In a perfect world, a publication is edited for readers. In the imperfect world that we inhabit, too many publications are edited for the benefit of their staffs and their friends and associates. The Washington Post op-ed page, which hoards its space for its own, is one of the worst offenders.
But what's revealing to me is that some of the toughest criticism of the Post's chummy neocon-drenched, establishment op-ed page came from ... the WaPo's own Ezra Klein, rattling the bars of Dan Froomkin's former cage:
I don't really understand why my op-ed page, or all the other op-ed pages, waste so much real estate publishing talking points from politicians.
These carefully vetted bits of politi-speak are not interesting op-eds (and the least interesting, I should say, are those written by members of the White House), and they are frequently misleading. They also make the op-ed page a confusing place: Pieces written by writers and experts are published for a different reason, and written for a different purpose, than those written by political actors.
Which isn't to say that politicians shouldn't have a place to make their arguments. But with the rise of the Internet, they can put their arguments online (Ryan, to his credit, does exactly that, and his willingness to respond has led to profitable exchanges between him and his critics). If they want more space, or more publicity, it's been my experience that readers really enjoy probing interviews with politicians, and op-ed pages could certainly use members of their editorial boards to conduct those interviews. It'll also improve the reader experience, because only the politicians who think their arguments are strong enough to withstand questioning will enter the fray. That is not, I think, how these op-eds work.
But that argument, when you really unravel it, is a case for abolishing op-ed pages altogether. Before, of course, they abolish themselves by irrelevance.
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