old graduate of Columbia University who spent four years heading a community development program for poor blacks on Chicago's South Side before enrolling in law school. His late father, Barack Obama, was a finance minister in Kenya and his mother, Ann Dunham, is an American anthropologist now doing fieldwork in Indonesia. Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii. "The fact that I've been elected shows a lot of progress," Mr. Obama said today in an interview. "It's encouraging."

5. Jerry Seinfeld

March 30, 1979

Funny Finalists Stand Up For Laughs
seinfeld.jpg"The Big Laff Off," 40 stand-up comedians, some of them professionals only in the sense that they had had a few small club dates, most of them amateurs, some of them walk-on novices, performing over six nights in the last two weeks at the city's comedy cabarets, the Comic Strip, Catch a Rising Star, and the Improvisation.
* * * * *
The Comic Strip's regular master of ceremonies, Jerry Seinfeld, will be there Monday discussing the complexities of "those little hangers they have for socks" and how embarrassed he is when he has to go to Disneyland, "because all those movable dolls know more than me."

6. Times Square

March 23, 1904

Times Triangle, Times Square: New Names for Long Acre Square Suggested by a Reader of This Newspaper
To the Editor of The New York Times:
times.jpg When the new building of The New York Times shall be completed and become a thing of art and beauty in that section of the city in which it is to stand, why would it not be fitting that the space about the edifice be called "Times Triangle" or "Times Square," though perhaps it may not be a square? It is, it seems, more euphonious than "Long Acre Square," and very soon would become as well known as "Printing House Square" or "Herald Square." No doubt the Board of Aldermen would take up such a suggestion at the proper time and act upon it favorably. Can it not be entertained?

-J.W.C. Corbusier

7. Digital Camera

May 29, 1991

old_camera.jpgKodak Introduces Electronic Camera
The Eastman Kodak Company took its first real step into digital photography by introducing an electronic camera system that can turn a conventional Nikon into a high-tech electronic camera. Kodak's professional digital camera system will sell for about $20,000 and is intended primarily for photojournalists and government surveillance, the company said. The system also marks Kodak's first move into pure electronic photography, where images are captured and created without film.

8. David Bowie

July 11, 1971

Bowie, Bolan, Heron "“ Superstars?
davidbowie.jpgMind and music are a powerful team, too. David Bowie is the most intellectually brilliant man yet to choose the long-playing album as his medium of expression. His best album is Man of Words/Man of Music* (Mercury). It is over a year old and not easy to find in record stores, but it is well worth special-ordering or sending to England for or borrowing from a friend. It is worth any three records now on the charts.

*In 1972, this album was re-released in the United States as 'Space Oddity.'

9. Donald Trump

January 28, 1973

D_Trump.jpgBuilder Looks Back "“ But Moves Ahead
The big change in Fred Trump's operations in recent years is the advent of his son, Donald"¦.Donald, who was graduated first in his class from the Wharton School of Finance of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, joined his father about five years ago. He has what his father calls "drive." He also possesses, in his father's judgment, business acumen. "Donald is the smartest person I know," he remarked admirably. "Everything he touches turns to gold."

10. iPod

October 24, 2001

Apple Introduces What It Calls an Easier to Use Portable Music Player
ipod.jpg Apple Computer introduced a portable music player today and declared that the new gadget, called the iPod, was so much easier to use that it would broaden a nascent market in the way the Macintosh once helped make the personal computer accessible to a more general audience. But while industry analysts said the device appeared to be as consumer friendly as the company said it was, they also pointed to its relatively limited potential audience, around seven million owners of the latest Macintosh computers. Apple said it had not yet decided whether to introduce a version of the music player for computers with the Windows operating system, which is used by more than 90 percent of personal computer users.

And I'll throw in one bonus first mention, because Mr. Sullivan responded on his site.

Andrew Sullivan

April 20, 1983

Weinberger Drops Debate At Oxford
sullivan.jpg Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger has withdrawn from a debate on foreign policy at Oxford University after a warning from his British counterpart that his participation "might not be advisable" because of the approach of a general election.

