Not since Howell Raines launched an anti-Augusta National Golf Club crusade from the pages of the New York Times, have I seen a newspaper editor allow a personal fixation on a relatively minor issue to so dominate his newspaper. Apparently, Seth Lipsky no likey The Gates, and he's willing to use his front page and half of his editorial pages to tell you so.
Yesterday's print edition of The New York Sun was insane. First there was this story, with the huge headline "Christo's 'Gates' Emerge as Political Issue", and in the print edition the subhead "Icon of Bloomberg Finds its Critics on Right and Left". Sounds like a pretty big deal right? Well, it turns out that by "emerge as political issue" to people both on "right and left" what the Sun means is this: They were able to get quotes from three likely political opponents of Bloomberg that found various Bloomberg-bashing angles in "The Gates". Howard Wolfson, a Democratic political consultant says The Gates show that Bloomberg is out of touch, has the wrong priorities and yadda yadda yadda. Thomas Ognibene, a Republican City Council member from Queens who will probably be running against Bloomberg in the Republican primary, says that the Gates should have been done somewhere in the outer boroughs. So far so good. This seems like viable material for a little article, though hardly front page news. (I should also note that, though you can't see it in the web edition, as the story continues on into page 2 of the print edition, below it is one of those random-person-on-the-street interviews, and it just so happens to be with a 16-year-old girl visiting from England who hates the Gates, thinks they're stupid, hates modern art etc.)
Where things get weird though is when this front page "news" article starts quoting at length from this turgid anti-Gates screed written by Myron Magnet for City Journal. There's nothing wrong with this device per se, though it's not anymore newsworthy, in the sense of being at all surprising, that Magnet doesn't like the Gates than it is that other professional cultural grouches like Roger Kimball don't like it. However, after quoting almost the entire piece in the front-page article, the City Journal piece in its entirety is then reproduced on The Sun's editorial page, right above another op-ed, taken from Slate, in which someone who apparently has the ability to communicate with spirits says he has spoken to Olmsted and Vaux and they're not happy, or something.
Isn't this a bit of a pile-on? Is it normal newspaper policy to report as front-page news the fact that someone has written an op-ed, quote extensively from said op-ed, and then publish the op-ed inside? How would this be any different from - I don't know - The Times writing a front page article about the fact that Joe Conason say, or some other left-wing hack, has written a column attacking the Bush administration's Social Security plan, quoting extensively from the column, and then reproducing the column in their op-ed pages?
It's overkill I say! And can the anti-Gates people please come up with some original put-downs here? I'm getting tired of "laundry" and "shower curtains". Is that the best you can do?
Roger Kimball link from Judith Weiss's typically exhaustive roundup of Gates-related commentary.