Thursday, March 29, 2007

A very simple question that could nevertheless get very complicated

And no, I'm not asking it for purely selfish reasons

Why are all national columnists older people? I understand that experience comes in handy with such a prestigious position; but it also skews opinion pages heavily toward the William Safire generation. I could name several people off the top of my head who are the most intelligent and informed people I've ever known and who would fit the bill nicely...but no one would ever touch them, because they haven't been reporting in Somalia for 20 years.

I know we screwed up with Ben Ferguson, but that's no reason to shut out our generation entirely from the national discourse. Who knows? It might even nab that young demographic you covet so much, media. Remember the cultural impact of Rolling Stone in the 1960s? It wasn't because they ran William F. Buckley (who was old even then)! It was because they valued the voice of those who were coming of age in a hostile world.

Just a thought I had.


Speechie said...

It's a conspiracy against you...started even before you were born.

I think it has something to do with the fact that most people who read the newspaper (at least the big ones) are from the William Safire generation. Sorry, but it's true. Most younger people get their news and updates on life and what's cool and the opinions of others from the web, which consequently, is why I have a media is my friend and your sworn enemy, although if you were writing for it, it would be your friend too :)

But don't worry, Ian. Someday you'll be old enough to be a syndicated national columnist...even if you will be all raggedy and useless by then, blinking out the words one letter at a time to an assistant at the Quahog Home for Old Folks.

Leigh C. said...

Actually, I'd like to know who started out very young as a columnist. Jimmy Breslin? Art Buchwald? Erma Bombeck? Ann Landers? Okay, so two of the abovementioned folks are not on the op-ed pages, but now I'm curious, dammit.

Thanks a bundle - I'll be on the Net all night trying to figure this one out.

That Fergie thread is funny as hell, by the way.

Ian McGibboney said...

Speechie, it's not just print newspapers, but publications in general. The only young people you see offering opinions are in college papers, alternative newsweeklies and/or in entertainment-related media. Current events seems dominated by the old guard, with whom I have no problem. But who will be there to replace them? And why is the 20-something demographic okay for revenue but ignored for intellectual input? I'm just curious.

Leigh C, thanks for the props. I still occasionally get comments on that thread. Apparently, it comes up pretty high on a search of Ben Ferguson. It was also linked on several big blogs.

I'm curious as well as to who started young. I doubt many, but there's still hope.

Cajun Tiger said...

You could probably say that in most fields though...the old cliche of needing experience but then not allowing you to get the experience. All about paying dues as much as that isn't any fun. Also as Speechie mentioned probably has a lot to do with the people who pay for the publication being of the old and grey contingent and the owners are scared us young folk would scare away readership which is already rapidly disappearing b/c of the new types of media.