Print media: It's totally dying! And what can be done about it? The moment seems to call for a re-arrangement of journalistic priorities in the service of providing readers with the sort of vital reporting that only newspapers can provide. But, instead, it seems like the New York Times and the Washington Post are going to give the building up of superfluous infrastructure and launching pointless pundit initiatives a try.
The news this week from the New York Times is that they are tired of missing out on all the neat controversies that political blogs have been dredging up, like the whole ACORN fooferaw! So, the higher ups have decided that they will take an extreme corrective measure and "assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies." That means some lucky employee at the New York Times is about to be handed the easiest assignment in all of journalism. Here's how you do it: BOOKMARK MEMEORANDUM. That's it. If you want to make it a little harder, you could assign an intern to sift through an RSS feed. You could even make use of an online news aggregator, like the one the New York Times doesn't seem to remember it owns.
Nevertheless, while the needfulness on display makes the New York Times look sort of dotty, the monitoring of blogs at least fulfills a need. Knowing that blogger Marcy Wheeler had written about the waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah spared their own reporters from having to "read documents" and "develop an understanding of an issue" themselves. But, ask yourself, is there really a need for new pundits, other than a last resort source of fuel in a post-peak oil apocalypse? Surely not! But don't tell the Washington Post! They've planned a whole contest around the search for America's Next Top Blitherer.
Aspiring opinion-havers are invited by the Post to submit "a short opinion essay (400 words or less) pegged to a topic in the news and an additional paragraph (100 words or less) on yourself and why you should win" between now and October 21. Ten finalists will be chosen, and, starting "on or about" All Hallow's Eve, will be asked to perform various feats of punditry and be judged by "a panel of Post personalities" who "will offer kudos and catcalls." After the contest, that panel will return to the special room in Hell that has been reserved for me, and wait.
There are no details on what silly little reality show tasks the contestants will have to endure, but I suspect they will include:
--Write an essay, "Just How Badly Do You Think You Deserve A Medal For Being Wrong On The Iraq War."
--How supine and passive can you be in the face of Fred Hiatt's desire to mislead on climate change?
--Can you outdo Charlotte Allen in the production of intellectual excrement? How about actual excrement?
--How fast can you type: "ZOMGSURGEMORETROOPSSURGEKAGANKAGANZOMGSENDALLTHETROOPSTOTHEWARZ?"
--Do you know any high-powered lobbyists, that you can introduce Marcus Brauchli to?
The winner will receive "the opportunity to write a weekly column that may appear in the print and/or online editions of The Washington Post, paid at a rate of $200 per column, for a total of 13 weeks and $2,600." Of what benefit will this be to readers, other than the opportunity to see Dana Milbank on the judge's panel tell loser contestants, "You just got DICKWHISPERED?" That, I cannot say. Perhaps, though, this contest will afford the Post the opportunity to add a voice to a roster of columnists that often get criticized for their lack of balance, thus providing a differing point-of-view for--OH WOW, I cannot even take that idea seriously enough to finish the sentence.