July 3, 2005
RELEASING THE HOUNDS (via M Ali Choudhury):
RWN's Mark Steyn Interview #2: Once again, I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to interview the man I consider to be the best columnist in the business, Mark Steyn. (John Hawkins, Righ Wing News)
This interview was conducted via email and we covered a number of topics including Steyn's syndication in the US, Israel, the future of Europe and Nato, Christianity in Europe, Iraq, illegal immigration, and the American left's view of foreign policy.
John Hawkins: You seem to be widely acknowledged as the best conservative columnist in the business. Just as one proof of that, twice now I've polled right-of-center bloggers on their favorite columnist and twice now you've won by a huge margin. So why is it, in your opinion, that your columns are not very widely syndicated in American newspapers?
Mark Steyn: Well, there are two answers to that: the first is that it's true US newspapers are not exactly beating my door down. The second is that, when they do beat my door down, my loyal retainer sets the dogs on them and peppers their retreating posteriors with buckshot. I'll explain that second part first. I appear in newspapers in a lot of different countries, and the sad fact is that, mainly as a consequence of local newspaper monopolies, US syndication fees represent some of the lowest publication rates in the world - that's to say, to take one recent example, you'd earn more from a single reprint in a Fijian newspaper than one certain prominent US statewide daily was proposing to pay for my column for an entire year. The US syndication business is the publishing equivalent of vaudeville, and I don't particularly see why it's in my interests to fill up Gannett’s newspapers for free. If I'm going to give it away, I'd rather folks had to come to the website to see it, where there's a chance they'll hang around long enough to buy a book. So I've no interest in US syndication as a business model. We make exceptions for certain newspapers whose op-ed editors are genuinely eager to carry the column. But I have no great ambitions within US journalism.
But, to go back to your first point, the reason they're not exactly beating the door down is because I'm not a good fit for American monopoly dailies. In London, the most competitive newspaper market in the world, papers thrive by encouraging distinctive controversial voices. In America, the average Gannett or other monodaily prefers a tone of self-regarding dullness. As my friend John O'Sullivan put it, "They neither offend nor delight" - as a matter of policy. Yes, they're broadly “liberal,” but not in a lively virtuoso engaging way, only in a dreary J-school way. I think they're missing the point here. They don't realize that they do have competitors now, in new media. In 1978, having driven your print competitors out of business, you could afford to be a dull city newspaper. I don't believe you can now.
Still insisting he has a staff of assistants?
Mr. Steyn is so prolific and so thoroughly linked on the Web that you may wonder why you'd ever need to buy his books, but From Head To Toe: An Anatomical Anthology is a very varied collection that you can dip into at random and always find somethng fun, while The Face of the Tiger, which collects his immediate post-911 writings, should be kept to hand as a reminder of why we're fighting Islamicism half a world away.Posted by Orrin Judd at July 3, 2005 9:42 AM