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March 11, 2009

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I object to the fact that the op ed page is so heavily tilted in favor of affirmative action for right wing tools. Douthat's opinions, though sometimes we can call them "reasoned" (certainly compared to Kristol's straight up propaganda) are tediously predictable and always, always, arch and prissy retellings of received right wing wisdom. When can we get some actual thinkers on the op ed page? People who are specialists in something (other than Krugman), or who represent a truly underrepresented but educated perspective on national or international affairs? I'm thinking here about, oh, an african american, a gay woman, a native american, or any kind of person who is both educated and thoughtful and capable of surprising us. Brooks, Kristol, and Friedman have literally phoned it in for years. Can we have someone who thinks?

aimai

When you say that those authors have "literally phoned it in for years" I assume you are using "literally" figuratively ;)

http://www.highclearing.com/index.php/archives/2009/02/14/9158

As to your larger point, sure. I wish there were even larger improvements, but if we're going to have a conservative on the panel - so to speak - I think Douthat is a good choice.

I mean, I heard McArdle's name thrown about - in addition to David Frum and some other doozies.

Brooks, Kristol, and Friedman have literally phoned it in for years.

Yeah, but Friedman phones it in from a different airport every time. Surely that has to count for something!

When can we get some actual thinkers on the op ed page? People who are specialists in something (other than Krugman)

I don't think this will happen very often. Columnists generally work for editors who are not specialists. The top of the newspaper hierarchy is filled with people who have no specialist training and are thus ideologically and psychologically committed to the notion that one does not need specialization in order to opine or analyze foreign and domestic affairs. That's how we get editors signing off on columns that make no sense to specialists, or indeed, anyone with more than a layman's understanding of a subject. That's why newspapers, who are supposed to be committed to accuracy and truth, have no processes in place by which they send material to subject matter experts for review before publication.

We are going to be stuck with newspapers written and edited for the most part by non-specialists for a long time.

Getting rid of Kristol eliminates a reason not to read the Times. Adding Douthat doesn't provide a reason to read the Times. Maybe he and Frank Rich can do dueling movie reviews.

I object to the fact that the op ed page is so heavily tilted in favor of affirmative action for right wing tools.

Heavily? They have a token at best. My NYT is apparently delivered in an alternate universe. BTW – doesn’t the fact that you say “affirmative action” pretty much acknowledge that the op ed page leans heavily left?

>>We are going to be stuck with newspapers written and edited for the most part by non-specialists for a long time.

No, we're not.

We're not going to be stuck with newspapers NOT written and edited for the most part by non-specialists for a long time, either.

"Can we have someone who thinks?"

I certainly would like to see more such columnists, but Gail Collins is pretty thoughtful, IMO; I don't know why more people don't pay attention to her.

And last I looked, Bob Herbert was African-American, and not conservative.

"Brooks, Kristol, and Friedman have literally phoned it in for years."

I'm reasonably sure they have not.

E-mailed, probably, though.

"– doesn’t the fact that you say 'affirmative action' pretty much acknowledge that the op ed page leans heavily left?"

No, it means that she thinks the conservative columnists wouldn't be there if measured by quality, but are there because of an active desire to Find Conservative Columnists.

My mind-reading is fairly clear on this.

For the record, these are the current Times Op-Ed columnists (there are other columns elsewher in the paper):
* Charles M. Blow Sa
* David Brooks Tu, F
* Roger Cohen M, Th
* Gail Collins Th, Sa

* Maureen Dowd W, Su
* Thomas L. Friedman W, Su
* Bob Herbert Tu, Sa
* Nicholas D. Kristof Su, Th

* Paul Krugman M, F
* Frank Rich

I'd count Krugman, Rich, and Herbert as definite liberals, Collins as something of a liberal, Brooks as a definite conservative, Cohen as an establishment blowhard (for the most part), Dowd as a non-ideological nitwit, Kristof as a non-ideological centrist mostly-foreign-policy-guy, and Blow really hasn't made much impression on me. (He's another African-American, for the record.)

