Bill Kristol on The New York Times breaking a major story back in June of 2006: “I think the attorney general has an absolute obligation to consider prosecution.” Public Editor Clark Hoyt reports:
Rosenthal said Kristol’s comment about prosecution bothered him. It was, Rosenthal said, “a heavy accusation that put him in a category other than a journalist.” But he said that Op-Ed columnists are not necessarily traditional journalists, and he did not think that “holding one opinion” should be the basis for selecting or rejecting a columnist.
Sulzberger said The Times wanted “a columnist who brought to our pages a deeply held and well articulated point of view in line with what you might call the conservative Republican movement. … Our Op-Ed page is a marketplace of ideas. He’ll strengthen the discussion.”
Spencer Ackerman observes: “Truly a liberal fascist is one who won’t take his own side in a putsch.”
Joking aside, Sulzberger’s comments are revealing. Clearly, one ought to consume a diversity of points of view. That’s why back when he was still blogging I always liked to read Max Sawicky’s brand of lefty economics even though I’m more inclined toward Brad DeLong’s brand of center-left technocracy. For that matter, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabbarok are one of my daily must-reads as well. I highly recommend the American Scene as an interesting source of various kinds of rightwingery, as well as the Technology Liberation Front for a free market perspective on tech policy. And of course there’s my colleagues Andrew Sullivan, Megan McArdle, and Ross Douthat. A healthy intellectual diet needs diversity.
But does it really require a “point of view in line with what you might call the conservative Republican movement” irrespective of its merits? I think there are lots of smart people who have some views on some subjects that are in line with the conservative movement, but to hire a columnist purely because his views mirror The Line from the Conintern is absurd. Suppose the conservative movement wants to mislead people about something or other. It happens fairly often. Now the Times‘s obligation is to publish articles designed to mislead the Times‘s audience? Really? And we’re supposed to pay to acquire a product that’s dedicated to publishing “all the news that’s fit to print plus some stuff that’s in line with the conservative Republican movement.” Why would we do that?