Appearing in the “Newspaper of Record”

NYT In April when visiting New York City, we had dinner one night with our friend Reed Birney, an actor whose scarily good performance in Harvey Fierstein’s Casa Valentina last season won him a Tony award nomination and a Drama Desk award for Best Featured Actor in a play (House of Cards fans: he also has a recurring role in that series as Rep. Donald Blythe). At dinner, Reed was talking about a 2013 article in the New York Times that dramatically elevated his public profile.

Unlike most of the actors he knew in his youth, Reed did not leave for Hollywood but remained in New York. While he has played many small parts in episodic television, he has spent most of his career as a stage actor appearing in Off Broadway productions, unknown to most people outside the theater world. Then came the lengthy New York Times article that profiled his career and celebrated his return to Broadway, after more than 30 years, in a revival of William Inge’s play Picnic. He was back on Broadway last season in Casa Valentina.

At dinner, Reed was talking about the sense of validation he felt, being profiled in what he referred to as “the newspaper of record.” The phrase stuck with me and I’ve thought of it often since April. For people of our generation – those of us with an interest in ideas, culture, and art – the New York Times speaks with unparalleled authority. To the writers I know, having a book reviewed by the Times is among the highest honors we can imagine. Composers and visual artists probably feel the same way, and not only because these reviews can make or break you. In an era where Facebook and Twitter allow everyone to become a short-form critic with a platform, the NYT gives us thoughtful reviewers whose informed opinions go deeper. When theater critic Ben Brantley has something to say about a new play, it’s most definitely worth listening to.

Writers whose work I admire regularly contribute to the NYT. Articles by Daphne Merkin and Andrew Solomon (author of Far from the Tree) often appear in its pages. Most recently, Ms. Merkin contributed an essay to the paper’s Couch feature, a part of the Opinion section that explores psychotherapy from the point of view of both clients and therapists. Her essay described the way she evoked laughter from her various therapists over the years and made me wonder if any of them were familiar with the concept of resistance. It also made me wonder, at the urging of friends, whether I should try submitting my own contribution to Couch.

I did. And it has been accepted. My essay now appears here in the online version of the New York Times. A shorter version will also run tomorrow in the print edition. Although my editor at the NYT assured me that “the vast majority” of readers will access it online, the experience of having an op-ed in the Sunday edition of the New York Times, print version, means much more to me.

None of my achievements these last few years has been quite so deeply satisfying, although selling The Narcissist You Know to Touchstone Books came close, and I suspect that seeing the book in print when it’s released this summer will be even more gratifying. In many ways, blogging and self-publishing have made me independent: I don’t need anyone in a position of authority – those people I think of as the “gatekeepers” – to validate my work, because readers who visit my blog and buy my books do that directly. I relish this independence but at the same time, if I’m honest with myself and not playing the sour grapes game, I admit that I still crave validation.

And now, like my friend Reed, I have it. I feel deeply validated by appearing in the newspaper of record. I hope you’ll read my essay, share it with others, and leave a comment if you’re so inclined.

By Joseph Burgo

Joe is the author and the owner of, one of the leading online mental health resources on the internet. Be sure to connect with him on Google+ and Linkedin.


  1. Wow! Congratulations Dr. Burgo, I’m just reading it and I’m a huge fan of the New York Times too, I’m happy for you! The patient who unceremoniously tosses out his cat reminds me of my parents. They can’t understand how they have had several ‘crazy’ dogs in a row that they’ve had to exchange or return. The complete lack of interaction the dogs have with them doesn’t seem to ring any bells. When my brother and I lived at home, we spent time with the dogs so they had some interaction. When I go home it makes my heart ache at how much they just want some attention and validation. Or maybe I’m projecting 😉 . I have have a lot of friends who are animal lovers and we take opportunity to share our enthusiasm when we can. Congratulations again! a lovely essay.

  2. Dr. B

    I do not need the “New York Slimes” or other versions of the “presstitutes” to validate you or anyone, I recognize an individual as someone of worth by who and what they are. In many cases, the majority are generally wrong on any given issue and it goes without saying that the “presstitutes” have a collective and identifiable agenda that is easily discernible by a long range observation of the subjective leanings of each media outlet over a long term period.

    The public has lost all confidence in the integrity and honesty of the media, and this is because the discerning public have noted correlative questionable commonalities in reporting, embraced by media outlets.

