LA TIMES OP-ED SHAKEUP….A bunch of commenters on Thursday wondered what I thought about the recently announced overhaul of the LA Times op-ed page. Basically, Robert Scheer (hard lefty columnist), Michael Ramirez (hard right cartoonist), and David Gelernter (bizarro right wing columnist) have been dropped and Jonah Goldberg (no introduction needed) has been added.

Overall, you’d think I’d be pleased. After all, I’ve never been a fan of Scheer; Ramirez does nothing but raise my blood pressure every morning; and Gelernter is an embarrassment. I don’t quite get the point of bringing on Goldberg, who’s already syndicated, but whatever.

And yet….I don’t like it. My objection to Scheer was never his politics, but the fact that I thought his writing was ineffective. But ineffective or not, his departure leaves no one on the op-ed page to represent his end of the political spectrum. What’s more, I actually think his writing has improved over the past year. Or maybe events have just made it seem that way. In any case, I’m less pleased to see him go than I would have thought.

That’s especially so when you pair it up with the firing of Ramirez . Sure, Ramirez raised my blood pressure, but that’s what a cartoonist is supposed to do. Like him or not, he was a very sharp cartoonist. (What’s more, apparently the plan is to replace Ramirez with the kind of graphical pap the Times has been running on Sunday. Yuck.)

Scheer and Ramirez were the highest profile firings, and when you put them together it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the goal is to turn the op-ed page into a nice, sedate knitting club. As Kristi Golden put it, “By eliminating some of the tension on the editorial pages, The Times is becoming metaphorically more like Muzak than like an original composition.”

On the other hand, replacing Gelernter with Goldberg is a positive move. Gelernter isn’t provocative, he’s an idiot who’s somehow convinced himself he’s the heir to William F. Buckley. Goldberg usually leaves me kind of flat, primarily because I don’t think he puts enough thought into his writing, but he’s a step up from Gelernter.

The Times has also added a couple of new columnists: Gregrory Rodriguez, who will write mostly about immigration and race, and Erin Aubry Kaplan, who, I guess, will join Patt Morrison as a “local” columnist. Here’s the new lineup:

  • Sunday: Gregory Rodriguez, Jon Chait

  • Monday: Niall Ferguson

  • Tuesday: Joel Stein

  • Wednesday: Max Boot, Erin Aubry Kaplan

  • Thursday: Jonah Goldberg, Patt Morrison

  • Friday: Rosa Brooks

  • Saturday: Meghan Daum

If you’re keeping score at home, we have Brooks on the left, Chait on the center left, Ferguson as a kind of maverick Tory, Goldberg on the right, and Boot on the hawkish neocon right. I don’t really know how Rodriguez is going to turn out. The others focus on either local issues or lifestyle-ish things.

So we’ll see. It looks to me more like a move toward the mushy, penny pinching middle than a move to the right, but it’s probably that too. Stay tuned.

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