I was disappointed earlier when David Leonhardt wasn’t tapped to fill one of the open New York Times op-ed slots, since his columns for the business section have been so good and so on point to the key issues facing the country that I thought they deserved that venue. But the news that he’ll be running the paper’s Washington Bureau is an exciting alternative.
In his columns and blog posts at least, he’s been doing exactly what we see too little of in political journalism, namely an effort to figure out what’s happening and why it matters. The Beltway convention of focusing exclusively on process, horse race speculation, and “he said, she said” has long struck me as not just annoying, but slightly more inexplicable than it appears at first glance. Newspaper coverage of foreign affairs and business stories isn’t always perfect, but it does generally seem focused on the idea that people are reading a story because they want to know what’s happening and what, if anything, is important about it. Leonhardt’s columns have that exact spirit, looking at economic policy debates with an eye to trying to figure out who’s right and what matters. If we see more of that infecting the general political coverage, then the country’s best newspaper is going to get even better.