By: Joe Strupp
The New York Times has named columnist John Tierney to its op-ed page after the departure of Times legend William Safire, the paper announced Tuesday. “Safire retired, and now we have John Tierney as a new Op-Ed columnist,” Diane McNulty, a Times spokeswoman, told E&P. “You don’t replace William Safire.”
Tierney, who joined the Times in 1990, will begin writing a twice-weekly op-ed column in April, the paper said. Since joining The Times, Tierney has been a general-assignment reporter, a staff writer for the Sunday magazine, and a columnist. He wrote the weekly ?Political Points? column during the 2004 presidential campaign. Tierney moved from New York to the Washington bureau in 2002, and he reported from Iraq for several months in 2003.
“My goal is to do a lot of reporting and come up with columns that surprise readers and entertain them at the same time,” Tierney, 51, told E&P. “I’ve always tried to look at things from a contrarian view. It all depends on what is in the news.”
?John is a smart reporter and innovative thinker who will always come up with an unexpected take on the issues of the day,? Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said in a statement. ?He delighted us as a Metro columnist, and as the ?Political Points? writer during the 2004 election. We?re looking forward to seeing what he does in this new format.?
Previously, Tierney, 51, wrote about New York in his ?Big City? column for the paper, which ran for eight years, first in the Times Magazine and then twice a week in the Metro Section.
“We know that John has a distinctive voice and he has been a very good columnist and is an interesting kind of thinker,” Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins told E&P, adding that the paper did not seek a Safire clone, but wanted “somebody who has views that are different from most of the other people” on the op-ed page.
Safire, reached at his office at the Dana Foundation, a non-profit group he now oversees in Washington, D.C., praised the choice of Tierney. “He’s a fine reporter with a definite libertarian streak and a good sense of humor,” Safire told E&P. “I’m rooting for him.” Safire also said that another conservative voice on the page is positive. “I was hopeful that [Sulzberger] would get one or two columnists to reflect a different view from the editorial page, and I think he has done that.” David Brooks, who joined the page in 2003, is its other conservative voice.
Tierney returned his predecessor’s compliment. “I’m a huge fan of Bill’s, and I would love to write a column as good as his, but I’m not replacing him,” he said. “He is irreplaceable. I’m just writing on the same page.”
When asked if he had sought to influence the choice of his replacement, Safire declined to comment, saying only, “I don’t want to make it seem that I was calling the shots.” Collins said that she had discussed the choice with Safire, but “it was not his job to name a succesor.”
Tierney is the author of ?The Best-Case Scenario Handbook? (Workman Publishing, 2003), a work of humor, and is also the co-author, with Christopher Buckley, of a comic novel, ?God Is My Broker: A Monk Tycoon Reveals the 7? Laws of Spiritual and Financial Growth? (HarperPerennial, 1998).
Safire, who had written his regular columns since 1973, announced last fall he was leaving the paper. His final op-ed columns — comprising the full page — ran on Jan. 24. He is continuing to write his Sunday magazine “On Language” pieces.