Dear Washington Post,
Look, I get it. Sales figures are declining. Online ad revenue sucks. This whole fragmented media environment thing hasn’t exactly been gangbusters for business. That Internet video experiment flamed out faster than a Roman candle.
But I can’t hate on you for experimenting. Times are tough, and a new business environment probably demands a new approach to news gathering. And I wish you all the best. Really, I do. Unlike some folks, I have a lot of respect for the good work you put out on a regular basis. I shudder to think what life in the District and Northern Virginia would be like without Post beat reporters. Other than the occasional beef with your op-ed page, I honestly think you put out a fine product.
But this latest gimmick is just . . . silly. After a year or two in the blogosphere, I’ve belatedly realized that the last thing we need is another jack-of-all-trades commentator. I mean, we’re dealing with an embarrassment of riches in that department. Everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion, a WordPress account, and access to Google. It’s been fun, but I think amateur punditry is rapidly reaching the point of diminishing returns. Except for my co-bloggers, that is. They’re still money.
But aside from all the wannabe pundits and amateur conspiracy theorists, the Internet has also managed to draw a bunch of experts out of the woodwork. Think tankers, economists, and lawyers – you name it, they all have blogs now. And they write. All. The. Time. It’s almost as if they enjoy sharing their expertise with the rest of us in an open, unmediated forum. These days, I don’t have to rely on a Post beat writer to pull a few quotes from expert X on crisis Y – I can just fire up my RSS feed and check out expert X’s (frequently updated) blog for his or her totally comprehensive opinion.
So here’s my proposal. Instead of giving away valuable column space to some schmuck who can plausibly construct an opinion on every imaginable topic in one week or less, why not try giving one of these quirky expert types a shot? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few financial analysts on-hand the next time a global financial crisis hits? What about a military guy to explain this whole War on Terrorism business? (Wait, you just canned Tom Ricks?) Or a lawyer, to parse the latest torture memos?
If I was running the show, I’d probably draft Jim Manzi. Or that bald dude from Rortybomb. I think you’re better off with either of those guys than a pale George Will imitator. But maybe that’s just me.