Stephen Colbert practices satire, but I suspect his dalliance with Maureen Dowd in today’s guest op-ed piece is only sarcastically ironic. Indeed, his subtitle, “I am an op-ed columnist (and so can you!)” points out the essential problem of op-ed writing: anyone can do it, and someone somewhere in the blogosphere is faster, wittier, and just plain fresher than the usual op-ed suspects.
I don’t care if you’re talking about Maureen Dowd or Jeff Jacoby: as shrill, biased, and repetitive as they are, the blogosphere does it better. In a time when newspapers are bleeding cash, why should they even bother to compete with the unwashed masses on their own turf? Newspapers should be crying “Hallelujah” that You, Too, Can Be An Op-Ed Writer so they can finally put resources back into investigative reporting and that old-fashioned journalism stuff.
Most of my colleagues at Berkman were ecstatic that the Times finally opened up “Times Select” to everyone, free of charge, but one upshot of setting all this information free was that Ms. Dowd has reappeared at the top of the “Most Emailed” charts. I was happier not knowing that the supposedly enlightened readers of the Times really were partisan flag-wavers after all. And not even all that intellectually enterprising: really, what is Frank Rich saying that the Daily Kos didn’t beat to death a few days earlier?