Andrew Sullivan, president of the Oxford Union, which had hoped to stage the debate on May 27, said Mr. Weinberger telephoned last Friday to say he could not take part. The American had agreed some time ago to oppose E.P. Thompson, the leader of the British nuclear disarmament movement, on the motion: "˜'There is no moral difference between the world policies of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.''
* * * * *
Mr. Sullivan, the union president, is a 19-year-old student of history and French who describes himself as a supporter of the Government. He reported that Mr. Weinberger said on Friday that he thought a debate might be an "inappropriate" forum for a person in his position and that he did not want to seem to intervene in the British domestic political process with an election in the offing.

In case you missed an installment, here are all the links. Happy New Year!

Our Archives

"¢ Volume I: Barack Obama, Microsoft, iPod
"¢ Volume II: Hillary Clinton, Starbucks, Donald Trump
"¢ Volume III: JFK, Microwave Oven, the Internet
"¢ Volume IV: Larry David, Drudge Report, Digital Camera
"¢ Volume V: Walkman, Osama bin Laden, Iowa Caucuses
"¢ Volume VI: Times Square, Marijuana, Googling
"¢ Volume VII: Lance Armstrong, Aerosmith, Gatorade
"¢ Volume VIII: Bob Dylan, New York Jets, War on Terror
"¢ Volume IX: Hedge Fund, White Collar Crime, John Updike
"¢ Volume X: E-mail, Bruce Springsteen, George Steinbrenner
"¢ Volume XI: RFK, the Olsen Twins, Digg
"¢ Volume XII: Jerry Seinfeld, Lee Harvey Oswald, Don Mattingly
"¢ Volume XIII: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Taxicab, Hippies
"¢ Volume XIV: Digital Watch, Prozac, David Hasselhoff
"¢ Volume XV: George Clooney, Golden Gate Bridge, Toyota Prius
"¢ Volume XVI: Woody Allen, The Titanic, The Beastie Boys
"¢ Volume XVII: New York Edition
"¢ Volume XVIII: Sports Edition
"¢ Volume XIX: TV Edition
"¢ Volume XX: Wrestlemania, Phil Knight, My Two Dads
"¢ Volume XXI: Books on Tape, Condoleezza Rice, Tina Fey
"¢ End of 2007: Greatest Hits
"¢ Volume XXII: John McCain, American Gladiators, Dianetics
"¢ Volume XXIII: Barbara Bush, Sports Illustrated, The Daily Show
"¢ Volume XXIV: "I Have A Dream" speech, Mitt Romney, Game Boy
"¢ Volume XXV: Randy Moss, Regis Philbin, Valentine's Day
"¢ Volume XXVI: Yoko Ono, Universal Health Care, Tom Coughlin
"¢ Volume XXVII: The U.S. Presidential Candidates
"¢ Volume XXVIII: Superdelegates, HD DVD, Spud Webb
"¢ Volume XXIX: Academy Awards Edition
"¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

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Old News: Very Early Media Coverage of the GOP Candidates
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Every week, I used to wander into the New York Times archives to find the first time the paper covered various topics (like The Walkman). In honor of tonight's Iowa Caucus, we're bringing back "The First Time News Was Fit to Print." Here are the first times The Times mentioned each of the remaining GOP candidates.

Mitt Romney

February 28, 1960

A Maverick Starts a New 'Crusade'
mitt-and-george.jpgGeorge Romney feels that he has pat across the compact car. Now he is turning his missionary fervor to a campaign to reshape American political institutions.


The man who made the compact car big competition for Detroit's land yachts is crusading against bigness on an even bigger scale these days. George Romney, the almost terrifyingly earnest head of the American Motors Corporation, has moved from his conquest of the gas-guzzling dinosaur into a battle to break up the concentration of economic power embodied in giant companies and giant unions.
*
He speaks with equal disrespect of the ranking politicians of both major parties when it comes to their readiness to face up to what he considers the make-or-break issues in America's survival.
*
George Romney considers talking his wife out of a movie career his greatest sales achievement. They are shown here with their children, Mitt, Jane and Scott.

[Well, not here. This picture is from two years later, when George announced he was running for President. To see the picture referenced here, you'll have to check out the original article.]

