The First Time News Was Fit To Print: Best of 2008


Every now and again, I head into the online archives of The New York Times and dig up the first time the paper covered various topics. Here are 16 first mentions worth mentioning (again), from Princess Di to Archie Bunker, U2 to YouTube. If you've got a topic you'd like to see here, leave me a comment. Happy New Year!

Diana Spencer

December 15, 1980

For 'Hounding' a Friend of Charles, Press Is ChidedThe latest round of feverish speculation about Prince Charles's marriage prospects has touched off a new debate in Britain about the press and royal privacy. Even Buckingham Palace, which normally says not a word about such things, has felt obliged to formally protest some of the recent speculation, and the mother of Lady Diana Spencer, the 19-year-old woman being mentioned as a possible royal bride, has indignantly accused the newspapers of printing lies and hounding her daughter. "May I ask the editors of Fleet Street," said Lady Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, in a letter published in The Times of London this month, "whether they consider it necessary or fair to harass my daughter daily, from dawn until well after dusk? Is it fair to ask any human being, regardless of circumstances, to be treated in this way?" * * * * * For weeks, her picture has been in the newspapers almost daily, accompanied by stories reporting such momentous news as the fact that she stalled her mini-car, a bright red Metro, in traffic and had trouble restarting it, or that she disclosed in an interview that she liked children, a trait that is presumably not unusual in a kindergarten teacher.

John McCain

July 31, 1967

Start of Tragedy: Pilot Hears a Blast As He Checks Plane At 10:30am Saturday, Lieut. Comdr. John Sidney McCain 3d climbed aboard his A-4 Skyhawk for a mission over North Vietnam. "I closed the canopy and started the plane and then went through the normal checks of the gauges and the settings," the 30-year-old Navy pilot recalled today. "Suddenly I felt and heard an explosion. It was either my plane or the one to the right. Flames were everywhere." In the following moments aboard the aircraft carrier Forrestral, the 150-pound Annapolis graduate climbed out of the cockpit, stepped precariously onto the plane's three-foot-long refueling pipe and then leaped onto the burning flight deck and ran. * * * * * The son and grandson of two noted admirals, Commander McCain has a disarming disregard for formal military speech or style. He is wiry, prematurely gray and does not take himself too seriously.

Keep reading for Yoko Ono, the personal computer, Mount Rushmore, Wayne Gretzky, Dave Matthews Band and more.

Yoko Ono

November 25, 1961

Far-Out Music Is Played at CarnegieOne thing you can surely say about today's new music: the farther out it gets, the harder it is to describe. It wasn't always so; thirty years ago inner anatomical detail and structural exactitude were the rage. But now "“ Here are some of the things that happened in almost total darkness at Carnegie Recital Hall late yesterday afternoon, all in the name of music: Against a taped background of mumbled words and wild laughter a girl spoke earnestly about peeling a grapefruit, squeezing lemons and counting the hairs on a dead child. Musicians in the corner made their instruments go squeep and squak. * * * * * The occasion was a concert of works by Yoko Ono, and the hall was packed. The works were titled, respectively, "A Grapefruit in the World of Park," "Piece for Strawberries and Violin" and "AOS"“To David Tudor." Whether or not time will prove Miss Ono a master of musical expressiveness, there can be no denying her skill at concocting titles. Especially since neither strawberries nor violin were anywhere in evidence. [This was actually Yoko's second appearance. She was briefly mentioned the previous day in an article titled "Musical Notes."]

Mount Rushmore

July 10, 1927

Making a Monument out of a Black Hills Mountain Out of the granite face of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota within the next five years will appear in heroic proportions the features of four of our illustrious Presidents "“ Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. This memorial will be to the founding, extending and preserving the Union and to the completion of the dream of Columbus by the cutting of the Panama Canal, and the four Presidents represent these epochs in our history. The work is authorized by an act of Congress and is being planned by the State of South Dakota. Actual carvings of the figures will begin this Summer.

Personal Computer

November 3, 1962

Pocket Computer May Replace Shopping List Pocket-size computers may eliminate the housewife's weekly shopping list. Electronic communication would tell the store in advance what she needed. She would simply pick up the bundles. This was envisioned today by Dr. John W. Mauchly, inventor of some of the original room-size computers [pictured], who has developed one the size of a suitcase and is now working on a pocket variety. * * * * * Dr. Mauchly also predicted the day when a headwaiter could accurately forecast the cocktail a person wanted merely by matching the drinker's characteristics against preferences recorded in his own pocket computer...."There is no reason to suppose the average boy or girl cannot be a master of a personal computer," he said.

