Op-Ed Pages Getting Bloggier

Henry Farrell and Dan Drezner Talking Heads TV Henry Farrell recounts an interesting discussion he had on bloggingheads with Dan Drezner, about the longstanding norm wherein regular op-ed columnists “seem to be discouraged from mentioning each other by name when they disagree/attack each other.” They note that the norm seems to be breaking down as the op-eds “become a bit bloggier” and, indeed, many of the columnists actually start blogs.

In general, this is all to the good. I can see the justification for the previous policy, I think — that you don’t want your op-ed pages to break down into bickering between a small group of elites, and that you want to preserve the ideal of the op-ed writer as a disinterested and magisterial figure taking the pulse of the American polity, etc, etc, etc. But this also allows op-ed writers to get away with a lot of self-serving bullshit while never being called on it. A more vigorous back-and-forth of the kind we’ve being seeing is a highly imperfect corrective to that problem — but it’s certainly better than the current system where regular op-ed writers are simultaneously put on a pedestal and never subjected to the processes of fact-checking that restrain traditional journalists.

Of course, bloggers have made a mantra of “fact-checking their asses” for years but, in reality, far more people are reading the leading columnists than the average blog. So, yes, less oblique discussion of controversial topics is desirable.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.