Examining The Writer’s Role With Frank Rich

by | Mar 13, 2011

New York Times columnist Frank Rich is leaving his long held post for another at New York Magazine.

Rich says he wants to go long, that he no longer wants to feel the strain of shortening his thoughts to column length. Okay, but I’m more interested in what leads a man to write a column in the first place. Rich shares his thoughts on the matter:

For me, anyway, the point of opinion writing is less to try to shape events, a presumptuous and foolhardy ambition at best, than to help stimulate debate and, from my particular perspective, try to explain why things got the way they are and what they might mean and where they might lead. My own idiosyncratic bent as a writer, no doubt a legacy of my years spent in the theater, is to look for a narrative in the many competing dramas unfolding on the national stage. I do have strong political views, but opinions are cheap. Anyone could be a critic of the Bush administration. The challenge as a writer was to try to figure out why it governed the way it did — and how it got away with it for so long — and, dare I say it, to have fun chronicling each new outrage.

I can relate, as I too like to “stimulate debate” and “look for narrative in the many competing dramas unfolding on the national stage.” That stage at present is full tilt. Japan’s nuclear plants are melting down; gas prices are on the rise at a time when Americans can least afford it; we’re waging two wars for Empire that we will not win; class warfare is spilling into the streets and state houses of the land; our drinking water is being poisoned by natural gas drilling; kids are dropping out of high school at alarming rates, and so on.

The kind of challenges we’re facing demand that we stand together to meet them. Will we?

Rich says it is foolhardy for an opinion writer to try to shape events. I don’t know. Someone’s got to shape events.