Friday, February 18 2005
ESTRICH FIRES BACK:
The latest dust up in the blogosphere is the Susan Estrich - Michael Kinsley spat over the representation (or lack thereof) of women on the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times. (For background, see this piece in the Washington Examiner. Additional goodies available at Cathy Seipp and Mickey Kaus).

Today Estrich fires back, issuing a not-so-veiled threat to Kinsley:

It has always been my theory that women in America have enormous power, if only we would use it. But it's hard: You have to be willing to stand up, find allies, take the arrows and have people (men) call you names. Usually, it takes an insult -- a tough one -- to provoke us. But when provoked, watch out. Just ask Harvard President Larry Summers. His days are numbered. The opinion editor of the Los Angeles Times would do well to consult with his fellow Harvard man on the topics of women and the cost of arrogance. His are, too.

That sounds to me like a declaration of war. I wonder how (or if) Kinsley will respond.

So what about the substance of Estrich's charges of sex discrimination on the opinion page of the Los Angeles Times? I haven't been counting the number of op-eds in the LAT authored by women as closely as Estrich has, but as someone who looks at scores of op-ed pages across the country every day I don't see that Kinsley's page is noticeably different from any other. Maybe that supports Estrich's point about the industry in general and maybe it doesn't.

Frankly, it's not important to me. We run the equivalent of a national op-ed page and I can tell you when we go looking to assemble a list of the day's best commentary we don't give a single thought to the author's gender. We don't care what color they are or what their religious or sexual preferences are. The only thing we care about is finding interesting, well written articles on politics and various other issues of the day.

I suspect Michael Kinsley feels the same way. His first responsibility is to produce a thoughtful, interesting, high-quality opinion page for the Los Angeles Times. How he goes about that job is up to him. It's clear that Kinsley believes, as many editorial page editors do, that a certain level of ideological balance makes for a stronger, more interesting page (the Wall Street Journal being a notable exception).

The problem with Estrich's argument is the problem with quotas in general. When you start demanding that X percentage of articles must be published by minority group Y, you automatically subordinate quality as a top priority in favor of representation. This isn't to say these things are mutually exclusive, but quotas often create arbitrary barriers that bring quality and representation into conflict.

I'm sure Michael Kinsley would love to see and to publish more quality columns - including those by women who live in the Los Angeles area. But should he give special consideration to them, or should he publish a column or hire a columnist that may not be as good as another just because they're of a certain sex? No way. - T. Bevan 11:15 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

 
 

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