Let me just start out by saying I really do like Neil Young. I’m into classic rock, and while I’m not intimately familiar with his music, I do enjoy the hits — “Rockin’ in the Free World,” “Heart of Gold” and “Ohio” are great, and my particular favorite is “Long May You Run.”
I started to revisit his music a few weeks ago when he first announced his departure from Spotify. “I’m doing this because Spotify is spreading fake information about vaccines — potentially causing death to those who believe the disinformation being spread by them,” he explained. “They can have Rogan or Young. Not both.” Along the way, I also discovered that Neil Young had his own digital newspaper.
The NYA Times-Contrarian is a sepia-toned, small-printed section on Young’s official website designed to look like a weathered newspaper (“NYA,” by the way, stands for “Neil Young Archives,” as far as I can tell). Despite the fact that the website looks like it’s from 2002, it’s updated on the regular, seemingly by Young himself (as well as a few other writers). Recently on the front page were updates on Young’s Spotify crusade and other articles featuring punny headlines based on his songs.
Given the state of our hell world and the headlines that dominate it, I thought it couldn’t hurt if I only got my news from the NYA Times-Contrarian. And so, I promptly deleted my CNN and Twitter apps, and decided Neil Young would be my sole source of current events for an entire seven days, so help me god.
The plan began on Sunday, January 30th. The update that day was a drawing of a bird by an artist named Gary Ward. The headline read, “Love Earth,” and the picture itself said, “Don’t forget love.” I checked back a few more times that day, and there were no other updates — I just guessed it was a slow news day for the Neil Young press. But things stayed frozen like this for the next few days.
Eventually, I began looking around the rest of the site, which was far from user-friendly. One of my favorite discoveries was Young’s site map, which looked like an actual map (I half expected to see a red “X” on it labeled treasure).
Soon, I began to figure out that different sections of the paper were their own individual newswire, linking articles reprinted from various news sources. Under the section “NYA Earth News,” there were articles about the environment. On February 3rd, there was a reprinted piece from Amanda Hess at the the New York Times that talked about the appeal of doom-scrolling through apocalyptic news stories.
Under the “Letters to the Editor” section, I found some charming letters from fans that Young — or whoever updates the website — had posted, all of which had a personal reply from the man himself. This section featured articles from other news sources, too — most of the recent ones were about other artists removing their stuff from Spotify, including Joni Mitchell and Roxanne Gay.
There was also a Black Lives Matter section covering stories on racial equality, and another section entitled “Democracy” about politics. The top “Democracy” piece on February 2nd was from the New York Times, and was titled “Neil Young and Liz Cheney, Thanks for Sticking Your Necks Out.” Elsewhere, an “Inside NYA” section primarily featured a series of obituaries about many of Young’s friends in the music business who had passed away.
Over time, I began to feel guilty about my initial reaction to Young’s website. Yeah, it’s convoluted and not at all user-friendly, but it isn’t just a site for sharing his music or for self-promotion. He lovingly remembers his friends, kindly responds to fans and highlights a lot of important causes. Not to mention, Young has consistently been on the right side of history and spoken truth to power to everyone from Richard Nixon to Spotify executives. So fuck me for making fun of this guy’s lousy website. If anything, I should be thrilled to see that Young is still fighting the good fight.
Dare I say, long may you run, NYA Times-Contrarian, long may you run.