By: Joe Strupp and Greg Mitchell
As William Falk, editor-in-chief of The Week, handed out the honors for his publication’s first-ever Opinion Awards on Wednesday in New York, he said: “We are not suffering from a shortage of opinion.” This was especially true right in that room — a small chamber within the East 57th Street apartment of Harold Evans, a consulting editor for The Week, and Tina Brown. Before him stood, some with drink in hand, Mario Cuomo, Sidney Blumenthal, Ken Auletta, Henrik Hertzberg, Thomas L. Friedman, Paul Krugman, Stanley Crouch and Eric Alterman, among many others.
“But interesting, insightful and original opinion is rare,” Falk added, and with that in mind he and Evans proceeded to hand out the prizes to each winner, giving Friedman of The New York Times Columnist of the Year and his Times colleague, Krugman, the Single-Issue Advocate of the Year prize. Joshua Micah Marshall, who runs talkingpointsmemo.com won the Blogger of the Year title, while Tommy Tomlinson of The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer took home the Local Columnist of the Year award.
As one might expect, those acknowledged for speaking their minds were not short on opinions as they accepted the accolades.
Despite being honored during a gourmet meal at a ritzy Manhattan town house, Marshall reminded the crowd exactly how far-removed most bloggers are from the New York media scene, describing his early days of blogging as “a freelance journalist who spends a lot of time on the computer eating rice and beans.”
Tomlinson, who took pride in his small town news experience, also pointed out his relative obscurity compared to some of the more prominent writers in the room. “I always have a dream that John Updike is in our airport going to some place exotic, he picks up our paper and reads me and says, ‘that’s not bad,'” Tomlinson told the assemblage. “You always wonder if somebody else notices.”
Upon introducing Krugman, Evans praised him for his anti-Bush columns, saying, “In England, you need a whole parliament to oppose (Bush), here you have Paul Krugman.” The columnist’s response: “This wouldn’t be necessary if we had a parliamentary opposition here.”
Friedman revealed that someone once declared that the reason he was an eternal optimist was because he was so short he could only see the “half-full” portion of the half-empty glass.
Evans then noted that Friedman is even shorter than Krugman, while admitting that he is about the same size himself.
Judges for the event included a Who’s Who of political, international and literary high-rollers, ranging from Lauren Hutton and Robert Caro to Susan Cheever and Walter Isaacson.
When cocktail hour chat turned to the state of today’s New York City newspapers, Cuomo was quick to offer praise and critiques. He said Newsday of Melville, N.Y., had the best state government coverage, saying, “They have the most people there, which means something because not that many people are interested in Albany. In the big city, they don’t know from Albany.”
On The New York Times, the former governor praised the paper of record overall, but said they went too far on the Jayson Blair episode. “They overdid that,” he opined. “They didn’t need to beat themselves up like that.” As for the New York Post-New York Daily News tabloid war, Cuomo doesn’t see it ending any time soon. “It must cost them $10 million per year,” he said of the Post. “But as long as they want a strong political voice, they will spend the money.”
The award winners each received a $1,000 check, but with the unusual provision that they donate it to their favorite library. With a matching gift from Nissan North America, each library actually received $2,000. Krugman donated his prize to the Brooklyn Public Library, while Friedman’s went to Kol Shalom Synagogue’s library in North Bethesda, Md.; Marshall’s to his alma mater, Fawcett Memorial Library at the Webb School in Claremont, Calif.; and Tomlinson contributed his endowment to the Library of Charlotte.