You Can Make This Stuff Up by mattsteinglass
April 23, 2007, 10:38 am
Filed under: Internet, Media, United States

The blogospheric outrage at Maureen Dowd’s decision, yet again, to allocate her high-priced real estate on the NY Times op-ed page to a close reading of the public’s semantic and connotative responses to John Edwards’s haircuts prompts me to consider, yet again, what exactly it is that columnists supposedly do in this rapidly changing blog-infested media world. I remember that a few years back, when Nick Kristof first began journeying around the world, doing hard but opinionated advocacy-based reporting with multimedia enhancements from the world’s poorest and dismalest hot spots, I found it a revelation. Now, of course, several of the Times’s op-ed columnists are treating their jobs the same way. Paul Krugman puts on his reporter-economist hat and goes slogging through CBO reports, calling up OMB officials and so forth, to sift through government economic and budget data and make it comprehensible to the layman. Even Thomas Friedman travels around to Davos and Kenya, interviewing businessmen and average workers, trying in his somewhat ingenuous fashion to figure out what makes the global economy tick and how it’s related to a development agenda in the third world.

Then, there are two Times op-ed columnists who basically comment on other people’s shopping habits: Maureen Dowd and David Brooks.

I don’t think there’s a place for that sort of writing anymore. Certainly not taking up space on the op-ed page of the NY Times. Dowd and Brooks aren’t doing enough to justify their positions; they don’t bring enough value-added. In certain ways, the US remains a very meritocratic country, and it seems to me that within a couple of years, if the two of them don’t start doing some serious reporting or multimedia production like their harder-working colleagues, they’re going to be out of a job.


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