By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Are you left of center? Right of center? I think I know, but maybe I don’t know.
I would say I’m not a big fan of labels, but that sounds kind of cliché.
You’re sounding like John Roberts.
That’s a tough one. It’s all relative. I think I’m definitely liberal on social issues. You know we’ve been unapologetically supportive of gay marriage and impatient in the sense that this needs to be done now.
What about affirmative action?
Generally, yes. That’s such a broad concept. So I think I’m socially liberal. And overall I probably average out middle of the road. In New York, I was famously the only editorial board member who was supportive of the war. And I think because of that a lot of people think I’m more right of center than I necessarily am.
I did get a couple of e-mails from people insideThe New York Timessaying you’re more conservative than one would think. But I didn’t know why.
In the context of The New York Times editorial board, I was on the conservative end. Now, it’s all relative. I think I may be less reflexively anti-business than a lot of earnest liberal editorial writers think they need to be. Mike and I didn’t agree on everything.
What did you disagree on?
Let’s just say we didn’t agree on everything.
On the subject of Joel Stein, are you going to keep him?
(Long pause). He’s a columnist for Current and that hasn’t changed.
Is it going to change?
I don’t know.
Does he have some kind of contract where he needs to be kept for a certain amount of time?
(Long pause). Good question.
In between calling me an idiot, Kinsley said I was a fuddy-duddy because I didn’t want change. He misread what I said. I said he was chaotic in his approach, like Wile E. Coyote zigzagging through the desert. What are you going to keep, and what are you going to jettison?
Mike definitely brought a different sensibility to a major metropolitan newspaper’s opinion pages. There were days when I found myself feeling like I was the fuddy-duddy, the adult whose role was to say, “No, Michael, we can’t do that.” That was a role I wasn’t accustomed to playing because I always thought I was a pretty irreverent kind of guy. But not compared to Kinsley. It was refreshing in the sense that he had never been at a newspaper so he did challenge a lot of the conventions. And he’s a shameless experimenter. He thinks things are worth trying, and if they work, that’s great, and if they don’t you move on.
And you’re not quite like that?
I think I’m a little more mindful of the restraints a metropolitan newspaper faces that a magazine might not. And I think he had more of a magazine sensibility. I’m hoping some of that pioneering spirit will endure.
One of my main criticisms of the paper has been that, under Carroll, it cared more about Pulitzers than it cared about local coverage. I mean, they renamed the Metro section California – totally ignorant of the fact that people here in Southern California don’t give a rat’s ass about what happens in Northern California. You’re already talking about increasing local coverage, increasing local writers...
I think we’re all in agreement – [publisher] Jeff Johnson, me and Nick Goldberg – that we need more of a local presence on the Op-Ed page.
Is that something Johnson is pushing for? Or are you?
Both. He definitely wants it, and I definitely feel it’s needed, and Nick recognizes it’s an issue, too. I think the mix of subject matter of on the editorial page right now is about right. But I think the Op-Ed page mix is a bit different, and the local component needs to be ratcheted up. There are plenty of arguments as to why you don’t need to do that. But I don’t necessarily buy them. The argument is that you’ve got columnists writing on local subjects elsewhere in the paper, [Steve] Lopez obviously. But I think we do.
Why would you bring on Dennis Prager, who already has so many outlets for his opinions? It’s like you only go to the usual suspects.
It’s not something I did. Remember, up until now, my bailiwick was the Editorial Page.
So things are going to change under you?
Yeah, I think change is a constant at a paper. It’s not going to be this abrupt change, of course. But over time there’ll be some differences people will see on the Op-Ed page and Current. I’ve been devoting my last year to the Editorial page, so giving me this job, I guess, is a way of ensuring some degree of continuity there.