Monday, May 23, 2005

The greed of the Times: Op-Ed columnists by the dollar

The results of Timothy Noah's Chatterbox poll in Slate (see my previous post for an explanation -- and my own allocations):

Krugman: $6.90.
Friedman: $4.10.
Rich: $3.92.
Dowd: $3.42.
Kristof: $2.35.
Herbert: $1.42.
Brooks: $1.39.
Tierney: $0.31.

No, the numbers don't add up to $25, but Noah offers an explanation for this. Some other observations:

Although I put Rich on top, by a substantial margin, Krugman and Friedman are both deserving of reader support -- I had them second and third, just ahead of Kristof.

Speaking of whom, it's tough to see Kristof below Dowd. I realize that Dowd may be popular among the Bush-haters and that her column is, well, different (if I may employ a useful euphemism), but Kristof is surely a more important columnist. I used to like Dowd, but I now find her shtick quite tiresome, and Kristof at least brings light to unreported stories and overlooked parts of the world -- far more substance than silly names for the Bushies.

Poor Herbert. I gave him no respect, and nor did other Chatterbox readers. He's really not a bad columnist, just mediocre and rarely with much to say. Take his most recent, on Rumsfeld. "How does Donald Rumsfeld survive as defense secretary," he asks, before proceeding to run down the predictable list of reasons why he should have been turfed out long ago: bad planning, prisoner abuse, arrogance, etc. I agree with all of it. I loathe Rumsfeld and I think that he needs to take responsible (and be held accountable) for what's gone wrong in Iraq (and elsewhere). The problem is that Herbert doesn't bring anything new to the column. No investigative reporting, no new facts, no serious analysis, nothing that hasn't been said before, nothing that you can't find in endless permutations throughout the media (including the blogosphere). If that's all it takes to be a Times columnist, where do I send my c.v.? I could churn out similar work twice a week without much effort at all.

The two "conservatives," Brooks and Tierney," round out the pack. Tierney has a lot to prove, and I don't much like his stuff so far, but Brooks deserves better. I suspect this has more to do with the biases of Chatterbox's "liberal" readership than with his merits as a columnist. All I can say is that he's a conservative whom liberals should take seriously.

And that's it. Save up your hard-earned cash, or these giants of the American political commentariat will be lost to you forever. Which may or may not be such a bad thing.

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