Wednesday, June 4, 2003

previous entry | main | next entry | TrackBack (0)

Howell Raines, op-ed columnist?

In his latest Slate essay, Jack Shafer strongly suggests that Howell Raines is toast as New York Times executive editor (link via Sullivan):

Having surrendered his "fear and favor" management tools, how long can Raines lead the newspaper effectively? Imagine the empty joy of running the newspaper holed up like Richard Nixon during the impeachment summer of 1974. Raines might quit next week—like a Roman—to stave off a crisis. Or he might even quit so somebody else can lead the paper back to normalcy where people can do their work instead of attend committee meetings.

But at some point, his boss, who dreams of projecting the Times "brand" around the world, will recognize the injury done to the brand. Arthur Jr. will do as Arthur Sr. did when he maneuvered a similarly head-strong tyrant, A.M. Rosenthal, out the door in 1986. He'll get rid of the old editor and ask the new editor to make the paper even greater, and he'll ask him to make the newsroom a happy place again.

Times-bashers may be cackling with glee at this prospect. I, on the other hand, am quite anxious about this prospect.

Why? Because, if memory serves, when A.M. Rosenthal got the boot, his golden parachute was a Times op-ed column entitled "On My Mind." Rosenthal's mind turned out to be a vacuous, barren, desolate wasteland. His column -- a hackneyed collection of incoherent and infantile ramblings -- made me wince every second I read it until I went cold turkey in the mid-1990s. I might think Paul Krugman has become too shrill, but Krugman's column is an oasis of rigorous thinking and precise prose compared to Rosenthal's mindless blather.

Op-ed space in the New York Times is a scarce commodity. Even if it has a liberal bias, I want to read smart liberals -- Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Kieran Healy, Brad DeLong, Henry Farrell -- not pompous windbags like Rosenthal. My fear is that if Raines is given an op-ed slot, he will crowd out higher-quality contributors.

Maybe Raines would be a better columnist than an executive editor, but my suspicion is that he'll wind up being a carbon copy of Rosenthal.

UPDATE: Sridhar Pappu also thinks Raines won't be able to hold on (link via Kaus)

posted by Dan on 06.04.03 at 10:51 AM