Sunday, April 10, 2005

Damn - They've Gone And Made Me Sympathize With Maureen Dowd!

The expanded OpEd pages in today's edition of The New York Times are a great read -- I spent more time with the Week In Review section today than I have in quite a while. I like the idea of increasing the space for opinion. The long editorial on the flaws in the Patriot Act was right on target. I enjoyed reading Nicholas Kristof's column on the Catholic priesthood alongside Frank Rich's piece on how George W. Bush and the MSM have created a "culture of death" in the United States alongside Daniel Okrent's column on the danger of the "scoop" mentality among journalists and Paul Davies' piece on the origins of life.
But there was one big flaw. Instead of Maureen Dowd's column was an appreciation of Saul Bellow that would have been laughable if it weren't so boring, written by the Times' least talented columnist, the useless David Brooks. For the record, Mr. Brooks makes the specious argument that American artists no longer are learning much from the Europeans. He's wrong and he's a fool, but that's not my point.
My point is that, looking at the Times' new publication schedule for its columnists, we see that Maureen Dowd has been consigned to the Saturday ghetto spot formerly occupied -- appropriately -- by Mr. Brooks.
I'm not a fan of Ms. Dowd. I didn't have a lot of sympathy for her much-publicized whining last month about being the only women on the OpEd page. Had Flora Lewis made that complaint back in the day, I would have championed her view, but Ms. Dowd has been too quick to abandon principle for the sake of a catty remark. She's like Rosalind Russell in old movies -- entertainingly quick on the draw with a snide comment, but pretty much a charicature of the "career girl," small-minded and gossipy with less accomplishment than attitude.
Still, the fact that the expanded OpEd page has no room for a regular woman columnist is disturbing. Yes, the Editoral Page Editor is a woman, Gail Collins, as is the managing editor, Jill Abramson. And that is important. But it's also important to hear the direct voice of a diverse cross-section. I assume that is why the conservative Mr. Brooks is there (although he really is just living proof that the best of conservative intellect is nothing to brag about). Why not Ms. Dowd? Did the Times feel that the page wasn't big enough for the double dose of snideness (is that a word?) that Ms. Dowd and Mr. Rich, also not a big favorite of mine, would have constituted?
Whatever the reason, I think it's a mistake. I hate having to support a journalist that I don't have a lot of respect for, but I think Ms. Dowd belongs back in the Sunday lineup.