Daily Beast: Right's Most Influential Journalist Is Gigot? Over Rush?

February 11th, 2010 12:37 PM

CRITICAL UPDATES AT END OF POST: Limbaugh responds to list; author of list story used to work for the Wall Street Journal.

The Daily Beast Thursday published its list of the Right's most influential media figures, and the winner will likely surprise many on both sides of the aisle.

In the top position according to author Tunku Varadarajan (please see update at end of post!) is Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal.

In third place -- yes THIRD place -- is conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh behind Fox News sensation Glenn Beck.

Varadarajan described the winner thusly:

An intensely private man, Gigot is arguably the most influential conservative journalist that many Americans have not heard of. Master of his domain—the editorial page of the Journal—he puts out an unsigned daily editorial column that has all of the intellectual heft and political ingenuity that the Republicans, in their battle with the Obama administration, lack so embarrassingly. As was the case under his predecessor, Robert Bartley, Gigot’s is the only editorial column that actually sells newspapers.

In fairness, I'm a huge fan of Gigot's, and agree that the Journal on a daily basis likely has by far the best editorial page on the planet.

But does that make him more influential than Limbaugh or many of the other conservative figures that placed below Gigot such as Beck, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and George Will?

A review of the entire list finds many Journal figures including Peggy Noonan in the fourth position, James Taranto in ninth, editor Gerald Baker in twelfth, editorial writer Joseph Rago in twentieth, and columnist Mary O'Grady in twenty-fourth.

That means that six of the 25 on the list are from the Journal. Is the Beast saying the Journal is the most influential conservative media outlet in the country?

Taking this examination further, readers might find the New York Times' David Brooks coming in seventh rather odd as he is what most conservatives would call a RINO. In fact, when I interviewed Brooks at the Republican National Convention in 2008, he said he was more of a moderate than a conservative.

With this in mind, one is forced to wonder whether some of the seemingly controversial picks on this list were made to draw attention to the Beast.

Readers are encouraged to review the list in its entirety and make up their own minds.

*****Update: I asked Limbaugh via e-mail for his views on this list. He promptly responded:

I don't deserve to be on the list. I'm not a journalist. I value my reputation much more than to agree to being a journo. 

*****Update II: The author of the list story used to work for the Wall Street Journal. According to his bio at New York University:

Tunku Varadarajan joined New York University Stern School of Business as a Clinical Professor of Business in October 2007.

Prior to joining NYU Stern, Professor Varadarajan was an Assistant Managing Editor at The Wall Street Journal. During his tenure there he also served as the editorial features, or op-ed, editor, as well as chief television and media critic.

Well, I guess that explains his fascination with people who work at the Journal. Shouldn't this have been disclosed to readers if he was going to list so many Journal employees as being the most influential in the nation?

As another interesting sidebar, how could any most influential conservatives list not include Mark Levin? After all, he only had the second best-selling hardcover nonfiction book in 2009.

*****Update III: I sent the author a number of questions about his piece including how Gigot could possibly be more influential then Limbaugh, why he didn't inform his readers that he worked for the Journal in the past, and how Mark Levin could have been left off the list. Here is his verbatim response:

1. My old Journal affiliation is on my Beast bio:

2. This list is, by definition, a subjective list: So if Gigot is at # 1, it's because I believe him to be so as a matter of subjective interpretation, honestly arrived at.

The fact that your readers cannot pronounce his name is not, ipso facto, a reflection on his influence (although it may reflect their ignorance, to some extent!).

His influence is very different from Rush's and Beck's, in that it is primarily intellectual and philosophical, and not theatrical; and his editorials have been at the forefront of the effective intellectual opposition to many of the Obama Administration's inititiatives. They combine a quality and originality of thought with an attractively punchy linguistic style -- the best in the editorial business. (Have you tried reading a New York Times editorial, in contrast? It's like swimming in cold glue...) Also: Gigot's editorials are paid attention to by Republicans & Democrats alike, unlike many of the others on this list, whose influence is strictly confined to sectors of the right.

Rush & Beck are at #3 and #2, respectively, which is pretty good, isn't it? I and others felt, however, that since this is a moment when the Republican party is in a period of intellectual crisis, ideological drift, and philosophical incoherence, a man like Gigot -- who thinks things through, offers consistently sane and constructive argument, and takes meticulous care to pinpoint the weaknesses of the Democratic initiatives --deserved to be #1.

Of course people will disagree, which is, at some level, the whole point of an exercise like this...to stimulate spirited debate!

3. Mark Levin was not mentioned by more than 3 of the people I canvassed, about 80% of whom were conservative. This may grate with those who admire Levin, of course, and I am sorry that I should have hurt their sentiments... But that's the way these things go...lots of unexpected outcomes.