I’ve been reading the Washington Times for roughly 20 years now. During all that time, it was the single best conservative newspaper in America — not that there were that many to choose from, because there weren’t. Until the recent redesign of the website, I would spend an hour every morning reading it. Now, baffled by all the techno-gadgetry and unable to find the great articles and columns I once devoured, I read only two cherished items: John McCaslin’s daily “Inside the Beltway” column and former editor Wes Pruden’s twice-weekly “Pruden on Politics.” The announcement earlier this year that a Washington Post reporter would replace Pruden as editor was certainly disturbing, but I had no idea as a reader what was going on internally and, like an idiot, hoped that nothing much would change. (Just found this article online, which certainly explains things). Eventually, I noticed familiar bylines showing up elsewhere on the Net and wondered what was going on.
Well, it’s official: The Washington Times is no longer the best conservative paper in America. It’s hardly conservative at all, anymore.
My dad did his master’s thesis at LSU on the history of the newspaper he worked for, the New Orleans States, which was subsequently merged with the Item and the Times-Picayune and has since passed into oblivion. Each chapter of his thesis was devoted to a different editor — whose opinions, personality, and sense of style made the paper what it was. For my dad coming up, there were five or six distinctive daily papers in town; for me, only one dull monopoly. I can still remember how excited I was when I first discovered the Washington Times and recognized it as the type of paper (and Pruden as the type of editor) my father had worked for and written about so fondly. Years ago, I even sent Pruden a sorry xerox copy of my dad’s onion-skin thesis.
Such a shame. It was a great paper while it lasted.
Some good may come of this, however. Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, but in doing so it dispersed great Creole and Cajun chefs all across the nation. You can now get a good bowl of gumbo or plate of jambalaya in the most surprising places — and, if that’s not a good thing, what is? Maybe this journalistic hurricane will have a similar effect: destroying a great paper, but sending its able and dedicated alumni on to other publications that will profit from, and appreciate, their skills and perspectives.
I certainly hope so.