Thursday, December 1, 2011
The Story of News
Like anybody who worked for AP at 50 Rockefeller Plaza during the 65-plus years our company lived there, I get a twinge every time I walk by the Noguchi bas relief that still graces the building's facade and presumably always will. We passed daily beneath it thinking it was ours. Or even more, that it was us.
But of course when we decamped in 2004 for better rent in Hudson Yards, we learned the ugly truth. It was a fixture of the building, added as an extravagant courtesy to a charter tenant. It was somebody else's property, and by the time we left, it had long since become part of a national landmark and couldn't have gone with us even if we'd wanted to buy it and the landlord had been willing to sell.
Bank of America now occupies our old space, using it to do the things big banks do nowadays, which presumably does not include investing in the struggling news industry. BA. How I loathe them, until I remember they are too big to fail and really even too big to hate.
When I look up at the icon created to pay homage to a free press, without irony as far as I know, in the style of Socialist Peoples Art, what I feel instead is a smaller sense of personal loss, very much like what I felt when I went home after college and found my old bedroom turned into guest quarters. But at least my parents weren't renting it out to strangers.
The same can't be said of The Story of News, which is now reduced entirely to an ornament at a prestige address.
If anybody doubts that AP's once proud standard now makes its separate way in the world as a commercial asset, he has only to walk caddycorner across Rockefeller Plaza to the Lego store, where you can see it -- maybe even buy it -- skillfully executed in bits of blow-molded plastic. Sic transit gloria mundi.