Last week's Times announcement that Bono would be writing for the Gray Lady's Op-Ed page in 2009 struck many as odd. For one, Editorial Page Editor Andy Rosenthal disclosed the hire during a Q&A with Columbia Journalism School students on Wednesday evening. The paper published a short un-bylined item about Bono's column in Friday's paper that appeared hastily put together. Times spokesperson Catherine Mathis was quoted in the Times saying simply that Bono would write on a "range of subjects" and the paper was still "finalizing the details." Rosenthal declined to discuss the matter when I called him on Friday.
David Brooks was excited when I asked about the appointment on Friday afternoon (he hadn't heard the news yet). "Do I get to hang out with him?" he joked. Brooks told me he's generally a fan of Bono, both musically and journalistically (he saw U2 in concert two years ago in Philadelphia). "I take Bono quite seriously," he said. "I'm generally quite skeptical [of celebrity pundits], it's either marketing or posing. But Bono has cleared my hurdle. I do think he's taken time to think like a regular opinion person."
Brooks offered some other suggestions for musical op-ed contributors. "Obviously we need to hire Ted Nugent. Or what about Cyndi Lauper?"
Times staffers I spoke to were bewildered by Bono's upcoming op-ed musings. "There's a starf***ing quality to it," one newsroom staffer griped. Another staffer I spoke to hadn't heard the news, and thought I was joking about the announcement. One former Times staffer complained that the editorial page was in danger of following the celebrity-pundit model outlined by Arianna Huffington.
Brooks said he too hopes the page doesn't go the Hollywood route. "On the Huffington Post, the ratio of weight to posing is very bad," he said.