NEWSWATCH: Polemics with a Satisfying Zap

Syndicated columnists have become the designated hitters on newspapers.

With chains now controlling 71% of daily circulation, the absentee owners prefer bland, trouble-free editorial pages. Only outside columnists are allowed to be noisy, querulous and opinionated. Even here, chain management usually dilutes the effect with a "spectrum" of opinion, in a look-no-hands neutrality between conservative, liberal and middle-of-the-road. Those among the columnists who are also in television develop a manner to go with the act—William F. Buckley Jr., arch and fastidious; James J. Kilpatrick, full of pretend bluster. When Kilpatrick takes the...

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