By: Dave Bauder
George Will’s column runs in more newspapers than any writer in the nation, according to a new study by a liberal media watchdog group that concludes conservative voices such as his dominate editorial pages.
Will’s syndicated column runs at least once a month in 368 newspapers with more than 26 million in total circulation, said the Media Matters for America. The organization surveyed 96 percent of the nation’s 1,430 English-language daily newspapers.
“He reaches half of the newspaper readers in America,” said Paul Waldman, the study’s author. “He has a huge megaphone, probably bigger than anybody else in America.”
His group found that 60 percent of the daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists each week than liberals. Twenty percent of the papers are dominated by liberals and 20 percent are balanced. Media Matters had no information on local columnists.
It’s similar to how conservative talk radio voices dominate, although to a much more limited extent.
Waldman called it “one more nail in the coffin of the myth of liberal media bias.” Better balance should be the goal, he said.
Will, 66, distributes two columns each week to newspapers through the Washington Post Writers Group and writes every other week for Newsweek, a unit of The Washington Post Co. He’s been a columnist since 1974, when newspapers began searching for conservative voices after the Nixon administration complained about a liberal bias.
“It’s pleasing news, because one never knows,” Will told The Associated Press. “You send these things out and you can’t possibly keep track of how the newspapers are using them.”
Alan Shearer, editorial director and general manager of the group that syndicates Will, said he thinks the column is popular because it contains original reporting and is not just opinion. Will can also be unpredictable, and predictability is the death of columnists, he said.
Some well-known TV personalities can’t approach Will for reach in their written work. Bill O’Reilly, for example, reaches 4 million readers and Ann Coulter 1.1 million, the survey said.
The five most popular columnists include another conservative, Kathleen Parker, and two liberals, Ellen Goodman and Leonard Pitts Jr. David Broder of the Washington Post, who is third, isn’t assigned an ideology by Media Matters.
The top 10 is rounded out by Cal Thomas, Charles Krauthammer and three from The New York Times: Thomas L. Friedman, Maureen Dowd and David Brooks.
Both Will and Shearer said they believe that Media Matters is right, that conservative columnists have a wider reach than liberals. It may partly be because publishers lean conservative, and editorial page editors often report to them, Shearer said.
Will said he hoped to write “`til I drop,” pointing to his 50th anniversary as a columnist as a goal. That’s in 2024.
“I love to write,” he said. “I think that’s unusual among journalists. A lot of journalists like the reporting and hanging around the journalistic subculture and seeing their names in the paper, it’s the middle part they don’t like. I like the middle part.”