Friday, February 26, 2010

New York Times Attempts to Make Haverford Even More Obscure Than It Already Is

The New York Times ran a story this week about a long-ago stolen René Descartes letter that was discovered at Haverford College (my alma mater). The writer clearly tries to make it seem like the college is some kind of Siberian outpost:
One of those purloined letters has turned up at a small private college in eastern Pennsylvania, providing scholars with another keyhole into one of the Western world’s greatest minds.

"A small private college in eastern Pennsylvania"? (Haverford isn't mentioned by name until the fifth paragraph.) That description is technically true, but the "eastern Pennsylvania" part is where the writer really tips her hand.

Haverford is just outside Philadelphia. You may not be familiar with Philadelphia, but it was the largest city in America until the late 1700s.

Would you ever describe Columbia as a private university in southeastern New York State? How about that public institution located at longitude 34.052234, latitude -118.243685, otherwise known as UCLA.

It's not like anyone has heard of Haverford College as it is, but it doesn't help when the Times tries to make it seem like the kind of backwater locale where you'd never expect to find a stolen René Descartes letter.

When I was there, we were swimming in stolen René Descartes letters! Okay, not really, but we were just a short SEPTA ride away from where they signed the U.S. Constitution (have you heard of it?).