George Pyle: Tribune commentary pages gain some new (old) friends

FILE- In this June 28, 2018, file photo, a police officer stands guard outside The New York Times building in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Say hello to some new friends.

Or, if you’ve been reading The Salt Lake Tribune for more than a few years, to some returning old friends. Who are bringing along some of their new friends.

After five years as a client of The Washington Post News Service, The Tribune is returning to The New York Times News Service. The NYT package of breaking and in-depth news, arts coverage and features includes The Times’ top-drawer commentary, from both their staff op-ed writers and contributors who write often, occasionally or once.

Among the names that will be returning to The Tribune’s print pages and website are Nobel economics laureate and liberal’s liberal Paul Krugman, globe-trotting writers Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof, conservative deep-thinkers David Brooks and Ross Douthat, author and social justice advocate Charles Blow, the sardonic I’ve-seen-it-all Maureen Dowd, former reporter and restaurant critic Frank Bruni and the it’s-better-to-laugh-than-cry Gail Collins.

(Collins is the one who can’t mention Utah Sen. Mitt Romney without recounting the story of how he put the family dog in a crate on top of the family car for a family drive to Canada. And it is hard for anyone to mention Collins without mentioning that.)

Other writers have been added to the NYT commentary roster since The Tribune was last a partner. They include conservative writer Bret Stephens, former business reporter David Leonhardt, along with Michelle Goldberg and Timothy Egan, the latter a writer who focuses on the environment and other issues important to the American West. (That is, he has the job I wanted.)

Among them, that crowd has eight Pulitzer Prizes.

It is on The Tribune’s commentary pages that this change will be the most obvious. The Associated Press remains the heavy lifter for our national and world news and sports coverage. Now, our news and arts pages will have the option of supplementing that report with work from The Times. Our sports pages are mostly locally oriented, with AP’s national report filling things out.

Yes, we know. The Times has come under some heavy criticism of late for its coverage of the last presidential campaign and of the current administration. I would argue, though, that the problems are generally not with the content, depth or fairness of the articles, but with matters of play and display. Headlines and front-page, or not, placement. The kind of things that may happen when a news organization’s best brains focus increasingly on the online service and not so much on print.

And those woes, if they continue, won’t necessarily carry over to how The Tribune uses the work of The Times.

With the switch of syndicates, some of The Washington Post’s writers, along with those who write for Bloomberg News, will no longer be found on our pages — print or online. Those we are saying good-bye to include Jennifer Rubin, Margaret Sullivan, Anne Applebaum, Ramesh Ponnuru, Hugh Hewitt, Monica Hesse, Helaine Olen, Paul Waldman, Jonathan Capehart, Leonid Bershidsky, Ishaan Tharoor, Greg Sargent and Fred Hiatt. Those first three, particularly, I will miss. Rubin because she is an amazingly prolific commentator on the national political scene, Sullivan because of her comments on how the media works (and because I used to work for her at The Buffalo News) and Applebaum as a foremost expert on Russia and Europe.

But, because that organization sells its writers in more than one kind of package, The Washington Post brand won’t be totally absent from The Tribune’s pages. We are hanging on to columnists Dana Milbank, George F. Will, Catherine Rampell, Alexandra Petri, Eugene Robinson and E.J. Dionne.

We are also continuing our relationship with syndicated columnists Leonard Pitts, Pulitzer-winning writer anchored at The Miami Herald, and Rich Lowry, the editor of the William F. Buckley-founded National Review.

Our decision to switch news services, rather than abandon both or keep both, was based partly on cost, but also on quality and on figuring out what makes sense in deals between organizations that, on the World Wide Web, are in competition with one another. As Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says about education, “It’s not all about the money, but it’s some about the money.”

I’m happy to have The Times columnists back on our pages. They are a good mix of old and young, liberal, conservative and independent, shoe-leather reporting and high-minded thought. (Though it does skew a bit male.)

Of course, even having said all of this, the true heart of The Salt Lake Tribune Opinion pages is made up of contributions from real people, writing from and/or about Utah. Letters to The Public Forum and submissions to our commentary pages.

Keep 'em coming.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, has published commentary in both The New York Times and The Washington Post. Not that anyone who works there now would remember.


Twitter, @debatestate