Thursday, May 26, 2011

If We Lived In A Sane Universe . . .

I read the news today. Oh boy.

Newspapers are dying. What does the premiere newspaper in the country do? It decides to make this guy an op-ed columnist. Considering David Brooks is the flagship columnist for the Times, the bar was already pretty low, but still . . .

There are amazing, intelligent, thoughtful, funny, insightful, provocative folks who write well, but just don't have the audience. They could use the kind of samolians the Gray Lady pays, too. They would attract new readers. They would create the kind of buzz a big newspaper needs to stay off a ventilator.

For example, Dan could write about religion. With comment threads stretching to the hundreds, its obvious the positions he takes bring out readers who want to talk about the same things he writes about. His willingness to engage anyone and everyone is a virtue far too rare on the internet. Agree or disagree with him, you have to admit, he keeps readers, and keeps them interested.

Lisa could write about politics. Or parenting. Or writing. Or sex. Or all of them in a single column! She's funny, bawdy, irreverent, and at one time had the best profile picture of any blogger I read on a regular basis. If she and I met, I would be a fawning, love-struck teenager, I am quite sure. Of course, the Times might have to relax its style book a bit for some of Lisa's vocabulary, but it would be worth it.

Angela could write about being married to a military officer. Or working out. Or ferrets. Or politics. Or sex. Or all of them in a single column! She used to call herself "The Angry Ballerina", but since she married James Nason, she's been far less angry; in fact, she is practically cuddly, now, all things considered. She, too, is vocal, opinionated, strident even, yet marvelously warm and, most of all, human.

Our public discourse needs an infusion of smart, a mainline of funny, and maybe a defibrillator of thoughtful if we are going to yank ourselves out of the hole in which we find ourselves. Rather than fall back on columnists who may well prove to be even more awful than the current crop, one would think a business that is rotting on the vine might just take a chance and reinvigorate itself.

Of course, the Washington Post did the same kind of thing, hiring Ezra Klein as their on-line commentator. Klein went from being intelligent, thoughtful, and irreverent to, well, just another writer at the Post. So, does entering the mainstream mean selling your soul? It shouldn't. Evidence suggests otherwise, though.

It would be nice if these folks, and some others, got the exposure and rewards they deserved. One of the continual frustrations of this life is the on-going marginalization of internet discussions and writing, as if somehow a medium populated by tens of millions of people were somehow irrelevant.

Virtual Tin Cup

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