James Taranto
James Taranto is an American columnist for The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper. It is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corporation, along with the Asian and European editions of the Journal....

, editor of its online editorial page OpinionJournal.com
OpinionJournal.com was a website featuring content from the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal. It existed separately from the news content at wsj.com until January 2008, when it was merged into the main website....

 and a member of the newspaper's editorial board
Editorial board
The editorial board is a group of people, usually at a publication, who dictate the tone and direction the publication's editorial policy will take.- Board makeup :...

. He is best known for his daily online column Best of the Web Today. The column typically includes conservative/neoliberal political, social and media commentary in the form of conventional opinion writing as well as wordplay
Wordplay is a musician/actor, of mixed British and Black African descent. Gaining worldwide exposure as an actor in 1998 through the Austrian Obscuro Gothic science fiction film "Dandy dust" directed by Hans Schierl...

 and other recurring themes on news stories crowdsourced from readers. He also appears occasionally on Journal Editorial Report
Journal Editorial Report
The Journal Editorial Report is a weekly American interview and panel discussion TV program on Fox News Channel, hosted by Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal...


Prior to joining the Wall Street Journal in 1996, Taranto spent five years as an editor at City Journal
City Journal
City Journal is a quarterly magazine, published by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank based in New York City. Its current editor is Brian C. Anderson. Myron Magnet, its editor from 1994 to 2006, is now editor-at-large. Many City Journal articles focus on urban...

. He has also worked for the Heritage Foundation
Heritage Foundation
The Heritage Foundation is a conservative American think tank based in Washington, D.C. Heritage's stated mission is to "formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong...

 and Reason magazine. Taranto left high school after his sophomore year and attended college for several years at California State University, Northridge
California State University, Northridge
California State University, Northridge is a public university in Northridge, a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California, United States....

 (CSUN) but did not graduate from either.

Rooster Incident

While attending CSUN, Taranto worked as news editor and also as one of two opinion page editors for the Daily Sundial student newspaper. On March 5, 1987, Taranto published an opinion piece criticizing a controversy at the University of California, Los Angeles
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

, in which the editor of the Daily Bruin
Daily Bruin
The Daily Bruin is the student newspaper at the University of California, Los Angeles.-Frequency and governance:When classes are in session, the Bruin is published Monday through Friday during the school year and once a week on Mondays in the summer quarter.It is overseen by the ASUCLA...

 student newspaper was suspended after the paper published a comic strip depicting a rooster
A rooster, also known as a cockerel, cock or chanticleer, is a male chicken with the female being called a hen. Immature male chickens of less than a year's age are called cockerels...

 admitted to the university via affirmative action
Affirmative action
Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

. Accompanying Taranto's column was a reprint of the rooster cartoon. Journalism professor and Daily Sundial publisher Cynthia Rawitch suspended Taranto for two weeks without pay. Acting on Taranto's behalf, the American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union
The American Civil Liberties Union is a U.S. non-profit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." It works through litigation, legislation, and...

 Foundation of Southern California filed suit against Rawitch and other members of the CSUN journalism school. The suit was settled before trial on terms favorable to Taranto and the ACLU.

Best of the Web Today

Best of the Web Today is a column published weekday afternoons on WSJ.com by James Taranto. In the column, Taranto refers to "we" and "us" instead of "I" and "me" to acknowledge contributions from his staff and readers. In addition, contributors to a a given column are thanked at the end of the piece.

Recurring Categories

In some instances, Taranto includes ad hoc headline rewrites for humorous effect. More often, news and opinion stories are placed within various recurring categories, typically based on the headline of the story. The placement of stories within these categories often implies a particular editorial viewpoint or perspective. Some of the most common recurring categories are:
  • "Questions Nobody Is Asking" - Headlines posed as questions. Example: "'Can Bird Poop Crack a Windshield?'--headline, Wired.com, Sept. 16".
  • "Answers to Questions Nobody Is Asking" - Headlines framed as responses to questions.
  • "Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control" - Headlines containing hyperbole
    Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration as a rhetorical device or figure of speech. It may be used to evoke strong feelings or to create a strong impression, but is not meant to be taken literally....

     or exaggeration
    Exaggeration is a representation of something in an excessive manner. The exaggerator has been a familiar figure in Western culture since at least Aristotle's discussion of the alazon: 'the boaster is regarded as one who pretends to have distinguished qualities which he possesses either not at all...

    , in reference to the headline of a June 22, 2008 news story published by the Associated Press
    Associated Press
    The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

    . It was first used on June 22, 2008.
  • "Too Much Information" - Lists headlines containing perceived double entendre
    Double entendre
    A double entendre or adianoeta is a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic....

     or other sexual innuendo.
  • "Two [X] in One" - Highlights a perceived internal contradiction within the statements or positions of an organization or an individual.
  • "News of the Tautological" - Headlines containing tautological
    Tautology (rhetoric)
    Tautology is an unnecessary or unessential repetition of meaning, using different and dissimilar words that effectively say the same thing...

     statements, such as: "Manhunt Ends After Suspect Caught."
  • "News You Can Use" - Headlines with a peculiar or awkward statement of fact. Example: "'Smell Like a Senior Citizen'—headline, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 18".
  • "Bottom Stories of the Day" - Headlines containing perceived stories of insignificance. Items are often listed in this category to be dismissive of particular individuals and organizations.
  • "Breaking news from [X]" - Headlines that could be from a different era.
  • "With DNC in Mind, City Bans Carrying Urine, Feces" - Headlines referencing feces or otherwise related to defecation
    Defecation is the final act of digestion by which organisms eliminate solid, semisolid or liquid waste material from the digestive tract via the anus. Waves of muscular contraction known as peristalsis in the walls of the colon move fecal matter through the digestive tract towards the rectum...

