Sunday, July 26, 2020

About columnists

A pretty sound analysis of the significance of opinionated columnists to the ecosystem of a newspaper. It was written in 1968, so some of the practical details have changed, but the essential truth still holds, I reckon.
The columnist’s fenced-in but independent thinking gives the whole paper the aura of independent thinking. The columnist’s outrageousness gives the paper the aura of outrageousness. The columnist’s occasional and courageous expression of unpopular ideas gives the paper the aura of courage to express unpopular ideas. By investing in the columnist’s originality, non-conformism, and independent thinking, the publisher pays for appearances – in order to publish his paper not only for profit, in the sense of the classic definition that the press is a business “that produces empty space for advertising which can be financially offset by an editorial section.” If, on occasion, an advertising contract is cancelled because of the views expressed in a column, this is viewed as proof that the paper is nonconformist.
The only awkwardness derives from the identity of the author: the notorious Ulrike Meinhof, who two years later became a founder member of the Rote Armee Fraktion terrorist group.

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