Newspapers will try just about anything to build buzz these days, and the Washington Post is less inhibited than most. But not all buzz is good buzz. (Remember "Mad Bitch Beer"?) The Post is back with another stunt that's sad in a different sort of way. The paper launched a two-part contest, dubbed "America's Next Great Pundit," to determine its next columnist. Want the gig? Submit a short opinion essay, a bio, and a few reasons "why you should win." The Post will select "ten prospective pundits" to face off "in challenges that test the skills a modern pundit must possess": writing on deadline, live debating, and answering reader questions. "[A] Panel of Post personalities will offer kudos and catcalls."
Seriously? Apparently so. Bloggers are aghast. Here are best remarks, from potshots to serious comments about the state of media:
- How to Win this Farce Though he thinks this contest is stupid, and the spot should go to Ezra Klein, Matt Yglesias offers contestants the following advice:
Remember, you’re trying to impress the people who decided that they needed to add Bill Kristol to a columnist roster that already included George Will and Charles Krauthammer. So one school of thought says that your 400 word sample column should contain some deliberately misleading assertions. Another school says you just turn in clean copy but during your 100 word "about me" graf should just make it clear that you share the sort of casual contempt for the truth and disrespect for the audience that is the hallmark of the Post op-ed page.
- Newsflash: They're Called Blogs Michelle Malkin sensibly points out that, while this contest would have had real draw back in the day, "the barriers to entry into the opinion journalism market are zero." Between "blogs, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook ... [w]ho wants to be 'the next Dana Milbank or Eugene Robinson?'"
- Calling All Idiots "Gather your most contradictory and inherently untenable positions on torture, foreign policy, health care, etc. etc." announces Juli Weiner at Wonkette. According to the contest's guidelines, "Richard Cohen could be personally catcalling you. This is what is at stake."
- Post Desperately Seeking Intelligence ... on the Internet Clearly, writes Gawker's John Cook, "'pundit' no longer means 'person who expounds from knowledge and experience' but instead means 'category of celebrity, like glorified hooker or bug-eater.'" And the Post's call for "the voice that helps the country figure out what's really going on"? Naturally, "[s]omewhere, in America, a sad blog commenter knows WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON. The Post certainly doesn't. But they're going to find that person by way of the internet."