Usual suspects

Topic A: Usual Suspects

One fair criticism of newspapers in general and The Washington Post in particular is that they too often rely on the same people, whether to comment on breaking stories, add insight to enterprise ones or opine on the op-ed page. 

As I read Sunday’s Topic A section in The Post, I felt I was seeing the same names over and over again.  As any casual reader of the section knows, the editors try to balance Democratic and Republican viewpoints. Which is to say not only the usual suspects but the traditional DC-defined left and right.  Rare are the truly left or ultra right viewpoints, although one wonders how much farther to the right one can go from today’s GOP, short of calling for a military dictatorship or a corporate oligarchy.

The same people are called on again and again as a quick search of Lexis-Nexis confirmed.  It appears this Topic A section in The Post, which usually runs on Sunday but has appeared on other days on occasion, began in March 2009.  Here’s how often some usual suspects have appeared:

Name Topic A contributions
Matthew Dowd 6
Newt Gingrich 12
Donna Brazile 9
Dan Perino 6
Robert Shrum 6
Scott Keiter 9
Dan Schnur 19
Douglas E. Schoen 25
Ed Rogers 25

The more I looked at Topic A columns, the fewer new names appeared.  Sure, there are the occasional pundits who only appear one or two times, but over the course of nearly two years, it’s clear we get the views of about a dozen or so people, virtually all of whom are aligned with one party or the other and give us predictably partisan views. You wonder how Doug Schoen or Ed Rogers find time for their day jobs.

Is it really that hard to find different voices? Or is this section on auto pilot as The Post continues to find ways to fill up its dead tree real estate without much heavy lifting?