Was it just a few weeks ago that I said most syndicated op-ed columnists are the latest Academy of the Overrated? Yes, I think I did — in comments, anyway. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t look at one of the syndi-teers and think, “Phonin’ it in in your bathrobe, babe.” Shall I make a list? Kathleen Parker, Michelle Malkin, Mona Charen, Mo Dowd, oh but I could go on and on. (If my list tilts right, it’s because there are hardly any liberal syndicated columnists left anymore, and you know it’s true — for every Molly Ivins there are five Ann Coulters, et al. Liberal op-ed editors seek them to “balance” the paper’s own editorials, and conservative op-ed editors seek them to bolster their own opinions (they consider their very existence sufficient “balance” against the OVERWHELMINGLY LIBERAL MEEEEEDIA.

I’m not one of those people who condemns op-ed columnists for a lack of reporting; I don’t read columns to learn new facts about an issue (although a few are always appreciated), I read them to learn a new way of looking at an issue. I want a voice, a point of view, a few well-turned phrases. But when the required “reporting” consists of little more than paying attention to the world, yeah, I get picky. When Michelle Malkin writes a screed condemning Jessica Simpson, the MTV airhead, I finish it not only willing to bet $500 that she’s never once watched the show, but simply aghast that any editor would run it, when it’s pretty clear what she’s winding up to:

Fortunately, parents looking for antidotes to Jessica Simpson syndrome and moron worship by the liberal Hollywood elite can find plenty of female role models in the media with beauty and brains.

Will it surprise you to learn the list that follows consists entirely of Fox News cuties, culminating with none other than chain-smoking bone pile Ann Coulter? What is the possible reaction to this, other than projectile coffee-spitting, followed by overwhelming feelings of contempt?

To be sure, there are lots of reasons this is happening, other than rampant cynicism. Newspapers are shrinking, in size, influence and relevance. If well-informed people once turned to Jack Anderson or Bob Novak or Anthony Lewis to guide their thinking over their morning eggs, they now get the same guidance on the prime-time shout shows. Who can blame an editor who gives a few square inches to Cal Thomas once a week? He’s cheap, he requires no benefits and he doesn’t bitch when he’s trimmed. So he’s boring and predictable and paints by numbers? Who doesn’t, these days?

Was this entry going somewhere? Yes, I think so.

Terry Teachout agrees with me. I don’t entirely share his enthusiasm for “the blogosphere” (a term I loathe), but it’s pretty clear that’s where the mojo is, these days. (There’s an equal amount of boring predictability and by-number painting, but at least it doesn’t cost you anything but time, and you have the satisfaction of knowing the blogger is almost certainly not getting paid for it.) You have to wonder: Why are the paid columnists in the newspaper so blah on the subject of Rush Limbaugh, while the unpaid Greg Beato, driven by nothing more than his curiosity and a quick hand on the search-engine throttle, is so much livelier?

Just a thought. If I were an editor, I know who I’d be waving money at.

Posted at 8:22 pm in Uncategorized |

5 responses to “Affirmation.”

  1. michael golden said on November 24, 2003 at 9:05 am

    I know what it is. You’re just annoyed that La Coulter did post grad work at Michigan. In your heart you know she belonged at Ohio State. You’re right, though. I can’t stand or even read Michelle Malkin or Ann Coulter. Why does it seem like lousy opinions go with lousy writing? As for Anne Lamott . . .

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  2. ts said on November 24, 2003 at 10:07 am

    “Bone-pile” – very funny. Coulter does have some sharp elbows. The only left-leaning pundit I can stand is EJ Dionne. Tom Friedman is good but he’s more of a centrist. Since few on the right read Franken or Meredith Vieira’s husband – and few on the left read Coulter or Charin – you’d think respected writers not preaching to the choir would have the most suasion.

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  3. alex said on November 24, 2003 at 10:29 am

    Ah�another new “near beer” from the far right! Christian cuties, with all the oomph of Christian rock and Christian couture. Who says Michelle Malkin isn’t giving you a new way to look at things? Ann Coulter as sex goddess. Next? Dubya�the second coming of Christ!

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  4. Nance said on November 24, 2003 at 12:39 pm

    TS — Meredith Vieira is married to a Richard Cohen, but not the Richard Cohen, at least not the Richard Cohen frequently linked to here. I believe her RC is a producer for ABC news.

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  5. Lex said on November 24, 2003 at 4:42 pm

    Speaking of the chain-smoking bone pile, here’s her latest:

    In addition to having a number of family deaths among them, the Democrats’ other big idea � too nuanced for a bumper sticker � is that many of them have Jewish ancestry. There’s Joe Lieberman: Always Jewish. Wesley Clark: Found Out His Father Was Jewish in College. John Kerry: Jewish Since He Began Presidential Fund-Raising. Howard Dean: Married to a Jew. Al Sharpton: Circumcised. Even Hillary Clinton claimed to have unearthed some evidence that she was a Jew � along with the long lost evidence that she was a Yankees fan. And that, boys and girls, is how the Jews survived thousands of years of persecution: by being susceptible to pandering.”

    Can someone please explain to me why any serious news organization, anywhere, would give this alleged woman a job?

    Oh. Wait.

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