Others will doubtless categorize differently.

I think a lot of newspaper opinion writers, and reporters, are often categorized as the opposite of the reader's stance, when what the writer is is actually an establishmentarian, rather than a particularly ideological writer.

Clearly, the Times was listening.

If the Times was listening, then maybe you should've touted a better, less predictable writer, and not saddled us with this insufferable twit for the next thirty years or more. Like Larison, or . . . well, it's pretty much just Larison at this point.

Well, Larison was actually my first choice but, come on, he's too controversial for the prudes at the Times.

I vote for cloning Molly Ivins, now that stem cell funding is back on the table.

I vote for cloning Molly Ivins, now that stem cell funding is back on the table.

America should be so blessed.

Gary: Friedman is conspicuous by his absence, eh?

"Friedman is conspicuous by his absence, eh?"

Oh, yeah, Friedman. Another Establishmentarian.

i second aimai's reaction. douthat is a younger david brooks; someone with mild-sounding rhetoric who can feign reasonable centrism at times, but will never, ever diverge from the republican politburo's talking points when the chips are down.

the nyt just handed the rnc another megaphone.

I vote for cloning Molly Ivins

Seconded.

But if it's a conservative we're after, I vote for cloning Peter Viereck.


...a non-ideological nitwit...

That made me laugh hard enough that I want to be one.

That's why newspapers, who are supposed to be committed to accuracy and truth, have no processes in place by which they send material to subject matter experts for review before publication.

I truly think that serious film makers have a far better process in place for this than do newspapers. (Well, I guess if newspapers have none, anything is better.)

The Grey Lady has given Althouse a guest column or two in the past. And now Douthat gets a permanent gig.

Another such victory for the blogosphere....

Well, Larison was actually my first choice but, come on, he's too controversial for the prudes at the Times.

It's a fascinating double standard: Being a self-described liberal who ceaselessly criticizes everyone and everything connected with the Democratic Party gets you the nice, juicy gigs: Kaus at Slate, Paglia at Salon, Althouse in the Times. (I still haven't figured out whether the fact that all 3 members of that unholy trinity are unspeakably awful writers is mere coincidence, or evidence of something deeper.)

But a self-described conservative who dares step off the GOP reservation? No such animal, as far as the MSM is concerned. The closest thing to that you'll find is Pat Buchanan, and he'll always come to the aid of his party when it counts.

Uncle: Does this count as going off the reservation? Or is it simply anti-Limbaugh?

Nice to see Limbaugh being called out by someone in his own damn party, and on the other Newsweek, no less.

Turb: Your distaste of newspapers is unwavering.

I suppose you realize newspapers could not hire a whole staff of specialists simply because their shrinking budgets will not allow it -- unless they'd hire a bunch of specialists who are hacks.

Besides that, one thought process is that a specialist will tend to write for his brethren and above the heads of the rest of us.

Journalists tend to be inquisitive and versed in the ability to communicate and, judging by the fact that blogs -- this one very much included -- quote them liberally, they must be doing their job.

P.S. Here's a plug for Rich.

Does this count as going off the reservation? Or is it simply anti-Limbaugh?

i'd say it's "anti-Limbaugh as leader of the GOP".

that piece really needs to be formatted correctly, too. there's a huge block-quote (2nd para on page 2) that needs to be offset or italicized or something. took me a few tries to figure out what was going on there.

on a different note... from the article, here's Rush about Obama:

    "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president."

and here's Rush in 2003, talking about Donovan McNabb:


    McNabb, he said, is "overrated ... what we have here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback can do well—black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well."

    "There's a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

sounds like Rush has some issues with people wanting black men to do well.

Turb: Your distaste of newspapers is unwavering.

