Enough already with the cocktail party columnists

March 14, 2009

Reading Margaret Wente in the Globe is often unsettling. You recognize the events she’s talking about, you know she’s making observations about the country you live in. But strangely, none of the people know know seem to be living in Wente’s Canada.

I usually don’t mind that Wente’s universe seems to be entirely contained within a few of the nicer Toronto neighbourhoods. It’s even good for a few laughs at times. But today’s column from Wente about how nouveau chic frugality suddenly is, caught in my throat for some reason.

Maybe it’s her admission that the two-person $235 sushi dinner she had the other day looks a little obscene now, even though it used to be a normal treat of their hard-working family before the recession. Maybe it’s the faux-zen reasoning that makes her think people who lost their job get healthier because they have more time to exercise (with a quote from an economist, no less). Maybe it’s residual anger from Jon Stewart’s clobbering of Jim Cramer on the Daily Show.

Or, maybe the column reminds me how frustrating it is to talk with those high-flying columnists with an worldview so limited that you just can’t find anything that will resonate with them. They know the world through the friends they meet for brunch on Sunday, the New Yorker writers they admire and quaint family stories about how their grandparents worked hard to get their kids in college, without taking a handout from the government.

Times are hard for the media. Revenues are declining and the future looks bleak. If daily newspapers are still unwilling to cut on the money it spends on columnists, could they at least replace the cocktail party columnists with people whose writings are relevant to the current situation?