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BRUNI’S NEW ROLE: With only a few weeks before The New York Times reinvents its Sunday Week in Review section, the paper has a new op-ed columnist: Frank Bruni.
The 46-year-old Bruni, who has covered topics ranging from Rome to restaurants to George W. Bush in his 16-year career at the Times, will write on Sundays and one other day of the week, most likely Thursday. His column will “anchor” the new Sunday section, which sometime in June will be renamed Sunday Review. Andy Rosenthal, editorial page editor, was light on specifics in an e-mail to staff, describing Bruni’s Sunday column as “a sharp, opinionated look at a big event of the last week, from a different or unexpected angle.”
“We haven’t really spoken about primary topics per se,” Bruni told WWD. “The main parameters we’ve discussed, the editors and I, are that the Sunday column should be very clearly keyed to, and should very obviously stem from, something that occurred in the previous six days. The something in question could be a political speech, the passage of a piece of federal or for that matter municipal legislation, a movie’s release, a celebrity’s arrest, the response to a natural disaster — something that’s a springboard for broader reflection, obviously. The Thursday column — and I’m not sure we’ve set in stone that Thursday is the day, though it looks likely — would be a bit freer.”
Rosenthal — who, likewise, described the Thursday column as “whatever strikes his fancy” — said that topic ideas for the Sunday column will be borne out of conversation with editors.
“One of the many, many things that Frank Rich did that I really admired is that he would walk readers through about how things developed,” said Rosenthal. “He offered his opinions obviously about those things, but there was a kind of a storytelling that went on in the course of his column that was really good. I think we hope for something like that.”
So is Bruni essentially replacing Rich, who departed the Times two months ago for New York Magazine?
“No, no. This is entirely new,” said Rosenthal.
Over the last few years, Bruni seemed to get every dream job available at the paper: foreign correspondent; food critic; writer-at-large for the The New York Times Magazine. He was supposed to be reassigned to the national desk this month, but this move has clearly put a stop to those plans.
Rosenthal said that he has known Bruni since the 2000 presidential campaign and has been an “admirer from a distance” ever since.
“He was somebody that we talked about when we talked about the column,” said Rosenthal. “We said, ‘It would be great if it were written by Frank Bruni.’ And then it ended up being Frank Bruni.”
Now that Bruni is joining the op-ed ranks, he will have the same title as his close friend Maureen Dowd. Has he gotten any advice from her yet?
“This all came about quite recently so I haven’t had the chance to talk at length with Maureen, who’s working abroad right now,” he e-mailed. “We did chat on the phone Saturday, and she was, as she always is, a terrific support. Yes, we’re good friends, and I was in the Washington bureau for many years, so I’ve been able to watch her work up close, and what I’ve learned is that if someone wants to be even half as good as she is — and she’s so amazingly, incredibly good at what she does — then deep caring and fierce work are in order. Because Maureen cares a lot and works really hard.”
— JOHN KOBLIN