Ranking the Pundits

I’m a guy who likes to quantify things, even if it is done in a needless, arbitrary fashion.  One of the things I like to quantify is my approval or disapproval of opinion sources I read.  To that end, I keep a database of articles that I have read that ranks, on a scale from -5 to 5, my belief, purely on the basis of that article, whether I will enjoy reading another article from that author.

The -5 to 5 scale goes something like this:

Articles are judged on the degree to which I agree with them, the novelty of the arguments they make, the strength of their points, their writing style, and whether they seem blatantly partisan.

  • -5:  The article goes against empirically proven fact
  • -3: The article states opinions I strongly disagree with, has made virtually no compelling arguments, has a writing style I find unappealing, and/or is partisan in nature.
  • -1:  The article was largely a waste of time, and is more or less wrong.
  • 0:  The article said nothing novel or of interest.
  • +1:  The article made an easy point that I agree with, but was generally weak, or made a point that I disagree with, but was strong/offered novel arguments.
  • +2:  The article made a strong case on something I agree with, and had a generally good style.
  • +3:  The article made a powerful case on something I agree with, and introduced novel arguments.
  • +4:  The article changed my mind on an issue, demonstrated support for a core belief that I hold, offered novel arguments or a compelling writing style.
  • +5:  After reading the article, it represents my view on the topic almost perfectly.

The scoring system is relatively flexible, but functionally there are a few lines that get drawn:  Articles scoring less than -3 must state something I think is demonstrably false, articles scoring more than 0 must say something interesting, articles scoring more than 2 agree must agree with my point of view, and articles scoring more than 3 have to change or create major additions to my views.

At this point, the database has about 1000 scored articles in it, and I’ve used it to rank the authors and publications I read.  Because the scale is not curved, on average, the scores are slightly positive (0.6), which reflects my tendency to read things I like more often than things I don’t like.

In the future, when I link to an article from this blog, I’ll also give the “Keith Pundit Rating” (KPR) if the author has five or more scored articles in my database.  Also, for your amusement (and in the interests of disclosing my own political biases), here are the scores of the 50 or so authors I have right now in my database with more than 5 articles to their name:

Reliably Awesome:

  • 4.4 — Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest

Must read:

  • 3.1 — Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy
  • 3.1 — Jay Cost at RealClearPolitics
  • 3.0 — Fareed Zakaria at NewsWeek
  • 3.0 — Reuel Marc Gerecht at The New Republic
  • 2.9 — The Economist (no byline)
  • 2.8 — Shikha Dalmia at Forbes
  • 2.8 — Ramesh Ponnuru at The National Review

Almost always read:

  • 2.5 — Stephen Spruiell at The National Review
  • 2.4 — Megan McArdle at The Atlantic
  • 2.4 — Jonah Goldberg at The National Review
  • 2.4 — Reihan Salam at Daily Beast
  • 2.4 — The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
  • 2.3 — Ross Douthat at The New York Times
  • 2.2 — Peter David at The Economist
  • 2.2 — Christopher Hitchens at Vanity Fair and Slate
  • 2.2 — Richard Cohen at The Washington Post
  • 2.2 — Eli Lake at The Washington Times

Usually read:

  • 1.8 — David Harsanyi at The Denver Post
  • 1.8 — Anne Applebaum at Slate
  • 1.8 — Clive Crook at The Atlantic
  • 1.8 — Matt Welch at Reason
  • 1.5 — Rich Lowry at The National Review
  • 1.4 — Conn Carroll at The Heritage Foundation
  • 1.3 — David Weigel at Slate
  • 1.3 — George Will at The Washington Post
  • 1.2 — Ezra Klein at The Washington Post

Barely make it on my reading list:

  • 1.0 — The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
  • 1.0 — The Washington Post Editorial Board
  • 0.9 — The New York Times Editorial Board
  • 0.8 — Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post
  • 0.8 — Dana Milbank at The Washington Post
  • 0.8 — Mark Schmitt at The American Prospect
  • 0.8 — Victor Davis Hanson at RealClearPolitics and National Review
  • 0.8 — Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress
  • 0.7 — Eugene Robinson at The Washington Post

Not worth reading:

  • 0.4 — Annie Lowrey at The Washington Independent
  • 0.4 — Peggy Noonan at The Wall Street Journal
  • 0.4 — Noam Scheiber at The New Republic
  • 0.3 — Jonathan Chait at The New Republic
  • 0.3 — Michael Tomasky at The Guardian
  • 0.3 — David Brooks at The New York Times
  • 0.2 — David Broder at The Washington Post
  • 0.1 — Charles Krauthammer at The Washington Post
  • -0.2 — Gail Collins at The New York Times
  • -0.4 — Robert Wright at Bloggingheads.tv
  • -0.6 — Peter Beinart at Daily Beast
  • -0.8 — Paul Krugman at The New York Times


  • -1.2 — Bill Scher at Bloggingheads.tv
  • -1.4 — Timothy Noah at Slate
  • -1.8 — Thomas Friedman at The New York Times
  • -2.2 — E.J. Dionne at the Washington Post

The distribution is skewed positive (even moreso than the general scores) because I tend not to re-read authors I dislike.

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