Yes, well, watching your government lie the entire country into a war that kills a million people for no apparent reason with the active support of newspapers around the country will lead to some distaste. I suppose if the press' incompetence and mendacity helped facilitate the deaths of a million Americans, or even a million dogs, you might feel some distaste as well.

I suppose you realize newspapers could not hire a whole staff of specialists simply because their shrinking budgets will not allow it -- unless they'd hire a bunch of specialists who are hacks.

I didn't say anything about hiring specialists. Have you ever noticed how lots of specialists, for example Brad Delong, read newspapers and review pieces on their blogs regularly? In my experience, many specialists would be delighted to do that same job before publication. They wouldn't need to be paid. THEY ARE ALREADY DOING THIS JOB FOR FREE. If you really wanted to compensate them, I think the prestige of adding a line at the end of a column/article reading "This piece was reviewed for economic accuracy by Brad Delong, professor of Economics at blah and former Treasury department blah..." would be compensation enough.

I understand that 100 years ago, this sort of thing was impossible and so newsroom practices developed that did not rely on expert review. But now, thanks to such wonders as "email" and "blackberries", we can do better. So why haven't we?

I write software for a living. In every company I've worked at, almost all software changes are reviewed by someone. We don't have a single omnipotent editor who is presumed to understand all topics and all pieces of the system because that's absurd. It is just as absurd as believing that an editor at the NYT is qualified to review complex claims about the economy, global warming, political science, foreign affairs, and sociology. Why is it that software engineers take their jobs more seriously than NYT editors?

Besides that, one thought process is that a specialist will tend to write for his brethren and above the heads of the rest of us.

Yes, this is a problem that Paul Krugman suffers from in droves. His writing is completely incomprehensible. Again, I wrote about specialists reviewing pieces, not writing pieces.

Journalists tend to be inquisitive and versed in the ability to communicate and, judging by the fact that blogs -- this one very much included -- quote them liberally, they must be doing their job.

Reporters are not the same as columnists. Many professions prize the development of clear concise communication; it is rather important when explaining things to the boss. Blogs often quote reporters because they've done original reporting but they often quote columnists because the columnists have written utterly ridiculous things. Quoting someone does not mean you approve of what they wrote and it certainly does not mean they wrote anything of value.

Brooks, Kristol, and Friedman have literally phoned it in for years.

Yeah, but Friedman phones it in from a different airport every time.

On a BlackBerry! Yay globalization!

In every company I've worked at, almost all software changes are reviewed by someone. We don't have a single omnipotent editor who is presumed to understand all topics and all pieces of the system because that's absurd. It is just as absurd as believing that an editor a legislator at the NYT in Congress or at the State House is qualified to review complex claims about the economy, global warming, political science, foreign affairs, and sociology.

Why is it that we take the work of software engineers take their jobs more seriously than NYT editors we take the work of the people who make our laws?

The non-omnipotent editor at work. ;)

"Blogs often quote reporters because they've done original reporting but they often quote columnists because the columnists have written utterly ridiculous things."

Or they wrote something that stimulated further discussion.

A steady diet of blogs based on the premise, "Look what this idiot wrote or said," gets really old, really quick.

A couple of things for the record: (1) Most columnists, a Krugman being an obvious exception, started as reporters and would probably still consider themselves journalists -- Novak's column, for example, contained original reporting, for better or worse, until the end; and (2) as Gary indicated somewhere in these pages rececently, at a newspaper like the NYT, the level of editing a story goes through is quite thorough and numerous.

Uncle: Does this count as going off the reservation? Or is it simply anti-Limbaugh?

The latter, I'd say.

"I suppose if the press' incompetence and mendacity helped facilitate the deaths of a million Americans, or even a million dogs, you might feel some distaste as well."

Even as broad as that statement is -- or because it is so broad -- it would take a lot of proving. Evidence. Stats. Facts.

Or you could just blame the messenger.

cleek: I thought the same thing when I was reading Frum's take on Limbaugh and the state of the Republican Party -- that the story could have been formatted better and, thus, an easier read.

