Long time readers of this blog know that I despise the editorial columnists at the New York Times, especially David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, and Thomas Friedman and long ago stopped reading them. Only Paul Krugman has anything useful to say. I thought that my views were not shared by mainstream media people because after all, they are all part of the same system of which these columnists are at the pinnacle.
But when Ken Kurson of the New York Observer spoke to more than two dozen current and former staffers of the paper, he found them dripping with contempt for them too and that they were waging a ‘semi-open revolt’ against Andrew Rosenthal, the tyrannical editorial page editor.
The blame here, in the eyes of most Times reporters to whom The Observer spoke, belongs to Andrew Rosenthal, who as editorial page editor leads both the paper’s opinion pages and opinion postings online, as well as overseeing the editorial board and the letters, columnists and op-ed departments. Mr. Rosenthal is accused of both tyranny and pettiness, by the majority of the Times staffers interviewed for this story.
Also coming in for intense criticism were the opinion-page columnists, always a juicy target. Particularly strong criticism, to the point of resentful (some might say jealous), was directed at Thomas Friedman, the three-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize who writes mostly about foreign affairs and the environment.
One current Times staffer told The Observer, “Tom Friedman is an embarrassment. I mean there are multiple blogs and Tumblrs and Twitter feeds that exist solely to make fun of his sort of blowhardy bullshit.”
“As for the columnists, Friedman is the worst. He hasn’t had an original thought in 20 years; he’s an embarrassment. He’s perceived as an idiot who has been wrong about every major issue for 20 years, from favoring the invasion of Iraq to the notion that green energy is the most important topic in the world even as the financial markets were imploding. Then there’s Maureen Dowd, who has been writing the same column since George H. W. Bush was president.”
It’s nice to know that this view is more common than I thought. I expect Matt Taibbi, whose scathing articles on Friedman are also the funniest, to have a field day with this story.