Dynamist Blog

My Life as a Pink Box

According to this LAT report, the spat between Susan Estrich and Michael Kinsley over whether the LAT runs enough women op-ed writers (a.k.a. enough of Estrich's friends) keeps getting nastier. Estrich has revealed herself as a poorly read, though well-connected, hack--people who are interested in ideas know who Charlotte Allen is--while Kinsley has demonstrated why magazines are generally more interesting than newspapers: Magazine editors (and Kinsley is one, despite his current job) are paid to have vision and confidence, not to bend to pressure groups.

The whole silly brouhaha reminds me of how the LAT used to handle this question: through rigid, numerical quotas. I remember visiting Bob Berger, the op-ed editor, back in the early '90s. An old-style newspaperman, Bob didn't like the paper's demands that he demonstrate "diversity" on the op-ed pages. I especially remember his complaint that he not only had to find gay writers but gay writers who would mention that they were gay. No gay foreign policy experts need apply.

Of course, you don't get to be an editor in a giant, bureaucratic newspaper if you don't do what you're told. Bob not only complied but posted a chart on his door to prove what a good job he was doing. It showed each day's op-ed page as a line of five boxes, one for each article slot. The boxes were colored either blue or pink.

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