Ron Paul

April 28, 1976

Big Victory by Bentsen Called Vital to Re-election
ron-paul.jpg
John B. Connally, the popular former Democratic Governor [of Texas], was credited in 1970 with pushing Mr. [Lloyd] Bentsen to victory over Mr. [George] Bush [in the Senate race]. Mr. Connally, now a Republican, helped a politically unknown gynecologist, Dr. Ron Paul, upset a liberal Democrat, Bob Gammage, in a race last month to fill the unexpired 22d Congressional District seat vacated by Democrat Bob Casey, who has been appointed to the Federal Maritime Commission.

Rick Santorum

November 7, 1990

The 1990 Elections: State by State
In an upset, Representative Doug Walgren, a seven-term Democratic Congressman from Pittsburgh, lost to a political neophyte, Richard Santorum, a 32-year-old Republican lawyer who ran on an anti-incumbent theme.

Michele Bachmann

September 24, 2006

Campaign in Crisis Mode (by Charles Baxter)
While my assignment was to write about Minnesota’s important Senate race, I think there’s more to be learned right now from the far closer contest in Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, which borders Minneapolis-St. Paul to the east, north and west. The race, between Michele Bachmann, the Republican, and Patty Wetterling, the Democrat, has revealed a Bush-era national trend now visible locally.
*
Terrorism has infected every subject and every discussion, even locally. Alarmism has become so ubiquitous in discussions of Iraq, the decline of the family and financing for Social Security and education that polarization is assured. Extremity, after all, is more newsworthy than good sense.

This outlook has the effect of trivializing most local issues — who cares about farm-price supports when radical Muslims want to make Stillwater part of the caliphate? And it ensures that the volume will always be turned up to 11 — at least until everybody begins to suffer crisis fatigue and tries to calm down.

Newt Gingrich

November 2, 1974

Divided GOP in Georgia Facing a Rout on Tuesday
In another House race, however, Republicans may be able to take some comfort. In the state's Sixth District, suburban Atlanta, the 10-term Democratic mainstay who ran unopposed in 1972, faces a strong challenge from a 31-year-old history professor, Newt Gingrich. Although Mr. Flynt is favored, he is facing some difficulty because he is now running in a redrawn district in which his strength has not yet been tested.

[Note: Gingrich narrowly lost.]

Rick Perry

November 8, 1990

Farm Chief's Foe Has the Last Laugh
The Texas Agriculture Commissioner with the Borscht Belt sense of humor is out. Jim Hightower, a two-term incumbent known as an advocate of enlightened farming as well as one of the funniest figures in American politics, was defeated Tuesday by Rick Perry, a 40-year-old rancher and farmer.
*
Katie Dickie, Mr. Perry's press secretary, said today that her candidate "took a lot of angry farmers, banded them together, raised money in places like Garden City, Sterling City, the small places all across Texas, East Texas and West Texas."

She added, "Rick wants to refocus the department on mainstream agriculture."

Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.

July 22, 1998

Nova of Canada to Purchase Huntsman Styrene Business
The Nova Corporation of Canada will acquire the bulk of the styrene operations of the Huntsman Corporation for $860 million (United States) in cash and preferred stock, the companies announced yesterday.
*
For Huntsman, of Salt Lake City, the largest privately held chemical company in the United States, the deal represents a chance to pay down debt and to increase funds to homeless shelters and other charities that its ownership family has long supported.

In particular, it will let Huntsman funnel more than $100 million into research on genetic predispositions to cancer. Jon M. Huntsman [the candidate's father], the company's chairman, lost both his parents to cancer and has had two bouts with the disease himself.
*
Under the terms of yesterday's deal, Huntsman will receive $625 million in cash, and $235 million of nonvoting preferred shares, which can be converted to a maximum of 10 million common shares of Nova stock in two years. Nova will also assume $60 million of Huntsman's debt. After the deal, Huntsman will become Nova's largest shareholder.

Mr. Huntsman expects the two companies to combine some purchasing operations and to seek ways to combine product lines and operations. His son, Jon M. Hunstman Jr., will sit on Nova's board.

More First Mentions Worth Mentioning...

