A few words from a master journalist


Among his publications as a foreign correspondent, Mr. Clines reported from Moscow when the Soviet Union was falling apart. In addition to a series of Page One articles chronicling the news, he found a perfect metaphor for the crumbling superpower at his airline.

March 22, 1991

MOSCOW — Carry-on luggage has been safely stowed away, including a cage of singing birds, a chunk of metal that resembles a giant shiny gear from one of Stalin’s dynamos, bags of spicy home cooking, crockery, vodka from smuggling, portable air mattresses for the three-day wait in the airport lounge, a circus performer’s trampoline: all the comforts of the lumpen jet set aboard Aeroflot.

This is the airline of Soviet communism and the largest in the world, and a hissing, dizzying metaphor for the dilapidated state of Soviet life.

If economic competition is ever truly attempted here, Aeroflot will have to be sliced ​​into rival parts like a mythical creature, and its much-battered passengers can only look forward to witnessing its pangs.

Halfway through the flight, a single glass of water has been handed out to each passenger, the sum of the cabin attendant amenities radiating the imperious frown and spirit of truculence that is the hallmark of Aeroflot.

Most of the comrades go to bed barefoot, many dozing slack-jawed in the permanent third-class status that is Soviet air travel. The sleepers look like exhausted galley oarsmen. They are a collective fall wrapped in a trajectory trapped in a monolith, a hanging stain of beards and fur hats, seat belts dangling into oblivion as so many were at takeoff.


Covering the Carter-Reagan campaign for president in 1980, Mr. Clines took readers behind the scenes for a glimpse of campaign life.

October 21, 1980

CHICAGO, Oct. 17 — “Honey, we’re late,” Nancy Reagan yelled from what has actually become Reagan’s home, the bottom step of the escalator at the door of his waiting campaign plane, dubbed with optimism Leadership 80.

But Ronald Reagan was still busy in the office, on the tarmac at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, where he delivered a final blow or two to Jimmy Carter to a squinting crowd of reporters.

He finally turned to Nancy, who waited with an “Oh, those politicians” grin. And the Republican presidential candidate walked up the steps, smiling at his wife in the perfect moment of a sitcom that every presidential couple, Jimmy and Rosalynn, John and Keke, shows across America.

The news reporters were on the move and they skipped this curtain scene. A mellifluous man darted ahead of the group, returned to his seat on the second jet, Reagan’s media “zoo” plane, and there revved over the engines to tell of an unusually exciting development.

“Hello, hello,” the mellifluous man said into the plane’s microphone connection to his live-action-news-witness-anchor desk. “Here we go,” he said, cocking his baritone like a revolver. “And three, two, one: ‘Ronald Reagan today agreed to a one-on-one debate with President Carter…’”

So hope returned that the campaign might turn out to be something more than isolated jet caravans making their way separately across America on nightly television news screens.


In 1993, the Bronx Zoo changed its name. In the hands of Mr. Clines, it was a front-page story, with a soup of funny irony lurking just below the Timesian’s surface.

February 4, 1993

The Zoological Society of New York, deciding that the word “zoo” had become an urban pejorative with a limited horizon, announced yesterday that it would drop the word from the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, the Queens Zoo and the Prospect Park Zoo.

They will be called Wildlife Conservation Parks from Monday, said William Conway, president of the society, who admits it risks greatly shaking up much of the urban collection beyond the zoos’ 10,000 creatures. . But he says that he must do something with the little word.

“I’ve been here 37 years and it’s like changing my father’s name,” he said. “But it’s about time.”

After discussing the idea of ​​shelving the “zoo” for the past two years, the directors of the society finally agreed with Mr. Conway that the time had come to take a serious look at the city and the world that the society manages. much more than zoos. , with 158 conservation and research projects flourishing around the world.

“It goes way beyond what you see at the zoo,” Conway said, unable to get the word out during an interview.

“It’s short and to the point — zoo — and we know we created a problem,” he said. “But in The American Heritage Dictionary, the word ‘zoo’ has a secondary meaning of a situation or place marked by ‘rampant confusion or disorder.’ We are not confused or disordered. And it really is too late for the simple idea of ​​conventional zoos. We need radical change.”

The 98-year-old society is so focused on its course that it doesn’t even want to see the word in its own title and is officially changing its name to NYZS/The Wildlife Conservation Society.

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