Tuesday, September 21, 2010

You're Invited...

Happy 40th birthday to the New York Times Op-Ed page!

The first modern op-ed page was printed in 1921 in the New York World, formerly Joseph Pulitzer's paper.  The editor, Herbert Bayard Swope, cleared off the catchall page opposite the editorials to make way for opinion.  The World folded in 1931, and when the Times inaugurated op-eds in 1970, it was one of the first major papers to do so.  Within a year, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and L.A. Times followed suit.  The Times had come under fire for taking a liberal slant in the post-Vietnam years, and one editor in particular, Arthur "Punch" Sulzberger, Sr., urged the creation of a page for outside opinions to placate critics.

Has the Times op-ed page lived up to its original ambition of showcasing an array of expert outside views?  News researcher Bill Lucey investigates the nature of the page that turns off the faucet of facts and steeps itself in the amusing and emotional waters of personal outlook.  We're curious to know your thoughts—why do you read op-eds?  Do they inform or irritate?

And it wouldn't be a celebration without party favors:
  • Anyone who follows politics likes a good chortle at the expense of D.C. politicians—including D.C. politicians.  Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, dubbed the Secretary of Stand-up, keeps a quiver of D.C. zingers on hand whenever he delivers a speech beyond the Beltway.  His groaners are corny enough to make the press corps (and Gates's staffers) wince, but audiences outside the city of self-love have been lapping them up.  The jokes also illuminate the outlook of a man who has built a reputation as an aggressively independent administrator, despite being in many ways the ultimate Washington insider.  What do you think—do you smell hypocrisy or honesty from this maverick of mirth?
  • How's your collegespeak?  Have you recently gotten wasty faced at a party or been to splitsville—and called it that?  The New Yorker's Book Bench takes a cautious peek into the potpourri of portmanteaus that flourish in close collegiate quarters.  The inventiveness of college slang ranges from the rather elegant ("belligerent" for drunk) to the kooky (a "beeramid" is just what it sounds like) to the unabashedly crass (getting "trashed" will never go out of fashion).  Book Bench blogger Ian Crouch digs at the seedy underbelly of in-speak as well—the lurid creativity of slang is laced with implications of social status and clubby exclusivity.  At the risk of being an "askhole," the BloGG wants to know: what was your experience with slang or tech-talk in college and beyond?  Any juicy words you remember (or would like to forget)?

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