03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Five Eliminated In WaPo's Important Pundit Contest

The Washington Post is searching for America's Next Top Cheaply-Bought Purveyor Of Online Opinion, and yesterday, the paper made its first round of cruel cuts, eliminating five of the ten contestants.

The eliminated include:

Burton Richter: Richter is a Nobel Prize winning scientist, which is awesome. Unfortunately, he's writing for an editorial page run by Fred Hiatt, who's way into misleading his readers and making up his own statistics. Richter, saints preserve him, went right at one of Hiatt's bugaboos, climate change science -- a topic Hiatt is fond of lying about. In the judges' estimation, Richter didn't stretch enough. Judge Marissa Katz said, "I'm not going to argue with an opportunity to learn from our Nobel-laureate contestant. But it's worth noting that he wasn't trying to impress us with his range." Voters didn't cotton to Richter's post either. Pearls before swine, I'm afraid.

Darryl Jackson: Jackson served in the Bush administration, and I liked his chances, because with the Democrats in power, WHO WILL GIVE THE GOP A VOICE IF NOT FOR THE WASHINGTON POST! These poor fellows are barely making it anymore... in the media. Jackson was only able to deliver the most standard-issue conservative cant, however, bitching about the Obama administration's complaints that he "inherited" a complete cock-up, and the 90,465th column about Sarah Palin's exciting "second act." Voters gave Jackson a resounding DO NOT WANT, and Hiatt called the effort a "rehash." And again, let's remember that Hiatt already has a stable full of writers who are willing to deliver this sort of crap on a regular basis.

Lydia Khalil: Khalil is "a specialist on the Middle East and international security at the Council on Foreign Relations," but she hung her November 3rd column on Afghanistan on one of the most hoary of all journalist cliches: "Stuff The Cab Drivers Told Me." WORST! This should be taught, in J-School: unless your cab driver is handing you the Pentagon Papers or the corpse of the Lindbergh baby, NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR ABOUT IT. Hiatt, naturally, seemed to like the whole cab driver frame (which really tells you something), calling the fact that cab drivers do not express monolithic political thought "a surprising twist" (?!?) but complaining, "because the cabbies ultimately don't give us a good policy answer, their part of the column should have been shorter." You know what? Cab drivers really are coming up short these days, in their delivery of public policy prescriptions! Anyway, voters were appropriately "Meh," and Katz knows the score, saying, "Article submissions about the politics of D.C. cab drivers land in the in-boxes of Washington publications almost as often as submissions about 'what jury duty taught me.'"

Mara Gay: Gay introduces herself as a lover of "storytelling" and an Atlantic Media fellow, and then proceeded to cook up an epic bowl of thought salad about Michelle Obama and every other powerful woman in politics, organic gardening, the Democratic primaries, her love of nearly everything and everyone, her dislike of "partisan attacks" and sentences with no real meaning whatsoever. "Women continue to prove that they aren't leaving American politics anytime soon," Gay says, emphasizing a point that no one anywhere was disputing. Marissa Katz (clearly by now you see that she was the most astute of the first-round judges), basically took a look and said: Yeah, all of this was great when Rebecca Traister wrote this, months ago, only more coherently.

Mark Esper: Esper, the editor of a hyper-local in Colorado, swung for the fences by directing his concerns far afield and deep into the past, writing a column about how a premature victory over the Taliban was declared and enshrined as truth, except that in reality, no such victory has occurred. The media has demonstrated utter amnesia over the parade of statesmen who bragged about how America defeated the Taliban, and it's great that Esper used this forum to cut against this. Unfortunately, Fred Hiatt is just the sort of person to hand out reality roofies on this issue, and it probably didn't help Esper that he pointedly criticized WaPo favorite Charles Krauthammer. Voters, however, didn't exactly flock to support the piece.

The remaining five contestants will be moving on to the next challenge and bloggin' away this week. Their assignment: "write something about 1) politics, 2) life/culture and 3) one of the knotty issues of the moment: the economy or health care." And they also have a daily assignment as well:

For Tuesday: come up with something that could become a regular feature -- like Chris Cillizza's "Most Important Number" or Ezra Klein's "Lunch Break."

In other words: Please come up with some ideas... that we can steal!

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