Please disregard the headline of this article by Mark Judge of Real Clear Books. In between the jabs against various friends, he makes some good points.
Reconnecting with Buckley’s wonderful prose revealed something quite clearly: conservative journalism has plenty of pit bulls, but it lacks show dogs. It needs some graceful writers.
Conservative journalists at places like Breitbart, the Weekly Standard and National Review — the magazine Buckley founded — are skilled at lawyerly argument, at performing surgery on the bias of the mainstream media. But they haven’t developed their muscles for artistic long form journalism.
The lack of good literary conservative journalism is a product of the success the right has had in creating its own media over the last ten years. Because liberals controlled the media for so many decades, the digital revolution was an intoxicating rush for many on the right. All of a sudden, if a liberal journalist told a lie, it could be instantly rebutted on the web. Suddenly, we could interview our own heroes, and write our own stories.
Yet because there was more money and hits to be had in boxing with the left rather than producing artful long form journalism, we had a glut of right-wing books and media attacking the left. Stars were made out of young right-wingers because of their success in humiliating the left, not necessarily for their writing skill.
Judge also points out that many center-right outlets aren’t willing to pay the costs for long-form journalism (for content or expenses), but will pay to cultivate media stars. I think this point isn’t necessarily the fault of the bosses, but of the readers. (Bear with me as I insult everyone).
If you look at the number of comments on Breitbart, Daily Caller and Townhall articles, it’s the red meat articles that get readers’ attention and participation. As someone who tends to write marshmallow fluff rather than red meat, I admit I may be taking some liberties in assuming it’s not just my writing, but the content.
All this being said, if the Real Clear Books column had less “naming of names” I think it would be better received by conservatives. Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post immediately jumped on Jon Ward of Huffington Post for linking to the article and for the fact that it ignores many good writers on the right.
Rather than harp on those on the Left who ignore our great literary journalists, maybe the Right should do a better job of not ignoring them either.
UPDATE: After a conversation with a few friends I’ve realized that maybe I’m not being clear about our weaknessed and strengths. We have LOTS of good political columnists, reporters and investigative journalists. Anyone who doesn’t see that has tunnel vision. I’m thinking of non-section A writers — the Arts, Style, Sports, and Travel sections. As a friend pointed out to me, the absence in these areas is for lots of reasons: breadth of knowledge, experience in those mediums, or support from conservative editors and readers. What if Andrew Breitbart wanted to write a long-form piece on 80s music. Say he wanted to travel the country for the “where are they now” aspect. Would an editor pay for it? Would readers read and talk about it?