    , in reference to the headline of a August 4, 2008 news story published by the Rocky Mountain News
    Rocky Mountain News
    The Rocky Mountain News was a daily newspaper published in Denver, Colorado, United States from April 23, 1859, until February 27, 2009. It was owned by the E. W. Scripps Company from 1926 until its closing. As of March 2006, the Monday-Friday circulation was 255,427...

  • "The Lonely Lives of Scientists" - Headlines referencing scientists engaged in esoteric intellectual pursuits.
  • "Out on a Limb" - Headlines stating the obvious or including caveats covering all possible outcomes.
  • "Hey, Kids! What Time Is It?" - Headlines stating it is time for some action.
  • "Metaphor Alert" - Writing perceived to include excessive use of metaphors
    A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

  • "We Blame Global Warming
    Global warming
    Global warming refers to the rising average temperature of Earth's atmosphere and oceans and its projected continuation. In the last 100 years, Earth's average surface temperature increased by about with about two thirds of the increase occurring over just the last three decades...

    " - Headlines using words related to temperature but not connected to climate. The presumable implication of this category is that the range of events connected to global warming or climate change
    Climate change
    Climate change is a significant and lasting change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in average weather conditions or the distribution of events around that average...

     is overly expansive. Example: "'In Early Obama White House, Female Staffers Felt Frozen Out'--headline, Washington Post, Sept. 20".
  • "Generalissimo Francisco Franco
    Francisco Franco
    Francisco Franco y Bahamonde was a Spanish general, dictator and head of state of Spain from October 1936 , and de facto regent of the nominally restored Kingdom of Spain from 1947 until his death in November, 1975...

     is still dead." - For reports amounting to truisims, based on a catch phrase
    Catch phrase
    A catchphrase is a phrase or expression recognized by its repeated utterance. Such phrases often originate in popular culture and in the arts, and typically spread through a variety of mass media , as well as word of mouth...

     from Saturday Night Live
    Saturday Night Live
    Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

  • "I Have the Hat" or "I Have the Hat to This Day. I Have the Hat." - Headlines related to John Kerry
    John Kerry
    John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

    , in reference to this quotation from Kerry: "They gave me a hat... I have the hat to this day... I have the hat."
  • "Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate" - Highlights significant corrections published in newspapers that essentially invalidate the whole story.
  • "Someone Set Up Us the Bomb" - A reference to the internet meme
    Internet meme
    The term Internet meme is used to describe a concept that spreads via the Internet. The term is a reference to the concept of memes, although the latter concept refers to a much broader category of cultural information.-Description:...

     All Your Base Are Belong to Us
    All your base are belong to us
    "All your base are belong to us" is a broken English phrase that became an Internet phenomenon or meme in 2000–2002...

    , a poorly-translated video game cutscene featured in the video All Your Base are Belong to Us. Used for poorly written headlines.
  • "Homer Nods" - Acknowledgment of errors and corrections in previous columns.

Recurring Criticisms

Taranto uses several public figures for regular criticism and lampooning, often through running gags. This includes Senator John Kerry
John Kerry
John Forbes Kerry is the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, the 10th most senior U.S. Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to former President George W...

 (often described as "the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Senator who by the way served in Vietnam
John Kerry military service controversy
During John Kerry's candidacy in the 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, a political issue that gained widespread public attention was Kerry's Vietnam war record...

"), New York Times columnist Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman
Paul Robin Krugman is an American economist, professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Centenary Professor at the London School of Economics, and an op-ed columnist for The New York Times...

 (always introduced as a "former Enron adviser", in reference to Krugman's tenure on the board of the Enron Corporation shortly before it collapsed in scandal
Enron scandal
The Enron scandal, revealed in October 2001, eventually led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, an American energy company based in Houston, Texas, and the dissolution of Arthur Andersen, which was one of the five largest audit and accountancy partnerships in the world...

), liberal pundit E.J. Dionne (ascribed with the nickname "Baghdad Bob"), and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman
Thomas Friedman
Thomas Lauren Friedman is an American journalist, columnist and author. He writes a twice-weekly column for The New York Times. He has written extensively on foreign affairs including global trade, the Middle East, and environmental issues and has won the Pulitzer Prize three times.-Personal...

 (whose work is often mocked by Taranto for having poorly-written metaphors; a "Friedman Award" is given to those with comparably bad writing).

In similar fashion, Taranto also regularly mocks and deconstructs the reporting of other journalistic organizations including The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

 (a frequent victim of "Two Papers in One!"), The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post
The Huffington Post is an American news website and content-aggregating blog founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lerer, and Jonah Peretti, featuring liberal minded columnists and various news sources. The site offers coverage of politics, theology, media, business, entertainment, living, style,...

 (always intentionally spoonerized
A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched . It is named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner , Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this tendency...

 as "The Puffington Host"), Reuters
Reuters is a news agency headquartered in New York City. Until 2008 the Reuters news agency formed part of a British independent company, Reuters Group plc, which was also a provider of financial market data...

 and the Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...



Taranto comments occasionally on topics of special interest to him such as the Roe effect
Roe effect
The Roe effect is a theory about the long-term effect of abortion on the political balance of the United States, which suggests that since supporters of abortion rights cause the erosion of their own political base, the practice of abortion will eventually lead to the restriction or illegalization...

. He has also coined "The Taranto Principle", which asserts that liberal media bias leads to less thorough vetting of liberal politicians, which can be a disadvantage in general elections.

External links

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