Salon: New York Times Opinion Section Is Insufficiently Liberal

Common-ground alert: Salon's Alex Pareene doesn't think much of the New York Times's opinion columnists as a group, and neither, presumably, do NewsBusters readers. As for the reasons why, well, let's just say most of Pareene's almost certainly aren't the same as yours. 

Pareene blasts Maureen Dowd for "sloppiness, not to mention rote repetition of themes and jokes and incredibly lazy thinking" and skewers Nick Kristof for his alleged "do-gooder liberalism [which] involves the bizarre American conviction that bombing places is a great way to help them." He likes Thomas Friedman even less, writing that Friedman "is an embarrassment" who "writes stupid things, for stupid people, about complicated topics" and "dutifully pushes a stultifyingly predictable center-right agenda."

As for the Times's arguably righty columnists, Pareene believes that one is too respectful of modern conservatism and that the other appears too intelligent to take conservative positions:

-- "David Brooks...seems genuinely tired of himself and ought to have his column killed primarily to put him out of his misery. Brooks is the sort of conservative Times editors aren’t embarrassed to publish, though they probably ought to be. He is devoted to furthering the notion that there is an honest and useful intellectual wing of the conservative movement, dedicated to addressing economic iniquities and so on, but he has been trying for so long to imagine a sensible Republican Party into existence that he can’t still think it’s going to happen soon."

-- "Ross Douthat is a thoughtful writer who usually engages sincerely with liberal ideas and thinkers — which, you know, shouldn’t be a particularly notable trait for a serious opinion writer, but this is the modern conservative movement we’re talking about. Douthat’s conservatism is idiosyncratic only in that it is espoused by a seemingly smart person."

Pareene praises NYTers Gail Collins, Charles Blow, and, especially, Paul Krugman, "who would be the most influential columnist in the country if it weren’t for the fact that elected officials routinely refuse to listen to him. Poor Paul Krugman, our Sisyphus of elite opinion, eternally doomed to the same arguments with the same people, forever."


Also from Pareene's Tuesday piece:

As America’s newspapers shrink and die, the New York Times only grows in importance. It is effectively America’s last truly national newspaper. Its coverage decisions influence the coverage decisions of every other paper and all television news broadcasts, cable and network. Politicians and executives read it. What the Times says and does frames the allowable political conversation.

Which is why it is so annoying that the Times has a terrible opinion section.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not as bad at the Washington Post’s opinion section, but the Times — specifically its slate of regular columnists — is bad. And that badness matters. The president and most of the sane members of Congress care what the Times and its opinion-makers say. The opinions of these columnists have consequences. But most of them don’t write like people who ought to be entrusted with that responsibility...

These tired hacks have a near-monopoly on political opinion writing in the most important newspaper in the world. They set the boundaries of the debate among the elite, and the elite have not lately given us much reason to think that they are receiving great advice...

Blow it up and start again.

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters