Sunday, December 30, 2007

Why the New York Times hired William Kristol

Many of the best bloggers can't seem to understand why the New York Times recently hired William Kristol as one of its columnists. Brad DeLong called it the start of the "death spiral of the New York Times."

Josh Marshall wrote "Kristol to Ravish Grey Lady."
Sulzberger and Co. have failed to grasp the taxonomy of the neoconservative literary cartel. David Brooks is the house-broken William Kristol, the cadre tasked with operating just behind enemy lines, or at least in the no-man's-land where only a kinder gentler version of the faith can be propounded. And they already have him.

So why you'd want both Kristol and Brooks on staff is a question that simply has no logical answer unless they got some sort of two for one deal or other kind of group discount.
Andrew Sullivan agrees, sort of.
[H]aving both David Brooks and Bill Kristol as the sole representatives of the right-of-center is to focus on a very small neocon niche in a conservative world that is currently exploding with intellectual diversity and new currents of thought.
But Sullivan also noted in passing that Kristol is
obviously an extremely talented writer and editor.
I think that what we are seeing is the New York Times acknowledging that the web is the future. Not too long ago, it stopped charging for access to its special web content — especially its most-popular columnists. It has built (and is probably still building) an impressive line-up of columnists and bloggers (including Paul Krugman as a blogger). Its Op-Ed Contributor page is one of the most sought-after platforms on the web. The Times has made its web presence very friendly and attractive (it has a very useful most popular list; articles have lots of cross-links; double click a word and get an immediate lookup; it publishes some very attractive Flash slide shows and videos) — while at the same time retaining its dignity. The owners of the Times have realized that they can't fight the web and that one of the things that draws people to websites is lively expression of opinion. Kristol gives them that — whether or not they have others who write from a similar ideological perspective.

It's obviously too early to tell how much money the Times website will contribute. But I'm pleased to see that the Times will be focusing on surviving in a web-based world and not attempting to survive without it. The Times is in the process of mastering the web as a medium of expression for what were once known as newspapers.

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