Robert Novak's Legacy in Journalism

The influential conservative columnist is remembered for changing journalism, but for better or worse?

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Robert Novak, a giant of political journalism since the 1960s, has died. No one questions his influence, but will his legacy be one of guiding the media for better or worse?

  • Partisan Journalism  Alex Pareene of Gawker called Novak "a great reporter" but said "his advocacy journalism skirted ethical lines on multiple occasions, especially in his constant use of anonymous sources." Pareene criticized Novak's conservative bent, which he called "an old tradition that has made something of a comeback" in the form of Fox News and others. "Novak's role, which he understood and embraced, was to act as a proxy for political attacks by conservative politicians. You leaked your smear to Novak, and he reported"
  • Investigative Columnist  Timothy P. Carney suggested in Human Events that Novak was important for building columns not on opinion analysis but on "previously unreported facts that revealed and explained the machinations of government, the men and women in power, and the politics behind it all." Though conservative, Carney said Novak was no partisan. "Novak was always independent in his thought," he wrote.
  • Shouting Head  James Poniewozik wrote on Time's TV blog that Novak was important as much for his writings as his "style of TV confrontation." Poniewozik called Novak's "pugilistic TV debate style ('Are you a socialist?')" during his years on The Capitol Gang and Crossfire "hugely influential" in the "blunt, in-your-face style of debating" that has flourished on television.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.