Nevertheless, it painted Rush as a racist convincingly -- and with his own words.

(2) as Gary indicated somewhere in these pages rececently, at a newspaper like the NYT, the level of editing a story goes through is quite thorough and numerous.

As I understand it, the level of copy editing a story goes through is enormous. The amount of review by subject matter experts is very low. The amount of review by people who are comfortable enough with data analysis that they can easily recognize when someone is trying to lie to them with statistics is very low indeed.


Even as broad as that statement is -- or because it is so broad -- it would take a lot of proving. Evidence. Stats. Facts.

What exactly do you want evidence for? I don't think I can prove definitively how you would react to the senseless killing of a million Americans...are you saying you would be happy about such an event?

Or you could just blame the messenger.

Indeed, Judith Miller was nothing but a messenger.

"Yes, well, watching your government lie the entire country into a war that kills a million people for no apparent reason with the active support of newspapers around the country will lead to some distaste."

How exactly do you know the government (I guess you mean the Bush administration) had "the active support of newspapers" and does this mean that the government -- the Obama administration -- now has the active support of newspapers?

I guess newspapers -- or The Media, for that matter -- gather together in some smoke-filled room and pick and chose what wars and what causes they are going to condone or condemn.

It's all one big Media conspiracy, that's what it is.

BTW, if Ms. Miller was misled by her sources, or worse, I'd go as far as to say she wasn't the first and won't be the last, as shocking as that may seem.

Ms. Miller did do some time in jail to protect said sources, so her devotion to the tenets of journalism are stronger than I'm sure you'd give her credit for.

"Uncle: Does this count as going off the reservation?"

David Frum? Are you kidding? He's been persona non grata with the NRO crowd for years; he and they have put each other down in their respective columns and blogs for years. He went "off the reservation" around 2005. Have you never read any of his countless anti-McCain columns, or the several dozens and dozens of "we must reform the Republican Party" pieces he's written in the past several years on more or less a weekly basis?

"How exactly do you know the government (I guess you mean the Bush administration) had "the active support of newspapers" and does this mean that the government -- the Obama administration -- now has the active support of newspapers?"

Because hardly any newspapers ran pieces that critically looked into the claims of the administration regarding WMD, or the need to go to war. There are books about this.

"BTW, if Ms. Miller was misled by her sources, or worse, I'd go as far as to say she wasn't the first and won't be the last, as shocking as that may seem."

Oh for god's sakes; Judith Miller's entrenchment with the conservative war-mongering crowd was endlessly documented years ago. If you don't know from "Out West, where you vacation, the aspens will already be turning. They turn in clusters, because their roots connect them," then, respectfully, you have no idea what you're talking about.

Why the hell do you think the Times finally fired her?

Does this count as going off the reservation? Or is it simply anti-Limbaugh?

I'm not as impressed with this as others. Yes, it's anti-Limbaugh, but it still implies, to me, that Limbaugh is someone to be taken seriously, but who is just mistaken in his thinking, and who maybe could do with a gentler style.

The fact is Limbaugh is a dishonest rabble-rouser. He distorts facts, and will basically say anything. When, during the campaign, Obama went to Hawaii t visit his dying grandmother, Limbaugh claimed it was really to see about covering up his birth records. How someone that repugnant can command anything but utter contempt from Frum or anyone else is beyond me.

"Because hardly any newspapers ran pieces that critically looked into the claims of the administration regarding WMD, or the need to go to war."

Which is true. But I think that hardly counts as Newspapers ACTIVELY supporting the government and, by extension, the war.

They may not have been doing their jobs the way one would have hoped. But to leap to the conclusion that they actively supported the government and the war is a big, big stretch.

Again, I wonder: Are Newspapers still supporting the government, cheerleading for Obama? Or is it that old pick-and-chose thing? They pick and chose what they support and we pick and chose what we say they are supporting as well, based on where our biases lie.