Greatest Hits of 2007 (Walkman, Email, Jerry Seinfeld and more)
*
Greatest Hits of 2008 (Princess Diana, Personal Computer, John McCain and more)
*
See all the previous installments of The First Time News Was Fit To Print
*
November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

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10 Headlines from 9/11/01
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We spent the summer of 2001 chastising Gary Condit, mourning Mr. Belvedere, and pardoning Microsoft. But on the second Tuesday of September, a mere twenty months after widespread wisecracks about the world ending on Y2K, it felt like the world did. I've been reading through the online archives of The New York Times from September 11, 2001, to see what was in the news the morning of the attacks. Here are some of the headlines:

1. Taliban Suicide Bombers Target Deposed Afghan Leaders

"If the would-be assassins were indeed Arabs, as the United Front asserted, the fact would lend credibility to those who contend that foreigners, including Osama bin Laden, are playing an ever bigger decision-making role among the Taliban."

2. Washington: Rumsfeld Attacks Bureaucracy

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that he was declaring war on bureaucracy in the Pentagon and that he wanted to combine some civilian and military staffs, cut duplication in the military services and shift some jobs to the private sector."

3. Senator Joe Biden attacks President Bush on Missile Defense

"Mr. Biden has fastened onto missile defense as the centerpiece of his critique of Bush foreign policy. In part, that is because the system is almost the sole focus of the administration's foreign policy... 'Are we willing to end four decades of arms control agreements, and go it alone, a kind of bully nation, sometimes a little wrongheaded, but ready to make unilateral decisions in what we perceive to be our self-interest?' Mr. Biden said in his speech at the National Press Club."

4. Michael Jordan to Unretire (Again)?

"Jordan is either getting ready to return to the N.B.A. at the age of 38 or he is setting up the sports world for a letdown of legendary proportion. Either way, the drama builds. Speaking with three reporters, Jordan said he was less than 10 days away from a news conference in Washington announcing his decision."

5. Grand Jury Declines Request For Inquiry into Condit Matter

"A grand jury has rejected a flight attendant's request that it investigate her complaint that Representative Gary A. Condit obstructed justice by asking her to sign an affidavit falsely stating that they did not have an affair....Anne Marie Smith, 40, said that she and Mr. Condit had a 10-month romance and that his intermediaries tried to get her to sign an affidavit denying the affair....Ms. Smith's link with Mr. Condit became public after the disappearance in Washington of Chandra Ann Levy, a 24-year-old government intern from Modesto, on May 1. Mr. Condit, 53, is not considered a suspect in the disappearance, but he acknowledged having had a relationship with Ms. Levy."

6. Mayoral Candidates Crisscross City Seeking Last Few Votes

"The six major candidates running to succeed Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani ranged across the city yesterday in the final burst of politicking before the polls open today. Dodging late summer downpours, the candidates hit neighborhoods where they thought they might be able to eek out just a few more votes. Crossing and crisscrossing the boroughs -- sometimes missing one anothers' campaigns by just minutes -- it seemed as though the six candidates were out to shake every hand in the city."

7. Broncos Win Game, Lose Receiver

"The New York Giants did not upset the festive Denver atmosphere as the Broncos christened their noisy new home with a loud and thorough 31-20 rout. The game's outcome seem to hinge on a gruesome injury to Denver's Pro Bowl wide receiver Ed McCaffrey, who broke his lower left leg early in the third quarter."

8. Disco Near Auschwitz to Close

"The owner of a building now used as a disco but once a tannery where Nazis sorted the luggage and clothes of Jews at Auschwitz said he would not renew the club's lease when it expires in November."

9. U.S. Blacklists Paramilitaries in Colombia

"Being put on the State Department list of terrorist groups means that financial support for the organization is illegal. The action also makes it easier for the United States to seize assets, an important factor because investigators here estimate that the paramilitary groups have hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts."

10. Thomas Friedman on Terror in Israel

"You drive south...and there is another long concrete wall blocking snipers from hitting Gilo, but also sealing in Gilo. There are Hebrew posters all over this wall that read: 'The New Middle East.' Some Israeli coffee shops now have security guards at the door to deter suicide bombers."

See previous installments of 'The First Time News Was Fit To Print.'

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