The “weekend” (Saturday) edition of the Journal is no weak sister, the way some Saturday papers are. If I were a Times exec, it would make me worry, make me realize the Journal had a shrewd anti-Times strategy: pick its weakest day, Saturday, and just crush it.
This Saturday’s Journal was a remarkable newspaper. Yes, it’s behind a subscription wall, most of it (I can’t quite figure out what you can get for free and what you pay for–something they need to clarify) but it’s a product– content–that is worth paying for, and gives a little credibility to the paid-content argument.
First there was the big Page One investigative story on the U.S. version of the British parliamentarians’ expenses scandal, revealing little that’s overtly illegal, but–as Michael Kinsley used to say–the scandal is what’s allowed, not disallowed. What’s clear is that someone at the Journal (Rupert himself?) figured out, the day the British scandal broke, that there was low hanging fruit to be had in a story on our Congressional practices. If someone at the Times didn’t have the same idea in the same instant, someone’s lost a step, and if they did have the idea early on, then they were not fast enough to beat the Journal. Not a good sign.
Then there was an amazing story about Pakistan’s nukes, a full-pager by the Brookings’ Institute Bruce Riedel. What was amazing about it was it broke the taboo on stories about Pakistan’s nukes which in the past all tended to accept virtually without question the reassurances of unnamed officials here, and in Pakistan that everything was under control, that the rock solid “loyalist” (to whom?) Pakistani military had them all under lock and key in undisclosed locations. Except many of the locations have been disclosed and can be found on Google maps according to one of my sources. The subhead on Riedel’s piece, a reported essay, flatly states “The security of the country’s nuclear arsenal is shaky.”
Meanwhile the weekend culture section which (full disclosure) I have a lingering fondness for from their rave review of my Shakespeare book, has a contrarian front page essay by P. .J. O’Rourke (“The fate of Detroit,” goes the subhead “isn’t a matter of economics. It’s a tragic romance whose magic was killed by bureaucrats, bad taste and busybodies.”). Plus there are a number of smart book reviews and essays (in addition to the Pakistan full-pager which promises to tell us “What the U.S. needs to avert a crisis”, and delivers a slim wisp of hope based on realism not wishful thinking.)
And then there is my favorite line from Peggy Noonan’s column entitled “Republicans, Let’s Play Grown-Up” on the tenor of the opposition to Obama’s Supreme Court pick.
For those who say use enhanced derogation tactics against Judge Sotomayor to “excite the base”, she says “The base is plenty excited already, as you know if you’ve ever read a comment thread on a conservative blog. Comment-thread conservatives, like their mirror-image warriors on the left…are perpetually agitated, permanently enraged…”
Hmmm. Who’s been saying things like that recently? “Perpetually agitated, permanently enraged” commenters: that rings a bell. (And I’m sure you comment- thread conservatives, at least the cowardly anonymity abusers, will prove us right again). I like the phrase “comment thread conservatives”, it gives new meaning to “base”. And for those who haven’t gotten it, after I’ve repeated it three times, I mean the same goes for comment-thread liberals too–it’s the cowardly anonymity that engenders the “cyber disinhibition”– lowers the IQ (and humanity) on both sides.
Meanwhile you’ve got to think the Weekend Journal has the Times worried. This was an issue which showed the likes of Jeff Jarvis how newspapers “add value”, not that he’d know it when he saw it.