Jeff Jacoby sails in a lonely sea: He is the sole conservative columnist for the Boston Globe.
But the Cleveland native is more than qualified to discuss "Why the Media Get the Middle East Wrong" as part of the Sarasota-Manatee Jewish Federation's Yom Hazikaron (Remembrance Day) event May 8.
A reception will follow his 7 p.m. lecture at Temple Beth Sholom, 1050 S. Tuttle Ave., Sarasota. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to R.S.V.P. by Monday at smjf.org or at 371-4546.
Q. How do you see the Obama-Clinton head-to-head tête-a-tête ultimately playing out?
A. Messily," Jacoby says. "The longer their fight lasts, the greater the number of disgruntled Democrats, and that goes double if it comes down to a fight at the convention. Still, there's a strong Democratic wind blowing this year, and I think John McCain goes into the general election campaign as the underdog no matter what."
Q. "So what's a nice conservative like me doing in a newspaper like this?" Was this really the first line of your first column? If so, how do you answer that now, some 14 years later?
A. "Believe me, I wasn't the only one asking that question in 1994. Fourteen years later, I am still the only conservative columnist on the Boston Globe's roster. But I am a great believer in preaching to the unconverted, so I've always welcomed the chance to offer readers a take on things that they might not get anywhere else. As you might imagine, I dodge my share of brickbats and dead cats from readers with a different view of the world than mine. But there is no higher praise than when readers write to say: 'I rarely agree with anything you write, but your columns make me think.' "
Q. You won the Breindel Award for Excellence in Opinion Journalism in 1999. What did you spend the $10,000 prize money on?
A. "I invested the whole thing in NYT Co. stock, and today it's worth 84 cents. Just kidding. I spent it on bills, mostly — boring stuff. I was astonished at how quickly a $10,000 windfall could vanish!"
Q. Which has bigger problems: the newspaper industry or the music industry?
A."The newspaper industry. Both industries are being squashed by the Internet steamroller, but newspapers are also being suffocated by a decline in adult literacy — a byproduct of the generalized dumbing-down that's been under way for decades. Consumers are as knowledgeable about (at least some) music as they've ever been, but fewer and fewer can find Basra on a map, estimate the size of the federal budget or say two sentences about the Korean War. Newspapers are trying to survive by running less hard news and more fluff — and that's a game we lose either way."
Q. What's on your iPod?
A. "I don't have one. Nor have I got a BlackBerry, an iPhone, a TiVo or a Kindle. I suppose it's only a matter of time until I succumb, but I don't want to be tethered to yet another leash — or to have yet another pipeline of information to stay on top of. My office is quite enough of an unholy mess as it is — and that's just from the books and papers I can't seem to keep up with!"
Q. Are the Cleveland Indians cursed?
A. "No, just their fans."