July 17, 2003

Bleating Heart

Scrolling the mags this afternoon, I found Hugh Hewitt of the Daily Standard singing - no, standing on the top of a bar stool shouting - the praises of columnist James Lileks, who writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune but is better known in the blogosphere for his daily Bleat.

In between an effusive slathering of adjectives over Lileks - "laugh-out-loud writer," "mirth-inducing" and more - Hewitt offers a thought or two about my favorite subject: Making newspapers more interesting.

He taunts ed page editors with this: "Editorial pages are predictable, repetitive, and usually cranky. The worst among you think it is somehow daring and perhaps even courageous to run the fevers of Robert Scheer. The timid recoil at the thought of providing both Will and Krauthammer on a weekly basis for fear of turning the readers into members of the 'undead Halliburton Zombie Army,' as Lileks puts it."

Hewitt then charges at the heart of the matter - the inability of newspapers to change with the times, thereby guaranteeing that they fall further out of step with their markets.

"Newspapers refuse to read the map that is in front of their noses. The wise editor would instead allow the battle of the blogs to throw up champions and then ink them to multiyear commentary deals. MSNBC figured this out with Glenn Reynolds, but the ink-and-paper crowd is still busy debating whether they ought to dignify talk radio with coverage (even though that audience dwarfs their own). Horse-and-buggy editors can't even dream of learning how to navigate the cyber-pundits beyond Romenesko, the media critic at Poynter.org.

"Newspaper readers like me want newspapers to survive for at least a few more decades. To do that, the dinosaurs have to get out of the swamp. That means finding and printing the best writers and employing the best reporters."

Newspapers must embrace change. If they can no longer lead the news agenda, then they must follow their audience.

 The Daily Standard The Bleat Goes On

Posted by Tim Porter at July 17, 2003 04:27 PM

Come on. Any chance this might have the tiniest bit to do with the Lileks/Hewitt mutual admiration society, and a little less with his interest in making newspapers good again? And Glenn Reynolds as an example of, what? Op-ed clarity? "Heh," "indeed" and "go read the whole thing?"

Having read Hewitt's piece, I can say this: I already read the Bleat, and somehow I think the editorial pages of the country could remain free of James' gooey tales of highly-paid, stay-at-home dad life.

Posted by: Exile on July 22, 2003 06:38 PM
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