Analysis of New York Times piece “For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump”

I personally love when a news outlet incorporates a video into their story. I often read a long article, then watch the accompanying video and find I took more away from the visual than I possibly could have from the words, even if the author did a phenomenal job with the writing.

Watch and read this piece by the New York Times, “For more Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump” which begins with a short video, “A requiem for pianos” that leads into an article.

There are a lot of things I loved about this piece the first time I watched the video and read the article, but upon further examination I found many issues and began to question if the piece as a whole was as effective as it could have been.

There is one very big, fundamental issue with the video in this piece, and that is that it includes the point of view of exactly one person: Bryan O’Mara, the vice president of O’Mara Meehan Piano Movers. One must take into account that this man, whom the whole video focuses on and who narrates the video, is more than likely to be biased and hold a strong opinion on the subject considering his background and line of work.

Looking at the video as a part of the piece, like an introduction leading into the article, I think the video works really well. However, it is likely that many people will watch only the video and not go on to read the entire article, and taking that into account I do not feel that the video is effective. On its own, the video is emotionally powerful, and extremely well shot, and I think that is what made me think it was so great at first. However, it does not tell a story independently.

The journalist who wrote the piece, Daniel J Wakin, personified the pianos repetitively, to the extent that in my opinion it became more of a well-written story than a news article at many points. As a feature or artistic work, I feel the video that accompanies the article is appropriate. It is very well filmed, includes some great shots, and conveys a level of emotion that can really only be conveyed with visuals. But I’m sorry; we are talking about pianos here. Not people or pets; pianos. In my opinion there isn’t a necessity for the video because it really doesn’t add anything to the piece that the words do not already covey.

I like the idea of the story because I feel this story could be used to make a broader statement, but unfortunately I do not feel that the article accomplished this. The article focuses a lot on the history of the piano, the change in pricing, and people’s changing value of the instrument. Yet there is a bigger picture, the economic factor of our country buying foreign rather than domestic, that I feel could have been a more effective for the article to focus on.

After detailing the process of disposing an unwanted piano, the article provides a quick quote of Larry Fine, the editor and publisher of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, saying, “Instead of spending hundreds or thousands to repair an old piano, you can buy a new one made in China that’s just as good, or you can buy a digital one that doesn’t need tuning and has all kinds of bells and whistles.” This is the first point in the article that I really got interested. I feel the journalist, Daniel J Wakin, could have tied the story of the pianos to a broader, and more relatable to people who aren’t piano lovers, story of the effects on industries of buying foreign products; and this quote would have been a great way to transition into that discussion. However, following this quote Wakin wrote about how pianos are “dying of old age” and began to chronicle the life of the piano dating back to the 1800s. Here is an example of an article covering the same topic that I feel did a phenomenal job accomplishing this task. This article goes into details about the piano and provides a history of the instrument, but also provides reasons for the decline of the American piano’s popularity by discussing how many we import from Japan and drawing similarities to the situation of the American Auto Industry

By failing to put the story of the pianos in a broader context, I feel Wakin loses a large audience, appealing mainly to piano fanatics who are emotionally affected by the story.


One thought on “Analysis of New York Times piece “For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump”

  1. Meghan — Interesting analysis. I think musicians/artists might have a different take. Also, I think the story is a strong metaphor for the throwaway culture of America — which has been written about extensively. Steve

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