Jon Stewart

November 4, 1988

Weekender Guide Also performing are the stand-up comedians Bob Shaw, Ray Romano and Jon Stewart. The cover charge is $10 tonight, $12 tomorrow, and $7 on Sunday, and there is a two-drink minimum. Reservations are suggested.

Online Dating

August 26, 1999

You've Got Romance! Seeking Love On Line More and more single people, used to finding everything else on the Internet, are using it to search for love. More than 2,500 Web sites for adults are now devoted to matchmaking, said Daniel Bender, founder of Cupid's Network (, an Internet portal for personals sites that went on line in 1995 listing only a handful. At a time when many people are staying single longer, busy professionals barely have time to squeeze in workouts and rules about sexual misconduct pose barriers to romance in the workplace, the Internet can be a fast and efficient way for single people to find each other, the creators of these services say. Many singles say they post their ads on a lark, expecting little. They take advantage of free trial memberships, yet concede that despite their doubts, they wonder "what if."


December 22, 1983

A Not so Mad Race for Delegates on Capitol Hill The selection of the first delegates to the 1984 Democratic Presidential convention will take place early next year not in the chill air of Iowa or New Hampshire, as has been the case for many years, but in the temperature-controlled back rooms of Capitol Hill. Under new rules adopted last year by the Democratic Party, House Democrats will hold a caucus, probably in the first week of February, to choose 164 of their number as delegates to the party's national nominating convention, where there will be a total of 3,933 delegates. The aim is to get more of the party's top elected officials involved in the nominating process. * * * * * The party's only black Presidential candidate, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, is expected to include this class of ''superdelegates'' in a challenge to delegate selection rules. Mr. Jackson, who contends that the rules are racially discriminatory, is expected to argue that setting aside a bloc of delegate slots for elected officials deprives blacks of a chance to compete for these positions. Party officials insist that Mr. Jackson does not have a legitimate issue because the overall delegation to the national convention will reflect the percentage of blacks and other minorities in the party.


March 9, 1981

Irish U2, a Young Quartet, Plays at Ritz The Irish rock quartet U2, which has received extravagant critical praise in the British press, made a strong showing at the Ritz on Saturday. For such an accomplished band, U2 is unusually young. Ranging in age from 18 to 20, its members met three years ago at a Dublin secondary school. Yet their sound, and eclectic hard rock with a mystically romantic strain, makes them one of the most harmonically sophisticated rock bands to emerge in recent years. * * * * * Bono Hewson, U2's lead singer, has a moderately strong voice that was partially drowned out at the Ritz. This was a shame, since the band's material is of considerable interest. Most of the songs on its debut album, Boy are visionary reflections of adolescence....Where poetically ambitious rock bands tend to get mired in their visions, U2 brings to its purpose a healthy balance between energy and lyricism.


October 27, 2005

Now Playing: Your Home Video The entrepreneurs who have started companies like ClipShack, Vimeo, YouTube and are betting that as consumers discover the video abilities built into their cellphones and digital still cameras, and get better at editing the often-lengthy video from their camcorders, they will be eager to share video on the Web. While most of the services are free today, the entrepreneurs eventually hope to make money by selling ads or charging fees for premium levels of service. * * * None of the sites should be considered a reliable sole archive for personal video, however, since many do not allow users to download their original file once it has been uploaded. And there is always the possibility that a site may vanish overnight.

Archie Bunker

January 12, 1971

Are Racism and Bigotry Funny? CBS 'Family' Series May Shock SomeTonight the Columbia Broadcasting System Television Network will find out if Americans think bigotry and racism, as the prime elements of a situation comedy, are funny. Is it funny, for example, to have the pot-bellied, church-going, cigar-smoking son of Middle America, Archie Bunker, the hero of All in the Family, fill the screen with such epithets as "spic" and "spade" and "hebe" and "yid" and "polack"? Is it funny for him to refer to his son-in-law as "the laziest white man I ever seen"? Or to look at a televised football game and yell, "Look at that spook's in his blood"? The answer, I say, is no. None of these is funny....They are not funny because they are there for their shock value, despite CBS's protestations that what are being presented are "familiar stereotypes" with "a humorous spotlight on their prejudices...making them a source of laughter," so "we can show how absurd they are." What is lacking is taste.


