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Columnist of the Year finalists
A brief look at this year's nominees
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is a finalist for the Columnist of the Year award.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is a finalist for the Columnist of the Year award.
Josh Haner/The New York Times
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adley Balko
Balko is a senior editor at Reason magazine and Reason.com. Previously he was a policy analyst for the Cato Institute. He is best known for his groundbreaking reporting on overuse of SWAT teams in police raids.

Excerpt: On the morning of May 16, a Detroit police officer fatally shot 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in the throat during a police raid on her home. The police were looking for a homicide suspect. They found him in the apartment above the one where Stanley-Jones was shot, where he surrendered without violence. In response, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing cautioned last week not to put the blame squarely on police.

Bing is right. We should also put a good deal of blame on him.
Reason, May 4, 2010

Ross Douthat
Douthat became an op-ed columnist for The New York Times in 2009, at the age of 29. He’s a thoughtful new voice, one as willing to challenge conservative orthodoxy as to give liberals a good fight. Before joining the Times, Douthat (pronounced DOW-thut) wrote a blog for TheAtlantic.com.

Excerpt: Republicans…know what they’re against (the health-care bill, tax increases, cap and trade) but have a world of trouble saying what they might actually be for. Instead, they tend to fall back on the reassuring story they’ve been spinning for the last two years, in which they lost to the Democrats only because they failed to hold the line on spending. It’s a narrative that flatters conservative self-regard, while absolving Republicans of the obligation to think too deeply about policy.
The New York Times, Nov. 7, 2010

Michelle Goldberg
Goldberg often writes about the intersection of ideology, sex, and politics. She combines pointed criticism of conservative movements with a strong knowledge of American political history. A columnist for The Daily Beast, Goldberg has also been published in Rolling Stone, The Nation, and New York, among other publications.

Excerpt: For all the media hyperventilation about Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, and the rest of the so-called Mama Grizzlies, there’s nothing new about insurgent conservative women. Indeed, one of the great ironies of American politics is that the anti-feminist right has long valued female standard-bearers far more than the egalitarian left. On the ground, women have dominated right-wing movements at least since the McCarthy era.
The Daily Beast, Sept. 20, 2010

Rich Lowry
Editor of National Review since 1997, Lowry is one of the loudest, clearest conservative voices of the day. He is a syndicated columnist and a commentator for the Fox News Channel.

Excerpt: Of all the things the Newark, N.J., school system needs, the last of them is more money. Newark spends more per pupil than any other city in the country, and gets dismayingly little for it. For $22,000 per pupil — more than twice the national average — it graduates half its students.

It’s easy to imagine Newark spending $44,000 per pupil and arriving at the same dismaying outcome. Nonetheless, billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is showering money on a school system that’s about as short on cash as he is.
National Review, Oct. 1, 2010

Nicholas D. Kristof
A columnist for The New York Times since 2001, Kristof writes op-eds that appear twice a week. With his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, he won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of China’s Tiananmen Square pro-democracy student movement; he won a second Pulitzer in 2006 for commentary. Kristof is known for writing about human-rights abuses in Asia and Africa, including human trafficking and the Darfur conflict.

Excerpt: There’s a misperception in America that “sex trafficking” is mostly about foreigners smuggled into the U.S. That exists. But I’ve concluded that the biggest problem and worst abuses involve not foreign women but home-grown runaway kids.

In a typical case, a rebellious 13-year-old girl runs away from a home where her mother’s boyfriend is hitting on her. She is angry and doesn’t trust the police. She goes to the bus station in hopes of getting out of town—and the only person on the lookout for girls like her is a pimp who buys her a meal, offers her a place to stay, and tells her he loves her.

The next thing she knows, she’s having sex with four men a night and all the money is going to her “boyfriend.” If she voices reservations, he puts a gun in her mouth and threatens to blow her head off.
The New York Times, July 14, 2010

Peggy Noonan
Noonan is the best-selling author of seven books on American politics, history and culture. A former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, she now writes a regular column for The Wall Street Journal.
Excerpt: Passage of the health-care bill will be, for the administration, a catastrophic victory. If it is voted through in time for the State of the Union Address, as President Obama hopes, half the chamber will rise to their feet and cheer. They will be cheering their own demise.

The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 7, 2010

Tim Rutten
Rutten has worked as a journalist at the Los Angeles Times for more than three decades. He was part of the paper’s Pulitzer Prize–winning team covering the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Excerpt: So long as even the most objectionable religious dogma stays under the church roof, it’s a constitutionally protected view.…However, when a group sets out to impose its views on the rest of society by lobbying for public policies or laws, it can no longer claim special protections or an exemption from the norms of civil discourse simply because its views are formed by religious beliefs. This is precisely the dodge the Family Research Council has been running.
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 1, 2010

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