By: Jesse Oxfeld
A cross-section of official and non-official Washington, plus a few outsiders, turned out Tuesday afternoon and evening for the second annual The Week Opinion Awards.
Editors at the magazine and a panel of outside judges named Peter Beinert of The New Republic columnist of the year, while Tom Toles of The Washington Post took home the editorial cartoonist prize. Jonathan Turley, writing on civil liberties and the war on terrorism for the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, got the nod for single-issue advocacy, and PowerLine was named blogger of the year.
There were no acceptance speeches at the awards dinner, held at the cavernous and ornate Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
The dinner drew a crowd of about 200, including U.S. Sens. Jon Corzine, Ron Wyden, Chuck Hagel, and John Sununu. Among the journos: Sid Blumenthal, Matt Cooper and Time colleagues Jay Carney and John Dickerson, Shelby Coffey, Jim Fallows, Norm Ornstein, and Michelle Malkin, plus Frank Newport, director of The Gallup Poll.
And what kind of party would it be these days without a few bloggers? So there were Jeff Jarvis, Ana Marie Cox, and first-blogger-in-the-White House, Garrett Graff.
A panel at the awards dinner, titled “Is the Media Elite Out of Touch with America,” was moderated by The Week’s editor-at-large, Harry Evans (ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was snowed out) and featured Tina Brown, Margaret Carlson, Pat Robertson, and Ed Schultz. They seemed to agree that, if anything, the media was often not elite enough, pandering to their audiences with endless coverage of the Michael Jackson trial and Martha Stewart?s troubles.
Along with the awards dinner, The Week, in association with the Aspen Institute, presented an Opinion Forum at Washington’s Freer Gallery. The forum featured two panels, titled “Opinion Journalists: Serving What Master?” and “The War in Iraq: Patriotism, Propaganda, and the Making of Public Opinion.”
The first panel was moderated by Aspen’s Walter Isaacson, and featured Beinart, The New York Times’ David Brooks, Arianna Huffington, Wonkette?s Cox, and Simon Jenkins of The (London) Times. They spent a fair amount of time discussing what Cox termed the “Foxifaction” of opinion, in which all matters are reduced to a conservative-vs.-liberal debate, which Huffington called a simplistic dichotomy.
The second panel, moderated by Harry Evans, featured Al Jazeera’s Hafez Mirazi, Al Hayat’s Salameh Nematt, Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute, former State Department official James Rubin, and Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera (whom Evans insisted on calling ?Juh-raldo?).
They frequently descended into heated disagreements: with Rivera and Al Jazeera’s Mirazi arguing about whose coverage is more jingoistic; Mirazi and Nematt arguing about which Arab press is truly independent; Rubin and Mirazi arguing about the definition of terrorism, and, surprisingly, Rubin and Perle frequently seeming to be in agreement.
The Week Opinion Awards were founded last year to recognize the nation’s best opinion writing. Finalists for the awards were selected by senior editors at The Week, and a panel of 25 judges selected the winners.
The other finalists for columnist of the year were Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune, Richard Cohen of The Washington Post, Kathleen Parker of the Orlando Sentinel, and Mark Steyn of the Chicago Sun-Times.
For editorial cartoonist of the year the other finalists were Chip Bok, Steve Kelly, Mike Lukovich, and Gary Markstein.
Other single-issue advocate finalists were Christopher Hitchens for writing on Islamofacism, Fred Kaplan on Iraq, Claudia Rosett on the U.N. oil-for-food scandal, and Michelle Malkin on immigration. And other finalists for blog or blogger of the year were Matthew Yglesias, Jay Rosen’s PressThink, Hugh Hewitt, and Low Culture.
The winners of last year’s Opinion Awards, which did not include a similar forum, were Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman of The New York Times, Joshua Micah Marshall of talkingpointsmemo.com, and Tommy Tomlinson of The Charlotte Observer.