By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Say it ain’t so, Frank Rich

Frank Rich

When you get to my age, you look for your thrills where you can find them. Come Saturday night, I usually find myself asking … Should I read Frank Rich now, or save it until the morning?

So I was shocked to learn this morning that Rich, one of our leading liberal commentators, is leaving the New York Times for New York Magazine, where he’ll write a monthly essay. He’ll edit and lead some online conversations as well.

It’s not the first time Rich has grown restless. He was the Times’ chief drama critic from 1980 to 1993, and I think it’s his theatrical sense that makes his political commentary so sharp and entertaining.

This is not good news for me, and I’m sure many other Times readers feel the same way. New York Magazine has a good reputation, but I can’t picture myself subscribing or seeking it out online. Other than the occasional must-read media feature, it just isn’t compelling enough for me to change longstanding habits.

In 2000 I ran into Rich at an event for gay Republicans at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, which I was covering for the Boston Phoenix. I asked him about the collective nervous breakdown the media were having over the lack of news at George W. Bush’s coronation. Here’s what he told me:

Not to be too Freudian about it, but what you’re seeing is a sort of displacement. There are 15,000 reporters here and no story. What are they going to talk about? Themselves and their own anxiety.

It will be interesting to see whether the Times tries to recruit a big-name replacement for Rich. (Maybe it will be Joe Nocera, who’s moving from the business pages to the op-ed section.) With the exception of Paul Krugman and David Brooks, I just don’t find the rest of the paper’s opinion writers all that compelling.

Rich had one of the best jobs in journalism. I guess it shows that anything can get boring after a while.

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  1. BP Myers

    Funny, just a few days ago, I found myself revisiting some of his theater reviews. If you haven’t read his review of Moose Murders in a while, you owe it to yourself to do so. He was so enamored of the experience that he even revisited it a few weeks later. You forget sometimes just how good he was at that job too.

    I suspect I’ll go out of my way to continue to read him.

  2. Apparently he’ll only be writing one essay a month for New York magazine, according to their press release. I’ll send you my copy when I’m done with it!

    I will miss his voice on the Times op-ed page, though. He was strong and unwavering against homophobia, against DADT and in favor of marriage equality.

  3. Dan, New York magazine is worth the investment already. They started sending it to me free for some reason a few years ago, and I enjoyed it so much, I actually bought a subscription when my free one ended. Only print magazine I subscribe to.

  4. Mike Benedict

    Maybe if he gets bored again, he can come run Boston magazine, which apparently is between editors (again).

  5. BJ Roche

    I agree that there won’t be much reason to check the op-ed page on Sunday now! Frank Rich and New York magazine have been among my favorite reads for awhile now, so this will be a real interesting combination to watch.

    If you’re a Frank Rich fan, you might like his memoir, “Ghost Light,” which explores his early love for the theater and how that helped him get through some rough times.

  6. Laurence Glavin

    Today (03/06) Maureen Dowd took pride-of-place with a lengthy column about California governator, oops now they have a governor, Jerry Brown. Will Maureen drop her weekday column and be Frank’s replacement?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Laurence: You know, I read Dowd this morning, thought she was pretty good, and didn’t even notice it was 1,500 words long. (That’s a good thing.) If she’s doing to do a reported political essay, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

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