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The New Republic's Jon Chait on awards:

Nearly every field of human endeavor has a regular prize. And nearly every prize seems to regularly go to a clearly undeserving winner. Woody Allen’s character complained in Annie Hall, “They’re always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.” If an award like that really did exist, though, they’d probably end up giving it to Mussolini. ...

In my field, we have something called the National Magazine Awards. Magazine writers tend to be both obsessed with who wins and convinced the process is a pathetic joke. This isn’t just sour grapes, either. The last time The New Republic won a National Magazine Award, it was for publishing Betsy McCaughey’s infamous anti-Clintoncare screed “No Exit,” which is probably the worst article in the history of TNR. It’s as if the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Timothy McVeigh.

By Ezra Klein  |  November 2, 2009; 9:44 AM ET
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TNR also endorsed Joe Lieberman for President. A stranger to bonehead moves they are not. But speaking of screeds, check out the WSJ editorial today about Obamacare.

Posted by: bmull | November 2, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Sure, awards only show the particular politics/views of a group of selectors.

Fortunately, readers don't pay so much attention to awards. I read widely, but until now I couldn't tell you what magazine had ever won the award mentioned.

And even though I know a few pulitzer winners, I can't say it guides my reading.

Instead, readers seek quality, by their own lights.

Even the most prestigious organiztion, like the NYTimes, actually only has loyalty to the extent that it continues to deliver exceptional quality.

If better writers show up elsewhere, many national readers will be gone in a few months.

That's why newspapers are in trouble really. Leading newspapers have less and less monopoly on talent or intellect.

For each top writer at NYTimes, there are probably hundreds or thousands in the U.S. as good or better, and simply not yet on a platform.

With the internet the cost-barrier to entry is almost zero.

I don't see the NyTimes being in the same leading place 20 years from now, unless they manage to recruit a good part of the best in the nation. That would be no small feat.

20 years ago, I might read most of the NYTimes, the Economist, the Atlantic, and together they were 80% of my non-fiction periodical reading.

Now those three together have moved from 80% years ago to perhaps 5% of my non-fiction periodical reading, and dropping.

Even organization, much of editing, and such, the real remaining strengths are something that can gradually be programmed into code (computer programs).

Posted by: HalHorvath | November 2, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Don't feel too bad, Edward Prescott won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | November 2, 2009 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Ha! Timothy McVeigh huh? Someone got the added shot of espresso in his coffee today. Bomb throwing first thing in the morning. I love it!

I dont believe in hell (or heaven for that matter) but if I did I'd love to believe there's a special place in hell for Betsy McCaughey. I'd include Andrew Sullivan who was the editor then, but at least he's had the conscience to repent of this horrific activity from TNR back then.

Posted by: zeppelin003 | November 2, 2009 10:57 AM | Report abuse

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