Why is Megan McArdle a good fit for the NYTimes?
January 26, 2009 12:30 PM   Subscribe

Why is Megan McArdle so highly regarded?

Economist/business types: Apparently Megan McArdle of the Atlantic - the blogger formerly known (laughably) as 'Jane Galt' - is being talked about for Bill Kristol's spot at the NYTimes.

Why? What has she done, written, thought that qualifies her for such a position? Note that I'm not interested in a comparative discussion: I'm aware that e.g. David Brooks's only qualification for his NYT columnist spot is being David Brooks. I just want to know what her writing is worth, on its own. I've never had any reaction to her blog but the proverbial 'Meh' - what am I missing?

(Note that I'd have the same reaction to the NYTimes picking Yglesias, Sullivan, Ezra Klein, Amanda Marcotte, or any other ideologique(?!) blogger whose major experience seemed to consist of, um, blogging. Actually of that crew Sullivan would make the most sense to me, as he's older by a decade and more popular by a factor of ten than the others, and has a longish record of public-intellectual/advocacy experience re:, among other things, his signature topic (LGBT civil rights).)

Is this ideological tokenism? Some other, more insidious form of tokenism? Or is McArdle a good fit and I just haven't seen her best stuff?

Help me Mefi-wan Kenobi! You're my only hope!

ps. A link to e.g. a single impressively original insight would be a good start.
posted by waxbanks to Media & Arts (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Note that I'd have the same reaction to the NYTimes picking Yglesias, Sullivan, Ezra Klein, Amanda Marcotte, or any other ideologique(?!) blogger whose major experience seemed to consist of, um, blogging.

But what's wrong with that? Is writing a NYT op-ed really so different from blogging? It's all just short-form writing where you express your opinions about stuff going on in the news. In fact, bloggers, including McArdle, are often more intellectually rigorous and cite more sources. Why isn't "um, blogging" (and doing a really good job at it) sufficient experience to be a NYT columnist?

I think McArdle is a good blogger because her writing has a certain -- I'm not sure quite how to describe this -- "immediate" quality. It reaches out and speaks to me and says "Here's this important thing and here's why I feel the way I do about it," more clearly and efficiently than most bloggers. I often disagree with what she says, but I find myself coming back to her blog and diavlogs on Bloggingheads.tv because they make me think and she has a decent sense of humor.

(I'm no economist, so I'll leave it up to others to say whether she has original insights on economics.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2009

Most newspaper readers are old, or at least middle-aged. Newspapers are in the middle of a massive financial crisis, and it will only intensify as their readers die off. Most blog readers are young, and many of them don't subscribe to a newspaper, despite being interested in news and current events. If newspapers are going to survive, they have to figure out a way to become relevant to the young, current-events-conscious people who read blogs. One way to try to co-opt blog readers is to co-opt bloggers. Also, bloggers have a proven track record of being able to produce new copy on a regular basis, which is the challenge of being a weekly or bi-weekly columnist. In some ways, being a blogger is good training for being a columnist.
posted by craichead at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pretty sure she spent some time working for the Economist as well.

She's opinionated, occasionally controversial, can turn out copy reliably & is familiar with the demands of print media. These are all good qualities as far as any editor would be concerned I imagine.
posted by pharm at 12:58 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

In the past you needed something like a Pulitzer Prize to get an op-ed gig with the New York Times. Now apparently the qualification is getting linked to a lot by Andrew Sullivan.
posted by alms at 1:00 PM on January 26, 2009

She's got an alliterative name, and writes jaw-droppingly "what" stuff on a regular basis. The role she will have is that of an evil Maureen Dowd. This will allow the NYT to pretend that it is more diverse (look, a woman! look, a conservative!) than it actually is, while simultaneously assuring more hits by trolling essentially all of the bourgeoisie at once.
posted by klangklangston at 1:08 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

aforementioned: her Bloggingheads diavlogs
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:18 PM on January 26, 2009

Mod note: few comments removed - saying you want to fuck her does not answer the question and would be commentary best left on your own blog.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:24 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

See that greasy pole over there? McArdle has grease-retardant extremities.

