The Lack of Liberal Columnists

There are fewer liberal columnists than conservative columnists in American newspapers, according to Media Matters.
Assuming it’s true, Atrios’s argument about the right-wing noise machine explains this to an extent.  But I think it makes more sense in light of Jay Rosen’s point of a few weeks back.  The media prizes savviness over all other things.  People with actual beliefs and views on policy are just like totally uncool.  Then once the vast right-wing conspiracy set about working the refs, and we wound up with Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol being counterbalanced by… Joe Klein.

This has been catastrophic for America, of course.  Extreme right-wing views became “serious,” while no argument from the other side gets a fair hearing.  That I supported the Iraq invasion is all my own fault, and I should have known better based on publicly available info at the time.  But part of the problem was that I bought into the attitude that “every serious Democrat” supported the war.  And who wants to be unserious?

The ideal pundit, to me, is Paul Krugman.  He didn’t just pick a side and spend the rest of his life defending it, or hold a finger to the wind before ever setting pen to paper.  He’s an expert in his field, and he argues based on his best understanding of the accuracy of his views.

In the 1990s, his research and his assessment of the political climate led him to spend a lot of time criticizing the American left.  His Slate columns and website (newer sites) were both packed with fun stuff, much of it arguing against folks like Bob Kuttner.  I was pretty surprised to read his forthright attacks on “Rovewellianisms” (Jeff Huber’s term) during the 2000 campaign, and his prescient argument that the California energy crisis was worsened by chicanery of the power companies.  It was stuff that I hate to admit that I might have dismissed out of hand were it not for his background (I am a recovering knee-jerk centrist).  And it was stuff that a typical political columnist wouldn’t write.  Too un-savvy.

Ezra Klein makes a very good point about Krugman.  He probably wouldn’t have been hired had the Times thought that he’d play a role as a fiery liberal on their op-ed page.

So, he’s the model columnist, and he’s in a class of one. Not that everyone else is completely horrible, but I don’t think that anyone else fits the description of an expert who tries to be accurate rather than savvy or to be a team player.

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2 Responses to “The Lack of Liberal Columnists”

  1. Devil's Advocate Says:

    This is the most flawed study I have read in a while, and I understand how to read social science studies.

    I have provided for you the most thorough analysis on the Internet of Media Matters’ study. You can read it below.

    Media Matters Spouts its Own Flawed Study as Fact: How They Did It, In Great Detail

    http://copiousdissent.blogspot.com/2007/09/media-matters-spouts-its-own-flawed.html

  2. elviselvisberg Says:

    Thanks a lot for reading and for commenting, DA.

    I don’t see how your entry debunks the Media Matters study, however.

    You complained about the categorization of 3 or 4 of the writers, on the basis of a scant few paragraphs from one of their columns, or on the basis of their view on one issue.

    Your post does reinforce the inherent difficulty of categorizing people into the not-so-neat categories of “liberal” and “conservative,” but that’s a difficulty of which we’re all aware.

    I see your post as picking around the edges and raising some questions, but it doesn’t count as a “debunking.”

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