Let us now praise the small fry of small otters. Meet Monty, an Asian small-clawed otter, born over the summer at the Bronx Zoo and newly on display at the zoo’s Jungle World exhibit.
According to the zookeepers, Monty enjoys swimming lessons with his mother, Jasmine, and fish treats supplied by his dad, Gyan.
Asian small-clawed otters are the smallest of the earth’s 13 otter species. They live in streams and mangrove swamps in Southeast Asia and India; they have unusually dexterous webbed paws, which they use to grab frogs, crabs and the like.
In the wild, small-clawed otters are considered vulnerable, because of habitat destruction, hunting and pollution.
Here is a video of young Monty, all wide eyes and slicked-back fur, learning the ropes from his parents. Check out the part at about 1:01 where he wrestles with a leaf.
In the distant clamor of another decade, a group of wise men and women put their heads together and decided that what the New York Times website needed was a blog about New York City.
Focus groups were convened. Committees were formed. “We need a tone and mindset that are hip but NOT trendy,” one memo read.
The result was City Room. It debuted on June 14, 2007, “a news blog of live reporting, features and reader conversations about New York City.”
Now, eight years, 20,000 posts, 425,000 reader comments and perhaps 100 million clicks later, City Room has an announcement to make: This is our last post.
The reasons are mostly boring journalism-business stuff. In 2007, blogs were the wave of the future. At its blogmaniacal peak, The Times had about 80 of them.
But Times blogs run on a different publishing platform from the rest of the Times website, and eventually we realized they were creating a lot of extra work.
Now The Times has only about 20 active blogs, and many of the features once found on City Room run elsewhere on the Times site.
“So City Room, per se, goes away,” said Wendell Jamieson, the Metro editor of The Times and a former editor of City Room. “But all the benefits, all the sense of speed and fun and smarts — those will live on in new forms as we move through the digital, social age.”
City Room has had an unusually broad mandate, sometimes puzzling even us.
It was often a place for breaking news, because it used to be the quickest way to get a story up.
But City Room has also been a haven for the strange and marginal, for ongoing series and features that somehow seemed too “bloggy” for the print newspaper.
So yes, we kept a Hurricane Sandy live blog running for two weeks and more than 600 posts. We brought readers their first word of the death of Heath Ledger.
But we also trained a webcam on a red-tailed hawk nest high over Washington Square Park, broadcasting a round-the-clock avian soap opera starring the doomed mother hawk, Violet, her mate, Bobby, and their fledgling, Pip.
Our history obsession led us to devote a week to the 50th anniversary of an airliner crash in Brooklyn. We retraced an avant-garde filmmaker’s skittering 1968 path through Manhattan to see what had changed (and what had not).
We worshiped at the temple of the random, hopping off the train or bus to wonder, “What’s happening at the U.S. Window Factory in Queens on a Tuesday morning?” (It was closed.)
We were unafraid to get wonky – who could forget the headline “Two Veterans of Fiscal Crisis Endorse Yaasky” or the Utility Player feature (about, you know, utilities)?
We sampled bagels in Beijing and Montreal. We recorded a video of subway commuters trying to guess whether the local or express would leave first.
Along the way, we did some foolish things.
We re-ran a bunch of heat-wave stories in mid-January under the banner “Summer Fun Day.” (Sample reader comments: “This is really kind of stupid.” “This actually doesn’t help at all. It makes me feel worse.”) We wrote a hyperbolically lyrical and, it turned out, utterly inaccurate snow forecast. We were hoaxed, at least twice.
We could never resist an animal story: Sticky the Canada goose with the arrow through his neck; the runaway Zebra of Staten Island; the deer who swam to Governor’s Island from Jersey City.
The most fun we had, though, was connecting with you and letting you hear one another’s voices.
We asked what you regretted in life and you poured your tortured hearts out: “I regret getting an archaeology degree,” “not being a better daughter,” “not kissing Lisa in the 11th grade.”
You sent in more than a thousand hard-boiled entries to our pulp-fiction contest. We asked for haiku about New York City; you gave us nearly 3,000.
Our Kids Draw the News feature gave the under-12 set a chance to weigh in on the burning issues of the day, to the occasional consternation of their elders. We got the voice of the city’s subways to record your fantasy announcements (he even rapped).
A parade of experts answered your questions – so many questions! “Ask About Black Life in 19th-Century New York”! “Ask About the 17-Year Cicada”! “Ask a Hostage Negotiator”!
For all you have given us, and each other — your six-word memoirs and Complaint Box rants, your State of the Block dispatches and New York-themed condom wrapper designs and bodega cat photos — we thank you.
The Metro section, City Room’s home, has taken City Room’s lessons to heart.
The other day, we published a long article about the chain of events set off by one man’s solitary death. It drew more than 1,600 comments, and your meditations on the meaning of life, love, loss, and friendship spun off an eloquent second story.
There is a breaking-news team now, faster than ever with word of the latest disaster, man-made or otherwise.
The Metropolitan Diary column, long a City Room mainstay, lives on — loyal readers can read daily items here — just as New York Today, the popular, Cityroom-ish daily roundup, continues as ever, just not on City Room. Ditto the Big City Book Club and, when news warrants, the live blogs.
We are not really dying: Our DNA has spread throughout the newsroom.