Given that she combines extreme self-regard, an utter obliviousness to her own limitations, and a fatuousness that can be reliably poured into 700-word containers, the op-ed page is clearly her destination. (She is the unthinking person's Elizabeth Spiers.) Still, she is prolific, has gathered around herself an audience of mooning libertarian fanboys, and will, given the nature of American opinion journalism, fall upwards for the remainder of her career while contributing nothing of insight to the discourse.
posted by holgate at 1:27 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Looking at it from the other side. I don't see the fit at all. Kristol is vacating the seat vacated by John Tierney vacated by Wm. Safire. Say what you like about Safire, but he was well-connected -- as Maureen Dowd joked on her Daily Show interview, he had a separate phone at his desk that didn't go through the NYT switchboard, which allowed him to talk directly and confidentially to his political sources. (You can assume that either Cheney or a high-up in the OVP was one of them, given the stories he pushed in his last year or so as a regular op-ed columnist.)

Tierney's libertarianism was an mismatch, just as David Brooks had never quite filled Safire's boots; Kristol had the direct line for the week's right-wing talking points, but clearly was phoning it in and treating his employer with disdain in a way that Safire would never have done. So the successor to the Safire Chair really needs to be well-connected to conservative policy establishment, but also have sufficient respect for the NYT and the role of its op-ed page. Tracy Flick McArdle doesn't satisfy any of those criteria.
posted by holgate at 1:38 PM on January 26, 2009

McArdle, like the rest of the current NYTimes op-ed page, combines egotism, a skewed perspective, and pet peeves big enough to write about in a national op-ed page. From that view, she's about on par with Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, etc. and seems like a perfect fit. Of course, the overall goal of an intelligent editorial page has gone unreached for quite some time: you can't fight dumb with dumb, and no doubt McArdle (regardless of which hyopthetical issues we might agree or disagree on) will be yet another nail in the coffin.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2009

Interesting that every blogger you deem acceptable is either a committed liberal or a conservative apostate. I might ask a similar question: what qualifies a former theater critic (Frank Rich) to have pride of place for political writing in the Week in Review section?

Suffice to say that McArdle is an engaging and provocative right-of-center writer who will enliven the NYT editorial page (which has an annoying habit of preferring assertions to arguments). Her subject matter expertise on economic issues will also expose Times readers to ideas and positions that Paul Krugman would rather caricature than honestly refute.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Her subject matter expertise on economic issues

Please define "subject-matter expertise"? If you intend it to mean the same as "expertise", it clearly doesn't apply in McArdle's case; also, Tyler Cowen is available. Her expertise, as demonstrated in recent years, lies elsewhere.
posted by holgate at 2:05 PM on January 26, 2009

Op-Ed writers are basically journalists who have done well. (glaring exception for Nobel winner Krugman). Generally, they are know-nothings who write as if they have experience and expertise in subjects they really do not know. Case in point is Bill Kristol. So McArdle is no more qualified than the rest of the people you name.

In other words, other than Krugman, none of these people have any qualifications.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2009

Where does Waxbanks deem any blogger acceptable, Bobbyvan?
posted by craichead at 2:08 PM on January 26, 2009

Her bio is as follows:

Her checkered work history includes three start-ups, four years as a technology project manager for a boutique consulting firm, a summer as an associate at an investment bank, and a year spent as sort of an executive copy girl for one of the disaster recovery firms at Ground Zero . . . all before the age of thirty.

The resume is quite typical of an "expert" for op-ed writers. She obviously doesn't know jack about economics or anything else. Krugman is the glaring exception here.

Note that the worst of all of these is Tom Friedman, who knows absolutely nothing about nothing, but continues to write NYT bestsellers explaining the world to busy middle-class types who want the skim version only.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:13 PM on January 26, 2009

Holgate: this is kind of a silly debate, isn't it? If you want to be pedantic about "expertise" vs. "subject matter expertise," fine by me, but it's beside the point.

