Monday, November 24, 2003

# Posted 10:06 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A NOVEL EXPLANATION FOR NYT MEDIOCRITY: Matt Yglesias and Kevin Drum think that the 800-word limit on NYT biweekly columns stifles creativity and prevents some authors from putting their foot forward.

My response: Huh? There is an almost endless supply of 800-word columns out there that contain both new information and original ideas. Granted, most of those columns are in the WaPo. But that just goes to show that format isn't what's holding the NYT back.

Moreover, I think Kevin & Matt would grant that what's wrong with Bill Safire or David Brooks is their ideas, not their format. By the same token, you won't find me complaining about the format of Dowd & Krugman's columns (or Safire's for that matter).

Now, Kevin does raise an interesting point about the NYT constantly hiring columnists who have no experience in the genre. Why not, he suggests, recruit the best columnists from leading regional papers? I agree. But I think the problem with unproven columnists is not that they have trouble adjusting to the format, but rather that they don't have a demonstrated ability to bring new ideas into play on a biweekly basis. As a former bimonthly columnist myself, I'd say that the challenge of op-ed writing is finding something worthwhile to say, not figuring out how to say it in 800 words.

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