Conservative young gun speaks on journalism, politics

A New York Times columnist explains the history of journalism, and offers insight into the 2012 presidential election.


New York Times columnist Ross Douthat discusses the future of journalism and conservative politics during an address on campus last week. Gilbert Cisneros/UVU Review

Ross Douthat has a litany of prominent publications that he has penned for. The Atlantic, The National Review, GQ, Slate and the Wall Street Journal. However since 2009, he has been bringing his conservative take on politics to the New York Times op-ed page, perhaps his biggest arena yet.

“It’s been fantastic,” Douthat said in an interview before his address on campus on April 12. “It’s a very big stage. I am very aware of how many people are reading the things that I write. It’s a scary and hopefully humbling thing from time to time.”

The youngest regular columnist to ever grace the pages of the Times, Douthat came to UVU to talk about the past and future of journalism. His address centered around the concept that the established, professionalized journalism of the mid twentieth century seems more and more like a “historical aberration.”

Douthat said that the traditional establishment press, sandwiched between the freewheeling journalism of the early twentieth century and the equally freewheeling digital age of journalism in the early twenty-first century, can no longer be sustained.

This doesn’t, however, necessarily mean every old institution would be lost. When asked by Associate Professor of Communications Phil Gordon whether the New York Times will always be around, Douthat said simply, “Yes.”

Though the medium of delivery and the method of making money may change, Douthat said that national sources with long histories and high profits will survive, along with “hyperlocal” news outlets that cover very niche markets.

But Douthat expressed concern for the loss of “regional” news sources who can’t compete with either national or local outlets.

In an interview with the UVU Review, Douthat was also able to comment on the current prominence of LDS politicians in the race for the Republican nomination for presidential candidacy.

Both Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts and Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah and current ambassador to China, are both potential candidates, though Romney is thought to be the front-runner by Douthat.

“Romney is a fascinating figure because he is technically the front-runner for the Republican nomination, but he is an incredibly weak front runner who nobody seems to like,” Douthat said.

Romney signed into law the healthcare bill for his state that was used essentially as a blueprint for the recent national healthcare bill, a law that “Republicans love to hate,” according to Douthat.

Huntsman, on the other hand, does not seem to have a niche to fill as a candidate.

“The idea of [Huntsman] running in 2012 seems sort of strange,” Douthat said. “It’s not clear where he fits.”

Huntsman has seemed more liberal on issues like civil unions and climate change, countering the conservatism of the tea parties, according to Douthat.

Because Romney is the front-runner, it isn’t obvious why the party would turn to another relatively liberal LDS former governor and businessman like Huntsman.

It is possible that Huntsman’s name being floated now may just be a strategy for keeping voters aware of him for 2016, according to Douthat.

If either candidate gets the nomination, their LDS faith could be a problem, as it was for Romney in 2008.

“A lot of Americans just sort of think of Mormonism as weird in a way that they don’t think of Presbyterianism or Catholicism,” he said.

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