Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Safire's Replacement

The NY Times announced William Safire's replacement, and it's not Jonah Goldberg.

The new man on the op-ed page is John Tierney, who has been with the Times for 15 years and was the author of the acclaimed Big City column that ran in the Metro section and (previously) the NYT Magazine. Tierney is slightly right-of-center (not Ted Kennedy's center, thankfully, more like McCain's) and finally took on national politics with a Political Points column during the 2004 campaign. Tierney is NOT, however, as known or entrenched a right-winger as Safire and he is also not a Washington insider.

In essence, Tierney is a New York-centric pick for a national newspaper with some metropolitan pretensions. Losing Safire and replacing him with Tierney is akin to the Wall Street Journal's promotion of Paul Gigot from Potomac Watch column to editorial page editor combined with promoting Dan Henninger to the Friday column slot Gigot occupied.

Thus, both papers decided to replace a Washington beat insider columnist who had tremendous government source contacts with a more regional northeastern writer. Henninger is interesting and insightful, but cannot write the "here's what is going on" or "here is how [the Pres./CIA/Israel/Rumsfeld/etc.] is thinking" column. That will also be true for Tierney.

Simply stated, the Times is now relinquishing its Safire sourcing and informed commentary and replacing it with a view-from-the-sideline columnist who will be the rightist(ish) version of Bob Herbert. I think the Times missed an opportunity by making this hire from within, but I'll be happy to be proven wrong in April, when Tierney's columns start.

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