Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Gold Watch

Something Susie always reminds me of when we chat at Drinking Liberally is that for a long time getting a column was the reward for putting in years of service as a journalist. It was a weird, system, really, for a variety of rasons. First, it's not clear why spending 25 years writing "objective balanced copy" is actually good training to be a columnist. Second, it means your columnists are going to tend towards the older side, a strange strategy for an industry obsessed with getting younger readers.

But most of all what it does is create a mindset such that the right to express an opinion is something which has to be earned. It explains, in part, the antipathy of some journalists to bloggers. We stold their gold watch. The thing is it didn't start with bloggers. The "column is a reward for years of service" idea went out the window when newspapers started buying up more and more mostly conservative syndicated columnists, most of whom had little or no experience in journalism, providing fewer opportunities for their own journos to get that promotion.

And, as always, to the extent that the elite opinion makers are concerned about the great unwashed being part of the conversation, it's puzzling why they ignore talk radio and cable news blowhards. They brought the discourse into the gutter long before dirty people like me got there.