It’s an ‘L’ of a System that Editors can ‘C’

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By: DAVE ASTOR

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

The columnists have varying reactions to being categorized.

Connie Schultz, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner labeled liberal on Creators’ Web site, would prefer not to be pigeonholed.

“I am a liberal, a feminist, and the direct beneficiary of having a father who held a unionized job,” The Plain Dealer of Cleveland writer tells E&P. “But, like many other columnists, I like to think I’m more nuanced.”

For instance, Schultz wrote a March piece about her son becoming a parent that was not ideological in any way. “I want all readers, including conservatives, to look at my column,” she says. “I want to have a conversation.”

But Ben Shapiro, who’s categorized as conservative on Creators.com, is OK with the new system.

“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 to determine where the columnist stands,” he says. “That doesn’t mean editors won’t have to check out columns to determine whether a columnist’s style fits their outlet ? it just means they won’t be surprised by the political content.”

Why did Creators start labeling? “Editors often shop for columns by political affiliation,” replies Andrea Fryrear, the syndicate’s director of new media. “We wanted to make the site more editor-friendly by helping newspapers narrow down their choices.”

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

Fryrear says the labeling idea came from Creators sales staffers, who thought it would help in their selling efforts. She adds that sales staffers, Creators editors, and ? in some cases ? the columnists themselves decided who occupied which category.

Columnists can change their category, says Fryrear. For instance, Roland Martin was initially labeled liberal but asked to become unaffiliated. Creators quickly complied.

Labeled unaffiliated from the start was Bill O’Reilly, who most people consider conservative. “He made it clear from the first time Creators was involved with him that he didn’t want to be pigeonholed,” Fryrear recalls.

Unlike Tribune Media Services ?which has labeled its opinion columnists and editorial cartoonists for several years ? Creators decided to label only the pundits. Fryrear says one reason is that the syndicate has fewer editorial cartoonists (15) than opinion columnists (55) for prospective newspaper clients to sift through.

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