To paraphrase Judge Potter Stewart’s enduring assessment of hard-core pornography: when it comes to knowing when a seasoned journalist is past her prime, we know it when we see it.
After reading Ruth Marcus’s latest column in the Washington Post, we are compelled to render such a verdict, effective immediately.
Marcus, who holds degrees from two Ivy League institutions, is within her rights to hold conventional liberal views. But the stunning lack of humor and/or basic reading comprehension skills she displayed in that column was a great disservice to her readers, and suggests an incapacity to do the job of opinion journalism in the digital age.
To condemn a Free Beacon blog post poking fun at both Hillary Clinton and her silliest critics as representative of the ideological fever-swamps themselves is more than an embarrassment. It's a failure of basic journalistic competence. It falls short of even the minimal—very minimal—standards to which the nation holds its op-ed columnists.
If, at this point, Marcus has failed to familiarize herself with basic concepts such as "snark" and "trolling," then it is incumbent upon her to do the honorable thing and resign. If she does not, the Washington Post should save face by terminating her employment. Either way, it's time for the Pulitzer Prize-winning scribe to hang up the typewriter—which we are sure she still must use.
Fortunately, there is no shortage of young female journalists who could serve as her replacement. We might suggest fresh voices such as: Amanda Marcotte, Garance Franke-Ruta, Annie Lowrey-Klein, Dayo Olopade, Alex Wagner, and Suey Park.
Ruth Marcus, the Washington Post, and Jeff Bezos—who does know something about the Internet—owe their readers an apology. We all make mistakes. And the older we get, the more likely we are to lose touch with contemporary culture. That's science.
When the bizarre move toward lifetime appointments for op-ed columnists began, we cannot say. But no one, no matter how "experienced," is entitled to mislead their readers because they are unable to comprehend the material they cite. The Washington Post op-ed page should be treated as precious journalistic real-estate—not as a retirement community. Ruth Marcus should do the right thing—the decent thing—and make way for new, female, liberal blood.