Columnists Say ‘Yay’ and ‘Nay’ to Being Ideologically Labeled on Creators.com

By: Dave Astor

Creators Syndicate is spelled C-r-e-a-t-o-r-s, but Creators’ opinion columnists are spelled C-L-LT-U. That’s because Creators.com has just started labeling its pundits conservative, liberal, libertarian, or unaffiliated.

The syndicate’s columnists have varying reactions to being categorized, as indicated by comments later in this story from Creators writers Ben Shapiro (who favors it) and Connie Schultz (who doesn’t).

Why the labeling? “Newspaper editors often shop for syndicated columns by political affiliation,” replied Creators Director of New Media Andrea Fryrear, when interviewed today by E&P. “We wanted to make the site more editor-friendly by helping newspapers narrow down their choices.”

These Creators choices now include 27 opinion columnists labeled as conservative, 18 as liberal, five as libertarian, four as unaffiliated, and one (Phil Lucas) as both conservative and libertarian.

Fryrear reported that the labeling idea came from Creators’ sales staffers, who thought it would help in their selling efforts. (She said it’s too soon to tell if the labeling has indeed helped.) Fryrear added that sales staffers, syndicate editors, and — in some cases — columnists were involved in deciding which writers went into which category.

Columnists can change their categorization, Fryrear emphasized. For instance, Roland Martin was originally labeled as liberal but asked to switch to unaffiliated. Creators quickly complied.

Labeled unaffiliated from the start was Bill O’Reilly, who most people would consider conservative. “He made it clear from the first time Creators was involved with him that he didn’t want to be pigeonholed,” said Fryrear.
Connie Schultz, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner categorized on Creators.com as liberal, would also prefer not to be pigeonholed. The Plain Dealer of Cleveland columnist said she likes being with Creators, but doesn’t particularly like the labeling.

“I AM a liberal, a feminist, and the direct beneficiary of having a father who held a unionized job,” she said, when phoned by E&P. “But, like many other columnists, I like to think I’m more nuanced.”

For instance, Schultz this week wrote a moving piece about her son becoming a parent (and she a grandparent) that had nothing to do with ideology.

“I want all readers, including conservatives, to look at my column,” she said. “I want to have a conversation.”

But columnist Ben Shapiro, who’s labeled as conservative on Creators.com, is okay with being categorized.

“I tend to believe that labels mean something — they’re a shortcut for editors who don’t have time to sift through hundreds of columns by the same columnist in order to determine just where the columnist stands,” he told E&P. “That doesn’t mean editors won’t have to check out columns in order to determine whether a columnist’s style fits their outlet — it just means they won’t be surprised by the political content.”

Unlike Tribune Media Services — which has labeled its opinion columnists AND editorial cartoonists for quite some time — Creators decided to just label the pundits. Fryrear said one reason for this is that the syndicate has fewer editorial cartoonists (15) than opinion columnists (55) for prospective newspaper clients to sift through.

Meanwhile, the Cagle Cartoons syndicate labels some of the individual editorial cartoons it sells as either liberal or conservative.

Creators.com’s opinion-columnist page can be seen here.

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