Behind The Times

Spilling the T.

What is it like to have America’s Last Newspaper cast the Eye of Sauron directly upon you? To be honest, it’s deeply embarrassing to bring it up again, like “Hey did you know I was pRoFiLeD in the nEw YoRk TiMeS??“ Ugh, shut up. But I didn’t know what that whole experience was going to be like, and I bet most of you (but definitely not all of you) don’t know what it would be like either, so at the risk of looking like a self-satisfied douchebag, it seems worth describing how it went.

How it started

On February 20th, I got an email from Steven Kurutz with the subject line “Times profile,” which said “Hey Rusty, We'd like to profile you for the Times Styles section,” and mentioned a Styles editor and longtime Tabs reader who suggested the idea. It was four sentences and closed “Would you be up for that?” I read this email in my truck in the parking lot of the Millinocket McDonald’s, devouring a traditional post-woods Big Mac on my way out of Baxter State Park after Presidents Day weekend winter search and rescue coverage. I wrote back “Sounds good to me,” and suggested some times I’d be free in the next week, assuming it would be a phone call at most. Steven got back to me the next day, writing “Glad you're up for it. I have a few outstanding assignments to tackle first. I would report the story sometime this spring.” Ok? Not a phone call then.

Trust the process

About a month later he got back to me and I arranged to pick him up from the ferry on a Wednesday morning that week. I picked him up off the 9:30 boat but apparently I “didn’t say much during the short drive” to my house. Steven captured the vibe of the interview well in the story itself. He brought me a croissant from Standard Baking on Commercial St. which if you know, you know. I nursed that croissant for the next three hours because it’s hard to eat a flaky pastry and talk at the same time.

The interview was not really what I expected. We sat at my kitchen table the whole time, and he unobtrusively recorded it but also took notes by hand. It felt very scattered to me—we jumped around a lot in time, going all the way back to childhood, college, my early career, more recent media stuff. I felt like he followed where I went more than he led me, which is probably the mark of a good interviewer. I ended it feeling like he’d gotten a pretty good overview of my life, but if you had asked me what the framing of the piece would be I could not have guessed. I was expecting it to be more Tabs focused, but by the end it was clear that he was interested in my life as a whole, so he got the full lore dump.

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