The Washington Post

Newt Gingrich: The focus of too many Post op-eds? Q&A

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. (Jonathan Ernst — Reuters).

The Republican presidential candidate is the focus of columns by George Will, Dana Milbank and Ruth Marcus that ran in Wednesday’s paper.

Gingrich, who appeared in several articles in Wednesday’s Post as part of an ongoing series on presidential candidates called The Contenders, was also mentioned in Kathleen Parker’s column.

Politico’s Ben Smith tweeted that Wednesday’s op-ed page contained “The maximum Newt hate a newspaper can fit into a single page.” Smith echoed the sentiment on his Politico blog.

The maximum Newt hate a newspaper can fit into a single page…

— Ben Smith (@benpolitico) December 14, 2011

Smith’s tweet also caught the attention of writer and statistician Nate Silver:

Gingrich clearly not winning the Washington Post Editorial Page primary: (per @benpolitico)

— Nate Silver (@fivethirtyeight) December 14, 2011

We checked with editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, and assistant editorial page editor, Autumn Brewington, about why Wednesday’s op-ed page was so Gingrich-heavy. Their responses are posted after the jump.

A: From Fred Hiatt, Editorial page editor:

It would be foolish to draw conclusions about our op-ed page from a single day. Over the course of a week, not to mention several weeks, every major candidate can be reasonably confident of being at the center of someone's attention, for better or worse.

Our regular columnists write on a more or less regular schedule, and we don't assign topics. Nor is it surprising that as candidates rise in the polls, journalists (like rival candidates) pay more attention to their positions, character and potential leadership skills. It is perfectly rational to spend more time on candidates as their chances of becoming the nominee or the president increase.

A: From Autumn Brewington, assistant editorial page editor

Post op-ed columnists work in a variety of locations — some are in the main building, but others have separate offices — and function independently of the Post's editorial board. They usually decide on their own what issue they would like to focus on or angles they would like to argue.

I check in with them each morning to find out what's coming, act as a sounding board for ideas and, at times, point out when we have had commentary on a particular topic or what angles are new.

As part of following issues in the news, we look for pieces that advance discussion on topics and will often seek out pieces that differ with our editorial board's opinion or contrast with the opinion of Post columnists.


Newt Gingrich: The GOP’s eccentric big thinker and bomb thrower

Gallery: Newt Gingrich through the years

Ruth Marcus: Newt Gingrich’s revisionist history

George F. Will: Newt Gingrich commits a capital crime

Dana Milbank: The presidential auction of 2012

Kathleen Parker: Romney’s $10,000 wager was a safe bet


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