    I have little faith in the objectivity of editors who make decisions on what does or not get published. The politically correct agenda has infected the media and I am sure that politically incorrect positions will not get published based on the prevailing “flavor of the month” club kool aid being served at the time.

    Be assured that many sitting in judgment of you and others do not always give the nod to material that is good if it does not validate/promote the agenda.

    I am pleased you have been validated but be aware that previous rejections may well have been imposed not on the reality of the material being good or bad but on what constitutes in the minds of the “judges” just what is acceptable judged by its correlative boost to the current agenda.

    I am happy for you getting recognition but I do not need the rubber stamp of approval by any entity to validate in my mind whether a writer is excellent or a run of the mill poser.

    You have substance and excellence, it shows clearly and I would tell you no matter who does or does not approve the reality is not changed.

  3. Cool, Joe. Big timeBig time.
    My five yrs of therapy in my early 20s, wouldn’t have worked if he and I hadn’t had love between us. He helped me repair the gap left by my father’s death, when I was 15. He sits beside my dad, in that warm space in my heart-
    After my children’s father did his disappearing as a father routine, my daughter( with whom I live, on a sort of compound , where a few huts are dotted around), got a white cat. Then we got her half sister. I’d never had cats, my eyes having an allergic reaction to their fur. Over time, I’ve become the cats’ carer,( I just take good care to keep their hair away from my eyes), and I feel I have learnt a lot about non verbal language from them. How to just be in the same space with another, and be gentle about it.

  4. I feel about the ‘FT Weekend’ the way you do about the NY Times. It’s very strange I was just writing about the appeal of contributing to a newspaper one loves 10 mins before reading your blog post! (Maybe I should re-read your ESP post!)

    I enjoyed your article in the NY Times. It’s true abut love between therapist and client. Love of that kind is a bit of a taboo I think. Strange that people should be so timid about it in the Western world where people cavort about practically naked in the media, films etc… yet love is something else. In therapy, it’s the only thing that works I think. The bedrock of all of the rest of the work in that room. You sound like you are not afraid to love your clients which is wonderful for them, and the world, I feel.

    A year into my own therapy I decided to buy two cats who joined me in my apartment. With those creatures I learned to love again. I remember my therapist saying something at the time like, ‘Well, it’s a start,’ as I purposefully avoided relationship after relationship with romantic potential. Then I learnt to to fear the loss of these felines. And cry into their fur when things were too much. And care about their well-being. And notice their individuality and all those things which made me care. One day I realised I had crossed a line,broken through the fear that loving is too painful and the bud too tightly shut to ever flower again.

    Thanks also for recommending the NY Times which I have now added to my bookmarks bar (along with my beloved FT – it’s called FT Weekend – the weekday edition is just Business).

  5. I absolutely LOVE your article in the New York Times. Well your opinion. My therapist told me the exact same thing that love would be to healing factor in our relationship and he really stressed that it was an encompassing love. I prefer the tone you used in your article then the tone you use in your blog which sounded a bit like a hurt child who didn’t get the attention he wanted. Don’t get me wrong it’s not bad it just turned me off a little From reading the article in question.

    In any case I loved it and it brought tears to my eyes.
    Congratulations for everything you’ve achieved this year.

  6. Congratulations! I enjoyed reading your article -well written and yes, how we respond to our pets says a lot. Your stories reminded me of my own responses to pets and Marie’s contribution reminded me of my FOO’s appalling treatment of pets/animals.

    Also got to say that I think it’s very enlightened of the NYT to have a ‘couch’ section – I don’t think there is anything like that in the British/Irish press. Maybe I can read more of their articles online.

    When I first sought out a therapist I saw one who had the door to her office( which was also her living room) open and her cat would strut in and out as he pleased. I remember being annoyed by the presence of the cat and at the time I couldn’t say why…now I know…he was competition for the attention of the therapist…I left feeling angry and didn’t go back…luckily I did find a therapist who understood that I needed her undivided attention …

    Also my FOO’s cruelty to animals staggers me now …my mother has a dog for many years that has no name because she hasn’t bothered to give him one. She feeds him once a day by shoving a bowl of food under his nose. She doesn’t even look at him never mind speak to him or touch him. My brother (who lives with her) only orders him about. The dog is bad tempered and often looks so wretched – no wonder. I’m so ashamed of their cruelty and if I need a reminder of how much I have changed all I have to do is think of the dog with no name(I am capable of kindness and empathy now). What’s worse though is that some of the children in my FOO are treated just as badly as that poor dog. Horrifying!