Also, in the end, before Newspapers are the target of one's anger about the Iraq war, I would suggest that anger should first and foremost be targeted at the Bush administration.

FWIW, I purposely worded my question to Uncle -- "Does this count as going off the reservation? Or is it simply anti-Limbaugh?" -- to bring attention to the Newsweek article and stimulate some discussion on it, and seem to have succeeded.

Gary: I was quite clear in stating that Judith Miller wasn't the first and won't be the last journalist to be misled -- or, as I said (in case you missed it) "or worse" -- by her sources. Hence, because of the "or worse" the NYT -- who Turb accused of actively supporting the war -- fired her.

"Gary: I was quite clear in stating that Judith Miller wasn't the first and won't be the last journalist to be misled "

But she wasn't "misled." She actively colloborated in selling a lie, because of her neocon beliefs and associates, all of which has been thoroughly documented.

"Misled" has the implication that she was otherwise simply an innocent person who was deceived; this isn't the case; she deliberately sought to mislead, herself.

I should have said this in somewhat softer language, however, btfb, so sorry about that.

Btfb, this link explains why some of us dislike the press and hold it partly responsible for the war in Iraq. (Not that Iraq is the sole focus of the link). As Gary said, there's been quite a few stories on this issue.

"She actively colloborated in selling a lie, because of her neocon beliefs and associates, all of which has been thoroughly documented."

Which would certainly be covered under the "or worse" that I included in my initial remark.

"Yes, well, watching your government lie the entire country into a war that kills a million people for no apparent reason with the active support of newspapers around the country will lead to some distaste."

In light of the fact that Judith Miller was fired from the NYT, I would suggest that is Exhibit A in knocking down Turb's assertion that newspapers actively supported the killing of a million people.

I must be the only one here who sees the absurdity in that claim.

In light of the fact that Judith Miller was fired from the NYT, I would suggest that is Exhibit A in knocking down Turb's assertion that newspapers actively supported the killing of a million people.

I don't make much distinction between actively trying to kill people and causing people to die horribly through utter negligence and incompetence. If an otherwise healthy blind man decided to get in a car and proceeded to run over and kill your dog, would that feel much better to you than if someone decided to kill your dog for no reason? Yes, there's a moral distinction here, but it doesn't strike me as very significant.

btfb, I'd suggest you read this.

"If an otherwise healthy blind man decided to get in a car and proceeded to run over and kill your dog, would that feel much better to you than if someone decided to kill your dog for no reason?"

Just to be clear, in your example here, does the otherwise healthy blind man represent the NYT and my dog the Iraqi people?

"Which would certainly be covered under the "or worse" that I included in my initial remark."

But I'm disagreeing with you that there's something normal about being in a conspiracy with your sources to deceive your editors. I don't think that's normal reportorial behavior at all, and I can't see any reason to defend it as such.

On the contrary, what Miller did was extremely unusual and exceptional. To assert that "she wasn't the first and won't be the last" makes me ask which other reporters you can name who actively conspired with government sources at the highest political levels to deceive their editors?

Note: this leaves out plagiarists and fabulists, such as Jayson Blair. It requires active conspiring with sources at the highest level of government.

"In light of the fact that Judith Miller was fired from the NYT, I would suggest that is Exhibit A in knocking down Turb's assertion that newspapers actively supported the killing of a million people."

Without debating how accurate or fair Turbulence's claim is, since Judith Miller wasn't fired until sometime after October, 2005, I'm not following how that act proves anything about coverage of whether or not Iraq was a threat to the U.S. before the war, or to what degree the U.S. press didn't question very well the decision to go to war. In a word: huh?

And I am not debating that The Times, and most of the MSM, did a poor job of reporting in the run-up to the war.

But that means they actively supported the killing of a million people?

In a word: huh?

"I don't think that's normal reportorial behavior at all, and I can't see any reason to defend it as such."

Indeed.

And it clearly falls under the "or worse" heading.

(We agree.)

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