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The Times Shortchanges the Met

Must be another slow cultural news day at the NY Times: It dispatched reporter Randy Kennedy to “humbly proffer” 50 cents to five different cashiers at the Metropolitan Museum. (The museum had announced this week that it would raise its suggested adult admission fee from $15 to $20, effective Aug. 1.)
Journalism 101 says not to prejudge a story before doing the actual reporting, but Kennedy confessed that he walked up to the unsuspecting set-ups and “waited to measure the level of scorn that would pour down” on him.
Instead, he found “that brand of aggressive disregard particular to New York that is sometimes much more effective in evoking shame and extracting money. The first clerk…never even looked up from his screen [how dare he?]” but handed over the admission button “with the detachment of a Vegas dealer parting with a dollar chip. If he had been trained…in the most effective ways of wounding a conscience, he could have done no better.”
Maybe Kennedy’s conscience was fragile because he knew that his undeniably strong investigative reporting talents should really be put to better use (and also because his guilty conscience knew he was merely feigning an inability to fork over three fivespots).
What exactly did he want from those workaday cashiers: an effusive, “Oh thank you so very much, sir”? The Times is still trying to turn a non-story into a populist cause. Just pay what you want, Randy, and don’t agonize over it.

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