September 24, 1976

At the Movies Not long ago, United Artists teased the public by placing ads in newspapers for a sneak preview of "a film that will open in December to qualify for the Academy Awards." Moviegoers anticipating a star-studded extravaganza may have been taken aback when the credits flashed on Rocky, a film starring and written by Sylvester Stallone. Sylvester Stallone himself may be taken aback if he is not proclaimed a star when the film opens, since stardom was his goal when he sat down to write the role of Rocky, an inarticulate, tender-hearted bum of a boxer who dominates virtually every scene of the drama...."It took about three and a half days to write Rocky," said Mr. Stallone, an impressively muscled Italian-American decked out in a vivid shirt, jeans and boots. "I'm astounded by people who take 18 years to write something. That's how long it took that guy to write Madame Bovary. And was that ever on a best-seller list? No. It was a lousy book and it made a lousy movie."

Harry Truman

May 20, 1934

Missouri Political Leaders Have Already Selected Their Candidates [For Senate] Tom J. Pendergast, head of the Kansas City machine, then turned to Harry S. Truman, presiding judge of the Jackson County Court. Truman accepted and the gage of battle was thrown down. But within the past few days there has been a growing sentiment in favor of John J. Cochran, Representative from St. Louis. [Jacob L. "Tuck"] Milligan's candidacy did not strike much fire. Truman is little known and his only strength is that given him by Pendergast in Kansas City.

Wayne Gretzky

July 6, 1978

Hockey Star, 17, Is Always Ahead of HimselfWith mock fear he asked if it was safe to walk the streets of New York. The joke was that Wayne Gretzky, now 17 years old, has been thwarting assaults since he began outclassing the big boys as a 5-year-old all-star player on a hockey team for 11-year-olds. Now the slight center is skipping three years of junior hockey to join the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association with a seven-year contract worth $1.75 million. "All the way up everybody said I'd get killed," Gretzky said yesterday of his accelerated ascent through the Canadian amateur system. "Now they say I'm gonna get killed next year in the pros. But I find as I go higher in the leagues, it's tougher but less dirty. There's more respect for each other." * * * * * Gretzky proudly announced he had just received his driver's license two weeks ago. His face fell flat when he was reminded he would have to apply for a United States license. "I get nervous at driving tests," he said.

Dave Matthews Band

September 2, 1994

A Forum For 60's-Style Jamming Horde, a neat acronym for the clunky phrase Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere, was conceived of in 1992 by Blues Traveler, a New York-based band that continues to select most of the groups on the tour. Blues Traveler has performed in the festival every year. This time around, it was joined by the Dave Matthews Band, Cycomotogoat, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, the Screaming Cheetah Wheelies, Rusted Root and the Allman Brothers Band. Though most of these groups are glorified bar bands, playing an all-American fusion of blues and rock, an overwhelming majority of audience members seemed to be below drinking age. The pacing was uncanny: literally seconds after a performance on one stage ended, a group on the other stage began. The day started on the main stage with the Dave Matthews Band, the most promising new group on the bill. It performed lively, introspective rock songs that had just the right amount of open spaces for improvisations and solos. Outside of Mr. Matthews's gently emotional vocals, the high point was the violin playing of Boyd Tinsley, which moved nimbly from mock-classical background accompaniment to upbeat bluegrass. [Image courtesy of]


July 22, 1979

Tomorrow—'A Video Supermarket' An equally ambitious cable operation, due to begin in September, is the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), based in Bristol, Conn. With the Getty Oil Company as its major backer, ESPN plans to become the nation's first all-sports network, offering not only play-by-play coverage but also sports-related news and feature programs. "Our goal is to provide a continuous 'Wide World of Sports' for the sincere sports fan," explains ESPN's president William F. Rasmussen, referring to the highly successful ABC series....During its premiere weekend, the network plans to carry four football games, two soccer games, the European Open Golf Tournament, the U.S. slow-pitch softball championship and highlights of the American Legion baseball playoffs. * * * * * A preview of ESPN's schedule reveals another soap opera—called Teams—for sports fans. Such mimicking of the established networks, however, can only make cable networks more vulnerable to criticism and less the programming "alternative" they hope to be.

See Also... "¢ The First Time News Was Fit To Print: Best of 2007 (Walkman, Email, Barack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld and more) "¢ November 3, 2007: Appearance on NPR Weekend Edition Saturday

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

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