It's clear where you're coming from: you're annoyed that an "unqualified" conservative might be getting a prestigious perch at the Times, but register no outrage at your ideological brethren who lack the same credentials.

The mere fact that her potential selection has you so exercised tells me that, in one sense, the Times is on the right track. How about writing a letter to the editor?
posted by BobbyVan at 2:21 PM on January 26, 2009

Craiched / Holgate:

Mea culpa. I misread your laundry list of bloggers, and thought you were saying, "why not them"?

Still, this is an odd debate, and it presumes that the current inhabitants of the NYT editorial page are "qualified" for the jobs they have (despite the above, persuasive critiques of Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, Bob Herbert, etc.).
posted by BobbyVan at 2:32 PM on January 26, 2009

you're annoyed that an "unqualified" conservative might be getting a prestigious perch at the Times, but register no outrage at your ideological brethren who lack the same credentials.

You were the one juxtaposing McArdle's "subject-matter expertise" (and I wasn't being snarky, I just wanted to know if that phrase carried some extra weight) to that of Paul Krugman, Princeton professor, John Clark Bates Medal recipient and winner of the 2008 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. You weren't comparing her to Dowd or Rich, or to Tom 'Airmiles' Friedman.

To get an op-ed spot, you primarily need expertise in self-promotion and bullshit: Krugman is an exception in that regard, an accident of hiring during an time when neoliberal global economics were under heavy criticism. McArdle is punditry crack, and thus she will continue to flourish; in other news, tenured think-tankers continue to have opinion pieces published in guest spots, in the same fashion that your local newspaper publishes letters from cranks.
posted by holgate at 3:17 PM on January 26, 2009

One final point, looking at the business side: it's assumed that Andrew Rosenthal's tenure as head of the editorial page has been guided by an attempt to make the NYT's opinion pages attractive to Wall Street Journal readers, even as the WSJ has hired Thomas Frank to play contrarian alongside Peggy Noonan and Daniel Henninger and grab eyeballs from Times readers. Whoever replaces Kristol has to be viewed with this objective in mind.
posted by holgate at 3:26 PM on January 26, 2009

I'm a liberal with libertarian interests, and I really enjoy reading Megan's blog. Here's why I think she's a good candidate:
- She will bring a different perspective to the Op-ed page.
- She is young. Young people will relate to her posts and voice. I do.
- Do they even have any women writing about economics on the op-ed page?

For all of the people saying that she is a pundit, some of her blog posts are pundity (is that a word?) but she also has high quality economic posts. That's what many blogs are about. Has anyone read Mankiw's blog lately. Everything he posts is practically full of stuff bashing the stimulus plan. And, he's a very well respected economist. Actually, I can think of plenty of economics blogs that showcase their opinions in a similar way that she does.

She is no comparison to Krugman, but he is in a league of his own. I don't know enough about her actual qualifications to judge her on that. Krugman is a really unique figure because he is a really brilliant economist that can talk in a plain language that people can understand.
posted by hazyspring at 3:39 PM on January 26, 2009

Response by poster: So what I'm hearing is, she knows nothing and does so engagingly. Roger dodger. (Um, do any economist-types wanna weigh in?)
posted by waxbanks at 7:56 PM on January 26, 2009

Here is some recent relevantly ill-informed commentary from McCardle as dissected by Glenn Greenwald. if she ends up with the gig, her randroid dullness might actually make me look back fondly on the halcyon year when that smug arch-wrongian bill kristol ruled the roost.
posted by Hat Maui at 8:28 PM on January 26, 2009

Umm, if Maureen Dowd is qualified to be a columnist for the New York Times, then almost anyone who can turn in copy on a regular basis is qualified to be a columnist for the New York Times.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:10 AM on February 4, 2009

« Older Help me Hyperlink & Bookmark in Word   |   More bathing, less sodomy Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.