Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Is Maureen Dowd worth $1.15?

After a long summer leave, Maureen Dowd's back at the Times.

And -- guess what? -- she picks up right where she left off back in May, writing snappy one-liners, gluing them together, and calling the resulting patchwork of banality -- usually either an attack on "W." or a complaint about masculinity -- a column.

You know, I used to like her. And I want to like her again. I really do. (Honest.) But now, like Thomas Friedman and his "flat" earth theory, she just preaches the predictable with repetitive abandon. Read one and you've read 'em all. Such is the unoriginality that plagues the formidable op-ed page of the nation's newspaper of record.

And it's not just Dowd and Friedman. Tell me honestly that anything one of the other columnists writes ever surprises you. Paul Krugman and David Brooks are fine writers, but do you ever read one of their columns and say, "Wow, that's brilliant!" Hardly. Nicholas Kristof occasionally does some really good stuff, like his work on the Mukhtaran Bibi story, and Frank Rich exhibits dashes of brilliance that set him apart from the mass of mediocrity that is the mainstream commentariat, but these days I find myself mostly looking and clicking away to much better stuff elsewhere.

So is Maureen Dowd worth $1.15, as I suggested? Or how about $3.42, as Slate's readers suggested?

Either way, I just wish she -- and the Times -- would do better.

Because, otherwise, who cares anymore?

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  • NY Times explodes wall between print, Web
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    Nice blog! I'll have to come back soon.
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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:38 AM  

  • I fully agree with your assessment of the Times op-ed crew. Dowd, in particular, is all cuteness and no substance. The guest writers they've been using to fill her slot are from the same mold. I think $1.15 is overpaying.

    By Blogger A.L., at 9:27 AM  

  • I generaly don't read the OP-Ed pages anyway and Dowd is one of the reasons. There is no intellectual substance to her at all. How did she get this job?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:28 AM  

  • Since when is it the domain of an op-ed columnist to say something new? Isn't the main role of a newspaper the proliferation of advertising with things that someone else decided was news added to make it more substantive?
    The real problem with columnists often extends towards things we don't necessarily about. Columnists are supposed to embody the ethos of the paper they represent, so they tend to be "safe," rather than shocking. When they are shocking, they can be tedious and more often than not, insane. I also suspect that quite often the columnists at the Times receive dictates from on high about what they should cover. Finally, you never know what has been pulled out of a column before it hits the press.... as all ex Daily columnists should know.
    Well, I don't read her stuff, so I could care a less.
    William Safire. Now there was a column. What happened to him?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:36 PM  

  • Is that yet another spam comment up there on top, above anonymousliberal? Alas.

    Anyway, I just find that I don't read the Times columnists anymore. Except for Rich. I know you don't care for him, Nate, but I think he's one of the best despite his obvious flaws. Kristol does some good reporting from overseas, but he's more of a journalist than a columnist. Krugman's economic analyses are generally strong (even if you don't accept his policy conclusions). And I don't mind Brooks -- actually, On Paradise Drive is absolutely hilarious; definitely recommended.

    I read the Times for the major news articles, for the film reviews, and generally for the off-beat stories. But I find myself reading the columns at the Post, or moving on to Slate and The New Republic, or checking out blogs.

    Rachel, Safire retired at the beginning of the year -- though he's still writing his weekly language column. Yes, whatever you thought of his politics, he was one hell of a writer.

    I'm not sure that columnists are always meant to proliferate advertising or to reflect the dominant ethos of the publication. The Washington Post, for example, as a broad array of columnists (Will, Krauthammer, Dionne, Cohen, Applebaum, etc.) from across the spectrum.

    To me, columnists -- especially at a high-falutin' paper like the Times -- are meant to be opinion-shapers, framers of the debate. At the very least, they should be interesting, if not provocative. Is there any of that at the Times? Not much.

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 5:01 PM  

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