Those who wanted more biting opinion gravitated to the Internet, where there are vast numbers of people offering commentary along every single point on the political spectrum. It became very easy to find writers expressing exactly one's own personal opinion about everything. Bloggers also have the advantages of no space constraints, and an ability to post comments in real time and to offer links to supporting documents and sources. Now they even have audio and video.
As a result, the demand for traditional column writing has pretty much dried up, just as the demand for buggy whips collapsed when the automobile came along. I don't mourn the old system. I am a great fan of bloggers and learn far more from them than I do from the Broders and Friedmans of the world, who have largely become irrelevant to serious political discussion.
Furthermore, the basic medium through which columnists operate -- newspapers -- are dying a slow death. It's a rare week when some major paper doesn't announce new layoffs, buyouts or other severe cost-cutting measures, such as reducing the size of the paper to save on costly newsprint, as The New York Times will do next month. At some point, the bloodletting will end, but not before many more papers fold. Eventually, we will probably be left with a handful of national papers, with all the rest devoted exclusively to local news.
Broadcasters are under the same pressures, and I suspect that the traditional nightly network news program will eventually go the way of the dodo. Those who care about the news will get it from cable, the Internet or talk radio.
I think there will always be a market for quality commentary, however, and some day someone will figure out a better way to make money from it. In the meantime, I have decided to devote myself to writing books, where authors still have control over their output and can make better money. I will continue to pen the occasional column, but this is the last one I plan to write on a weekly basis. I offer thanks to all my readers and editors for their support.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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