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The @nytimes should ditch its opinion columnists altogether and replace them with thematic columns with a rotating cast of historians, economists, political scientists, etc. No one has anything insightful to say twice a week, especially on topics they know nothing about.
135 replies and sub-replies as of Mar 15 2018

It really gets to the actual function of the op-ed page, rather than it's apparent purpose, right? If they wanted to actually have challenging conversations about various topics, your idea would be great. I'd read the hell out of it.
But--not to get too Foucauldian--the actual function of the op-ed page seems to be to maintain a particular discursive structure of post-1945 liberalism, in which there are two sides to everything and ton is an essential element. It's all style, no substance.
I think they maintain the opinion columnists because people click on them and talk about them even if they are dumb and that earns ad revenue. If people accepted they were generally uninsightful and stopped reading them, they’d probably just go away.
The current format long antedates clicks.
I think this is key, the hate-click model; @JBennet's going for broke chasing it.
You’re missing the essential element: columnists become familiar personalities, like people at your local pub. Imagine Cheers but instead of Norm and Cliff it’s a random strangers. Not so appealing.
A bar that David Brooks hangs out in routinely sounds terrible
But, and just hear me out here - if you went to said bar, you could end up having both the cultural and qualitative essence of your burger explained to you. Who would want to miss out on that kind of enlightenment?
By a man who has never actually eaten a burger, but has a firm image of what they were like in the 1950s, and has imagined speaking to young and/or poor people about burgers today
As a former columnist I wish like heck the intellectual function - ie stimulating informed discussions of important topics - were more important to readers, but I assure you it’s not.
Oof, “tone” not “ton”
And I would re-subscribe.
Seconded! Unfortunately, even the newspaper business is personality driven.
My idea is that being a Times columnist should be like a fellowship,you hold it for a couple of years. It shouldn’t be a regular job.
Which is mostly what the Sunday section is already.
But the Sunday Review isn’t very good. So much depends on the competence, taste, and judgment of the editor
Yet they shape the national narrative!
Douthat does, IMO. And there’s already a glut of guest op-eds.
But then they’d choose a “balance” of wishy-washy liberal academics and right-wing extremist academics. They’re hopeless
This is a decent idea on first consideration.
Whoa, dude, that's an awesome idea! Won't happen, of course, because @nytimes columnists surely have sweetheart deals with Madison Avenue publishers, but it's a great idea
the way you know this would work is by looking at the consistent quality of @Edsall columns which are always deeply research and relevant
Damn that’s a great idea man.
I'd argue that a few folks out there, like @otisrtaylorjr at the SF Chronicle, pretty regularly manage to be insightful twice a week, partly because he does actual reporting. David Brooks may not have ever been insightful in his life, though perhaps I blinked and missed it.
that speaks to the importance of having journalistic engagement and the writer's ongong exposure to an on-the ground reality.
Exactly. Most Times columnists seem to have no apparent engagement with the real world, and it shows.
oh my god i couldn't write a better parody of Brooks if i tried
Obviously it’s tongue in cheek.
Brooks has a sense of humor.
But, but, but, David Brooks went to see Springsteen in Spain. If that’s not journalistic engagement with the world, I don’t know what is... also, he took a young woman for tacos one time.
Boston writer friend I follow @lukeoneil47 has been talking about this a lot. You'd probably like his band, too.
I sort of disagree with this. Every column by @paulkrugman has insight worth reading.
Maybe we shouldn't paint with such a broad brush. Also, @rcallimachi reports with knowledge and detail re: ISIS.
Yeah but he actually has expertise in a field and he mostly sticks to it
So maybe NYT should get better columnists rather than eliminating them. Shouldn’t be impossible
Isn’t this what @economist does?
Words cannot express my disinterest in whatever it is that Dowd, Stephens, Doughat and Brooks have to say.
No more poltical scientists please.
This take sounds totally appropriate for someone who knows nothing about selling newspapers.
Especially when they have been doing it twice a week for twenty years.
Because you disagree...?
I’d take Paul Krugman seven days a week.
Project Syndicate already does exactly that.
Saying nothing insightful on a topic he knows nothing about is Tom Friedman's whole schtick. Without it he's just a dude with a mustache who goes on tours.
I've been told this wouldn't be easy by editors I trust. OTOH, the model was never great, the internet completely broke it, and you could hire a decent sized team of editors + producers for what a couple of columnists and their assistants cost.
When it comes to how to live a life in solidarity with people around the world, we need WAY more voices than Kristof.
Most mainstream media is majority opinion now.
I'm pushing CWRU hard to my kid. Just saying.
Would be happy to meet if you both visit campus!
I am looking forward to seeing his face when I tel him you said that. Thank you and stand by!
Reach out to @CWRUAdmission and schedule a tour. We'd love to have you and your son visit campus.
This would have the added benefit of allowing @nytdavidbrooks to go back to school and enroll in a philosophy degree and of allowing @DouthatNYT to enroll in seminary. Honestly, that's really where their hearts are anyway.
You have largely just described the Times’ Sunday Review section, sans commentary. First thing I read on Sunday’s.
Let’s start a movement!
Leave Gail Collins alone tho.
Do you read Paul Krugman, an economist who knows a lot about what he talks about?
This is the point: let's hear from experts. Even on topics to tangential to their core stuff.
You’re just trolling copy editors and fact-checkers now.
