Starting With the Back Page

August 28, 2006

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

Two and a half inches, the letters on the top of the front page reach out and grab passers-bys on the college campus. NEW TIMES.

Although it proclaims its Times as NEW, the paper is actually over 35 years old, a living legacy from the Age of Aquarius when I used to grab copies on my way to Psychology 101 on the campus of Arizona State University.  Back then, the cultish paper made its name as a counter-cultural option to the staid, traditional big city newspapers like The Arizona Republic.

Now, just one more cultural mainstay, the New Times holds onto its liberal traditions while setting standards of journalistic excellence envied by the mainstream press.  This week, the cover story is about a Phoenix cathedral built by nationally-known Pentecostal preacher Neal Frisby.

Sarah Fenske’s story on the stunning Capstone Cathedral belies the newspaper’s reputation as a stronghold for liberal politics. From page 14 to page 33, Ms. Fenske details a 30-year history of family, fortune and religion, with the thoughtful journalistic judgment needed to tease out truth from interviews with a series of rivals in religious conflict, fueled by family strife and hidden in sealed court documents.

It’s the kind of story that might earn Ms. Fenske a well-deserved award.  The NEW TIMES boasts its share of coveted awards in journalism won through the years.

Still, respectability is married to the avant-garde.  This is the Back 2 School issue.  A special pull-out section targets the nearly 60,000 students who inhabit the 700 acre Tempe campus of Arizona State University.  College coeds are told to “forget all that ‘The Wall is Your Canvas’ crap.”  Dry erase boards on dorm room doors are clearly “childish and unattractive and frankly very 1967.”  Opposite the article, an ad by Vince Lentini screams from the top, “Make Sure Your Stuff is Insured!”

Under Vince, a female beauty is tightly laced up in a red bustier.  Holding a slice of watermelon, she winks at the reader.  Bold font tells you It’s Just Sooo…Juicy!  Only a careful reader who can tear away from the buxom beauty will be able to tell that this is an add for Juicy Jav’s flavored rolling paper available at “your local Convience [sic] Store or Smoke Shop.”

Triangles is “your one-stop bikini shop.”  One page over, an apparently serious article on Higher Education quickly launches into its real topic…reading, writing, and (hic!) drinking games.

The article’s intro makes it plain.  “Some people actually attend college to learn something, to ensure their future and advance their eventual careers.  For the rest of us, college is all about cocktail hour.  Here, then, are lesson plans for the serious-minded drinker: a primer to the hottest drinking games being played on campus this semester.”

Games called Movie Star, A**hole, Name Game, Fuzzy Duck, and Quarters rely on hooch, rotgut, filthy language, scotch, wine and tequila.  Make sure you have a couple of college coeds.  Victory comes when the winner, depending on the ‘game’ ends up vomiting, passing out, or barfing.  Winners in the Name Game are announced the following day, depending on who has “the worst hangover.”

Appropriately, burlesque lingerie is advertised on the facing page…with a dancer discount!  Turn the page, and the full page Bud Light ad seems incredibly tame, two brown bottles… splashes of icy cold water…Always Worth It.

If one makes it through 140 pages of the New Times, they may not be sober enough to read the back page.  But will they care?

After all, there are no buxom beauties, and all of the 85 adds on the back page are written in small font.  Marijuana Lawyer, sympathetic expert trial attorney, Cocaine Anonymous.  STOP Foreclosure!  Don’t WAIT!  WITHDRAWAL…FREE DETOX…FROM ANY ADDICTION.  Bankruptcy 4Less.  $200…and more… 

Paternity and Infidelity Testing…30% discount with this ad.  HIV 10 Minutes♦$69.  STD Doctor-Viagra-Cialis-Levitra.  Criminal & DUI…Little or $0 Down.  Vehicle Cash Loan.  All Accidents & Serious Injury. 

The times are not really new.  And neither are the consequences of bad choices.

If your student is entering college this year, it might be worth getting a copy of the college newspaper to read with your precious child.  Just remember to start reading from the back page.


September 5, 2005  – The Gift of Fear

August 27, 2004  – Is Your Child Ready for School?

 See Archives for past editorials.