I hit the Drudge Report pretty much every day. For me, the best part is his vast collection of links. It was there that I discovered "Mugger", aka Russ Smith, the publisher of the New York Press. His column juxtaposes his family life with his incessent criticism of fellow columnists. I enjoy it. So I was moved to write a letter to him. He didn't answer, but they ran it in their letters column (on the web, anyway). I'd give you the link but it will only be up for a week which given my site traffic means that it's very unlikely that it's still up if you are reading this. I'd give you the link to Mugger himself, but I thought I'd let you go through Drudge just to see what it's like.

Subject: The Quality of Punditry is Strained

Dear Mugger,You have the hardest of jobs, you have easiest of jobs. To wade through the reams of punditry and report back must be hard, tedious work. And yet it affords ample scope for relentless criticism that almost writes itself. Still, I appreciate your work, enjoy it, and am informed by it. Thank you.

The question presents itself, why is punditry so uniformly lousy? Why can you count those who consistanly write well on interesting topics with real insight on one hand? This is a problem that plagues more than just political pundits, but spills into the technical field as well. The theory my brother arrived at in the computer field was simply that the computer media require a certain number of pundits, qualified or not. Every publication must provide commentary on the subject they cover, and a lousy pundit is better than no pundit at all. And since you can make orders of magnitude more money doing rather than writing in that field, people who know what they are talking about don't write about it.

I think this same unfortunate problem applies to the realm of political commentary as well. There is an additional pressure that applies to both, namely that deadlines demand that a column be written whether or not anything of note has actually occured since the last one. But an additional pressure on quality for politcal punditry is added -- typically all a columnist requires is the desired ideology and people won't care about poor quality in writing, logic, or research. Sadly, this goes a long way in my mind in explaining why after reading all the columnists of, say, the New York Times (although almost any publication will do) the typical reader is less informed than before they started.

Kevin Murphy

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This page last updated 29 March 2000

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