Michael Kinsley, the Times' Editorial and Opinion Editor, is interviewed (sub. req'd) by James Nash in next week's L.A. Business Journal. Susan Estrich is only a small part of it. Kinsley predicts the Times will endorse in the next presidential contest, calls it "bush league" to care about where op-ed writers come from, and says he registered the web domain www.opinionla.com and may use it someday to post every letter to the editor. They also talk about the future of newspapers, and how attempts to enliven Sunday Opinion walk a fine line between creative and "pathetic." Excerpts:
Do you see the Internet replacing newspapers as the primary source of news in the United States?
When I was at Slate, there was a controversy about Microsoft putting newspapers out of business. There was lots of fear in general that the Internet was going to wipe out newspapers. I was a skeptic. Now Iím back in print and I really do believe that it may happen.
What does that mean?
There is something big going on and we donít quite know what. I donít think newspapers as they exist now are going to be here as they are now. Newspapers as institutions are going to continue in some form, they ought to dominate the news. But I find it hard to believe that in 10 years youíre going to have trucks delivering huge rolls of newsprint around and have presses turn them into huge printed pieces of newspaper and trucked to houses all over Southern California.
What do you think of blogs, some of which have been harshly critical of you and the Times? Do you see them supplanting the traditional newspaper editorial page as a forum for civic discourse?
I think blogs are absolutely great. They could well put us out of business Ė not newspapers, but newspaper opinion pages. I think newspapers do news better than any other medium out there, but I think blogs do opinion better than newspapers. Itís the interactive nature of them. Itís the immediacy of them. (The late New Yorker magazine journalist) A.J. Liebling said freedom of the press is for those who own one. Now just about anyone can own one.
What of the criticism that the Times doesnít publish enough womenís opinions and favors national issues over local ones?
On the women thing, Iíve said all along that we need to improve. If you saw (media critic) Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post, of the three national newspapers with op-ed pages, we are the best (in terms of publishing women). Weíre not where we should be, but weíre better than The New York Times or the Washington Post. On the local issue, if you look at our editorials, we cover local issues plenty. I havenít broken it down, but most of our editorials are on local issues. On our editorial board Ė which by the way is half women Ė the passions are disproportionately local: the school board, the mayorís race. Thereís lots of stuff on local issues on the op-ed page also. The final point Iíd like to make is Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the country. Itís really bush-league to care about where the writers are from. I think we should cover our community and I think we do.
Youíve run full-page cartoons on the front of the Sunday Opinion section and added humor columnist Joel Stein. It has been suggested that youíre giving the editorial pages a pop-culture sensibility at the expense of serious opinion.
There is a danger when you try to make something lively you can make it pathetic: an elephant trying to do hip hop. Weíre trying to be as lively as we can without being over the top. Iím not hip and I donít think Bob Sipchen Ė the editor of that section Ė is hip either. I hope heís not offended by that.