Awesome excerpts are available in Salon from Daisy Hernandez’s upcoming book about working at the New York Times. Spoiler alert: she did not have a great time. The hardest part was trying to negotiate a White Male workspace. “Black boys consistently do badly in school,” her editor told her at one point, when she pitched a story about racism. “It’s like it’s genetic!”
Still, for a long time, getting her dream job meant independence, career advancement, and the kind of financial security her parents desperately wanted for her.
At the Times, people spend their days writing and then get paid every two weeks. It happens even if you disagree with Mr. Flaco or if you write a bad piece that needs tons of editing. You still get paid. So, convinced that this life can’t be mine, I insist on taking my intern paycheck to the bank every two weeks and cashing it. Each time the black teller hands me the stack of hundred dollar bills, I feel that I am real and that this is really happening to me. It is a lesson I learned from my mother.
On Fridays, if she had been paid at the factory, Tía Chuchi would take my sister and me to meet my mother at the bank, where she would be waiting on line with a check, that precious slip of paper in her hand. She would take the money from the bank teller in one swift move, as if someone was going to steal it from her, and then she would move over to the side and count the bills, slipping them into a small envelope the way she would place a pillow in a pillowcase. Those dollars were freedom. We could afford an evening meal at McDonald’s and pasteles, too.
Yes, even the Gray Lady has seen fit to write about how soaring student loan debt makes it hard to get housing in New York City.
It would be easy to dismiss the whole exercise, especially because it refers to “real estate maturity” as a state of existence to which human beings should aspire, and because it reports both the breed and name of a frustrated apartment-seeker’s dog. However, for a piece of non-news reported by the New York Times, the article paints a refreshingly varied portrait of post-collegiate financial distress. After first introducing us to Tierney Cooke, the dog owner who finds living with roommates intolerable (“I couldn’t take it. They were all in college.”), the Times also presents the tales of a mother of a two-year-old and a marvelously disillusioned chemist.
There is truly nothing surprising in the fact that housing in one of the most expensive cities in the country is hard to get in the midst of long-term economic trends that send personal debt up and wages down. But the chemist, Joseph Trout, a former foster kid from Philly who made good, is a font of excellent financial advice for an era of scarcity.