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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Sunday, June 09, 2002
2:37 PM

Colman McCarthy is my mystery guest columnist. I am very happy to welcome him even though I disagree with most of what he says here. I'll post on that later today, when the sun is gone, and after all you surfers have had a chance to take it in. McCarthy is from the belly of the beast--the Washington Post--though we see that beast quite differently. McCarthy wrote Post editorials for years, and was a columnist for almost 30, retiring in 1997. His interest in posting here is a compliment to PostWatch and to my readers, and I thank him for it.

Housekeeping notes: The hed is mine, don't blame him for a boring, predictable hed from the right. I welcome comments, and so does he. As Morpheus said in The Matrix, free your mind...

Post Op-Eds: Boring, Predictable Playground for the Center and the Right

By Colman McCarthy

Newspaper op-ed pages, it can be theorized without too much cynicism, are read by people who believe other people are reading them--so you'd better, too, if you want to be in the know. In the nation's capital, readers who turn to the daily op-ed page of The Washington Post thinking that hordes of others are devouring the columns may be dabbling in overly broad assumptions.


Because the opinion page of The Post is a scene of numbing sameness: centrist or rightwing viewpoints, listless writing and pro-establishment megaphonics Most of it is produced by ensconced white males day after repetitive day, week after stodgy week. It is a wasted resource. For readers with a yen for a diversity of views or--not to be intellectually greedy--a desire for the off-beat, daring, boat-rocking or witty, The Post's op-ed page is not the place to look. While other parts of the paper shine--the investigative reporting of Sari Horwitz, TV critic Tom Shales, Book World, Mary McGrory, the obituary writing of Claudia Levy and Adam Bernstein, legwork Metro columnists Courtland Milloy and Marc Fisher--torpor marks the op-ed page.

The one measurement for a quality op-ed page is for readers to turn to it with no guess about who will be there or what will be said. This means a daily offering of unpredictable diversity in both writers and topics ranging from right wing, left wing and the whole bird. This is the trend nationally. Lynnell Burkett, editorial page editor of the San Antonio Express News and an officer of the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW), believes that "if you expect people to read your op-ed page it has to reflect the variety of voices in the community. That means gender diversity, ethnic diversity, and a wide variety of political views." continued...

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