The Wall Street Journal today asks, “America’s Next Top Pundit: What does it take to be a talking head?”
They are the minor-league pundits — political consultants, professors, activists, actors, journalists, bloggers and opinionated civilians — and they’re using 21st-century stunts to troll for airtime. Some try to break out of the blogs by repeating particular phrases in their written rants, designed to pop their sites up when TV bookers search for keywords online. Others are buying air time on AM and Internet radio stations to practice their punditry. And many are turning to media advisers or partisan training programs, where they learn new rules of engagement, such as how to use food to bribe producers. The ploys can work, as networks like CNN regularly survey the field, looking for new contributors.
Which of those qualities apply to you?
At the top of the pundit pecking order are those with hit TV or radio shows, such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. Next are the top-tiered right- and left-wing spinmeisters who’ve won big book deals, like Ann Coulter and Al Franken. A few steps below them are the reliable sound-bite artists — Arianna Huffington, Ed Rollins, James Carville, Donna Brazile, Bob Shrum and Bay Buchanan.
And then below them, according to the article, are such DC pundit-wannabes as Ron Christie (Punditry perspective: “One woman told me she wants to be the black Ann Coulter,” he says. “I told her, ‘Just be yourself.'”), Chris Cillizza (Punditry perspective: He says viewers want humanized commentary, which is why he often mentions his parents and wife, who aren’t in politics. “If people were just looking for straight information, then robots could do it.”), Tara Setmayer (Punditry perspective: “You can be telegenic without being obnoxious. But if I told you how to do that, I’d be giving away my secret.”) and A.B. Stoddard (Punditry perspective: Appearing on the pundit circuit is “great for me with my sources. More people will talk to me if they see me on TV,” she says).