Perhaps they could start David “Hot Take” Brooks.
Yeah but then how would we normalize the far right?
How about a "Fact-Ed" page instead of an "Op-Ed" page? We already have plenty of unhelpful opinions.
can I toss an occasional poet into the mix?
Oh, I don't know. Check out The Rambler.
Could today's parents learn a thing or two from the Spartans? Revisiting the Bell curve Hitler's art: is it unappreciated for the right reasons?
But why stop there? The @nytimes should ditch its reporters altogether and replace them with a rotating cast of robots, historians, economists, political scientists & other hucksters. No one has anything insightful to say daily...
Well, Hamilton did write roughly two essays of the Federalist Papers per week between Oct 1787 and May 1788
this is a great tweet
my twitter account stands in defiance to your assertion
1/ Cannot say how desperately much I want this. Newspapers are just awful - partly because of this aggressive pomposity-ignorance model of 'comment'; coupled with financial capture (ads) and victimhood /special pleading (loss of self-asserted social role).
2/ Sadly the best media commentators - @karaswisher @brianstelter @pkafka for my money - have zero time for print critique instead boosting eg @deanbaquet @AGSNYT as buddies / heros back in town, while attacking FB at will. So weird/disturbing, the distortion-field around print.
I'm sorry, but we need weekly updates on the most pressing crisis civilization faces in these troubled times: college students protesting things.
And do you limit your tweets to less than 2 a week or this a demonstration of your point about insightlessness?
Most of my tweets don’t deserve to be highlighted essays in prime journalistic real estate, I don’t charge anyone to read them, and I certainly don’t get paid for them.
Attempt to be clever obliterated! Lol
Well I guess if you say so it must be so.
So who have I been sending money to all this time?????
Worth checking out @ConversationUS and others
Why stop at just the NYT?
yeah but do you know how much *work* it would be to source, vet + finangle that many writers?
Cancelling my subscription #NYtimes
Holy shit. I'd be so into this! Tell me about your weird, obscure moth. Tell me about the latest sociological theory and how we can apply it to improve our lives. Break down exactly how to improve my credit score - both with and without using a credit card. Where do I sign?
I’ll second this. I write a column once a month and it’s hard as heck to come up with something original and well-researched even on that schedule. If I did this several times a week it would be .... subpar
You are so right. I decided earlier today to cancel because I’m not learning anything new!
Here's a list to start: @EdwardTufte (art, data display and literacy, the Challenger) @afromusing (aka Juliana Rotich) @HermanWarren (unique persepective on US & South Africa, at the Economist) Peter Godfrey-Smith, author of "Other Minds" about octopus and consciousness
How about one opinion page devoted to the role of narrative structure and story-telling? With directors, novelists, psychologists, neurologists and Septime Webre?
You mean Krugman?
They literally hired two moderate conservatives and the left’s reaction is to burn it down??
Add @ConversationEDU or @ConversationUS to your news diet. Problem solved!
Who needs reasoned opinion and critique when you can just have ‘takes’
They should ditch their movie critics too!
This seems to apply to sports page columnists as well
If they had folks like @AngNagle on the page I might actually read it.
Great plan! More space for science, philosophy, and history!
Yeah, but, that’s just like, your opinion, man.
They should start with Joseph Mssad as payback
I agree..I feel like my subscription is wasted.
The trouble is that historians and economists are often even bigger flaming assholes than the pundits they deride
If this actually does happen, let me know. We have access to a roster of researchers who can provide an in-depth analysis that's still digestible to the average Joe. #increasingaccess
Her position was a payoff to her brother— unqualified to the bone marrow!
It depends on the columnists. In the 80s and 90s, the #ChicagoSunTimes and #ChicagoTribune had opinion columnists who had interesting 3/week or even *daily* columns: Richard Roeper, Clarence Page, Mary Schmich, Steve Johnson, et al.
Yes. Second this.
But who will write about Hillary then?!?!?
I like it when my hunches & intuitions are articulated and confirmed by people with some intellectual reputation. It's nice to see your ideas being raised in social status. Genuine insight would only be useful for ppl who don't mind being contrarian. Little demand for that.
But only non Western ones.
Interesting idea. But don't they ALSO do this
Love this idea, but... Historically, readers buy newspapers for the Op-Eds. And not b/c they want to educated, but b/c they want to hear broadcast back to them a more coherent, literate version of what they already believe.
That is a GREAT idea! All those lifetime appointments regurgitating the same ideas endlessly.
to be fair, Krugman won the Nobel Prize in economics. He's an actual expert.
People aren't reading columnists mainly for their insight.
Radical suggestion: You could just read a publication that already does this. @ConversationUS springs to mind
The @nytimes should ditch its opinion columnists altogether and replace them with thematic columns with a rotating cast of historians, economists, political scientists, etc. No one has anything insightful to say twice a week, especially on topics they know nothing about.
That sounds just like the columnists at the .@globeandmail Ibbitson✖ Wente✖ Yakabuski✖ Horrible writing and half-baked opinions.
I love the last sentence...what in the fuck happened to genuine SMEs ? Seriously ... did they go extinct ? If your not a subject matter expert...who cares about the uneducated opinions of political hacks (info-tainers)
Thank you for the thoughtful elaboration!
What's funny is that they occasionally publish op-eds from important people and it's always good shit or at least interesting. There is a version of this that has a proven track record.