    1. Thanks, Evan. BTW, WordPress once again deleted a whole bunch of comments to my last post before I could get to them. I believe that I saw your name in the queue and I’m sorry about that. I don’t want you to think that I intentionally deleted you!

  7. A few months ago the developer of Minecraft “sold out” to Microsoft for $2.5Billion. According to him he did not do it for the money but to conserve his sanity by not being responsible for any changes that might bring on a monsoon of hate upon him. About the same time, Pewdiepie (youtube’s biggest star), disabled comments on his channel due to all the spam, unrelated discussions, hate and abuse that was going on in the comment sections of his videos.
    I imagine having an article on the NYT is somewhat similar; you’re in the limelight and all the moths come to eat holes in your clothes.
    I couldn’t deal with all that criticism, hate and subdued hate you get when you’re in the limelight of the internet. How are you coping with it?

    1. That article wasn’t in the least offensive, though (from what others tell me) it did bring out a few critics and haters. I cope with this issue by NOT reading comments to my articles in The Atlantic or elsewhere. The only comments I read are the ones readers leave here. Too many haters in the larger reading public!

  8. Bravo!
    I would be very pleased to have had your accomplishment…the article is great, touching in a most charming way.
    I have always been interested in what really helps patients/clients get better, and I believe that authenticity of the therapist is crucial. When I was working on a locked in patient unit decades ago, I came to the conclusion that “the fish bowl looks both ways”, and that I was being observed as much as I was observing. So those moments of affection with your dog are truly healthy bonding experiences that you share with your client. I admire your authenticity.

  9. Good for you.
    I have to say, though, there is certain irony in writing a book about 21st century narcissism and feeling super-extra-validated by a column published in the New York Times. Not that I blame you or even find any fault. It’s just ironic. Some degree of our sense of self has to do with what others think of us. I think the issue is always, how much. Would that column have been any better or worse, ipso facto, if you’d published here on your blog instead having it chosen by the NYT? I don’t think so. At the same time, who wouldn’t feel pride in the achievement? Or feel bad if their book hadn’t found a publisher? Again, not blaming you. Just pointing out the interesting tension.

    1. It’s a tension I feel all the time. I think about it this way: there’s a difference between narcissistic self-display and pride in actual accomplishment. I take pride in my achievement, based on a lot of hard work, which I think differs from the narcissistic desire for admiration “just because.”

      Unfortunately for writers, we need an audience like other artists. I don’t write in a vacuum. When a painter sells a painting, it is validation. But for a writer, to sell a few copies of a self-published book isn’t quite so validating. Books, unlike paintings, are intended for a large audience. Therefore, acceptance by a publisher or appearing in the NYT is the validation we seek.

      On the other hand, I’ve sold over 8,000 copies of my self-published book and that feels entirely validating. I’m still on the fence about mainstream publishing. If I can reach a large audience on my own, that’s good enough for me.

      1. Narcissistic self-display vs. pride in actual accomplishment. I think about Muhammad Ali, Brett Favre, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Anna Freud, Bill Clinton, and Anna Wintour, and I begin to think that it is a distinction without a difference.

  10. Congratulations. But the very best thing about your being published in the NYT is that now so many more of us know about you. (Like me!) Your essay made my day.

  11. Oh, gosh. I really enjoyed the article and your blog post. The NYT is an honor! Your writing gets better and better. 🙂 I’m seeing you on a talk show circuit soon, maybe with your book launch.

    1. One can always dream. But the talk show circuit also fills me with dread. Unfortunately, it’s something you have to do to sell books. I have no desire to be public in that way. I just want to write!

  12. I loved it! Pets are an important part of the family and sometimes wish i could bring my pup to my therapy sessions. Maybe one day I will!

  13. Thank you for creating such an informative, truthful and helpful site. A site for sore eyes!!

    You mention bearing witness and it reminded me of a great woman who passed away last year, Helen Bamber devoted her life to helping survivors of different types of traumas. She also voiced the value of bearing witness to the individual’s experience.

    Many thanks again for sharing your experiences, your devotion to healing pain is an inspiration.

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