One thing I failed to point out in my initial post is that part of the problem with running a weekly column is that every one that comes out it is a real statement. It’s your vision of the world for that week. NYT columns generate a lot of buzz and a ton of play on blogs, more than even the most controversial and high profile blog posts. This makes every one fraught with importance for how you are judged by the blogging world, where someone’s opinion can ebb and flow literally over the course of a day depending on their output. As I said before, I think Ross is in an almost untenable position: as he is going to be seen as the New York Times pet conservative, he has to be sufficiently conservative that he is not tuned out entirely, without sacrificing the open-mindedness and heterodoxy that made him such an appealing figure in the first place. It’s a narrow path he has to walk, and at worst it could result in the kind of “one for this side/one for the other side” dance that ideologically promiscuous pundits sometimes have to do. But this is exacerbated by the weekly publishing schedule. When you write one statement of your beliefs a week, each one needs to send just the right collection of signals. A blog, meanwhile, can ruminate on so many different issues over the course of a week that you don’t need to worry about treading any particular ideological paths. Your perception can merely be the aggregate impression of everything you’ve had to say.
(There is a separate conversation to be had, by the way, about the self-censoring aspects of constant bias accusations. When you become convinced that all of the media is a conspiracy to silence your point of view, you winnow the number of acceptable fora within the media that you are willing to listen to. Which in turns limits the prospects of like-minded pundits in terms of where they can work and be taken seriously by your movement, perversely limiting the ability of your message to spread. But I digress.)
The point is this: give Douthat a goddamn blog, New York Times. He can keep writing his column. You can ask that he talk about stuff in his column that doesn’t appear in the blog. You can insist that he operate in a different voice in the column than he does on the blog. You could even have the proviso that it be a blog about policy, or culture, or whatever. But give the man a blog on your website. Let him post about things that are a little less consequential. Let him stretch his feet out a bit. You hired this guy because you think he’s talented. Why not given him broader ranger to show it?
And you, dear bloggers– spread the word. And if you like this image, spread that too.