In another shakeup at The New York Times op-ed page, columnist Bob Herbert is leaving the paper to write a book called Wounded Colossus about the challenges facing the U.S. His resignation ends a 20-year stint at the Times.
“The deadlines and demands were a useful discipline, but for some time now I have grown eager to move beyond the constriction of the column format, with its rigid 800-word limit, in favor of broader and more versatile efforts,” he explained. “So I am leaving The New York Times and the rewards and rigors of daily journalism with the intent of writing more expansively and more aggressively about the injustices visited on working people, the poor and the many others in our society who find themselves on the wrong side of power.”
His departure comes during a major overhaul of the paper's opinion page, with Trish Hall taking over the Op-Ed page from David Shipley who left for Bloomberg News, Frank Rich's exit to New York magazine and Andrew Rosenthal, editor of the opinion page, leaving to retool the Week in Review section under a new name.
Herbert's opposition to the Iraq War in 2003 and steadfast support for the underprivileged has earned him praise from liberal readers. However, even many on the left admit his columns could be rather boring. In an article in The New Republic attacking John Tierney the magazine asked "How could a New York Times columnist be more boring than Bob Herbert?" T.A. Frank at the progressive magazine the Washington Monthly took the question of Herbert's blandness head on in a lengthy article titled "Why Is Bob Herbert Boring?"
"Herbert is the lone unplugged spokesman for America's little guy. He's the delegate of the deprived," he wrote. "But here's the catch: you don't read Bob Herbert. Or, if you say you do, I don't believe you. The numbers are on my side."
Frank goes on to argue that Herbert's liberal platitudes were boilerplate, predictable but nevertheless needed in a society that celebrates power. It's a thoughtful, punchy piece that's worth reading as Herbert steps down.