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October 27, 2007

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The Lost Columnist

So, this Washington Monthly piece is nowhere near as glib as its title makes it seem: Why Is Bob Herbert Boring?

In fact it turns out to be a sophisticated, sensitive exploration of the paradox of NYT columnist Bob Herbert (and, by extension: informative, well-meaning journalism in general): This is important stuff. It’s largely correct. Why doesn’t it… grab me?

It’s a good reminder for journalists of all stripes, and maybe bloggers, too: You have to do more than just report and present. Truth and clarity, difficult as they are to achieve on their own, aren’t enough.

Ya gotta have style, too.

Posted October 27, 2007 at 8:32 | Comments (1) | Permasnark
File under: Briefly Noted, Journalism


Wow. Bob Herbert's 62?

The charge against Herbert that T.A. Frank doesn't think sticks, that Herbert doesn't offer much reporting, is worth considering further.

Sure, Herbert travels to Chicago and Las Vegas to dig up stories. But James Falwell's in China, Thomas Friedman goes to Saudi Arabia, Nick Kristof goes to Darfur. Herbert's stops are more like network TV news than high-class gonzo journalism. You get the feeling that you, too, could do what Bob Herbert does, which is why you're usually not surprised by the things that he says, even as you agree.

Really, if you had a network anchor with Herbert's ability, stances, and persistence, that would be terrific. He'd be like Ted Koppel times ten. But for newspapers, he's really somwhere between an opinion writer and a reporter. He reports, and then takes positions and makes arguments, but he largely effaces his own biography and personality. That's why the Vietnam anecdote was so surprising -- it didn't read like Bob Herbert at all.

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