Friday, May 19, 2006

Exception to the Rule

The Washington Times is regularly flogged by those in the know (and even those who merely think they're in the know) as an awful right-wing rag with few redeeming qualities (sports, local reporting). And fairness requires it be said that at times the Times has more than deserved such harsh reviews. Their pro-Bush campaign coverage in 00 and 04 sometimes verged on fanzine-ish. And yet, because a lot of smart and interesting people are always wandering the docks of journalism in search of work, a few of them have turned up at the Times. Tod Lindberg, now of Policy Review, ran their editorial page for several years. The late Colin Walters managed an always-solid books section with very few resources and little money to pay contributers—a tradition continuing under Carol Herman. And a few ace reporters, Bill Gertz for one, have called the paper home. But even this general defense of the paper seems to have lost its persuasive power as other conservative publications have become more prominent in recent years.

And yet ... the underdog paper continues to throw out quality work when you least suspect it. A while back (maybe about two years ago, I can't remember), Daniel Wattenberg became editor of the weekend entertainment section of the paper—called the "Show" section—and it's been very good. Take this week's edition. The front page beautifully parodies the goose-quill manuscript style of the DaVinci Code and shows off cinammon-pink etchings of Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in a style reminiscent of those silly prophecy drawings from "Alias." The editorial package features three entertaining articles on the subject, all written from a conservative or rather pro-Christian point of view. One is a straight review of the movie by Christian Toto; another is a sharp little reporting piece on the Christian response to the movie by the prolific Scott Galupo (a really teriffic music writer); and the last is a sidebar listing highlights in the boycott battles between Hollywood and believers. Good writing, sharp point of view without nagging, and a sense of humor. It may not be a match for, say, the Washington Post's justly celebrated and magnificently staffed and funded Style section (or those of its top-tier competitors like the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, or the LA Times) but for a fraction of their cost, it's better than almost every other newspaper entertainment section I've read. Of the second-best, it may be the very best.


Anonymous said...

Does anyone here feel a bit odd about Bill Gertz? I am a China paranoid extraordinaire, but sometimes I think that Gertz will report any China-related defense rumor.

The Mechanical Eye said...

Same here. Around 1999-2000 I was half convinced the Chinese was ready to bomb Taiwan or threaten the western U.S. within a year - you would too if you listened to those guest spots Gertz would do with Matt Drudge on his radio talk show.


Anonymous said...

Would agree with your analysis. Wattenberg has put together a thoughtful and insightful entertainment section that deserves to be read. And the writing of Scott Galupo more than deserves a larger audience. Fun, witty, and nimble.