Death of a Solutionist: Bill Raspberry was a very special columnist.
Bill Raspberry was something special.
He was a columnist with a difference. Unlike so many opinion writers, he was never shrill. He was unpredictable. He was tough to pigeonhole.
Most significant, he was comfortable with complexity, with ambiguity. He understood that many issues were not clear-cut, that there was something to be said on both sides of the argument.
And yet he was hardly bland. He was the antithesis of weak tea. When he reached his conclusion, he expressed it powerfully.
The Pulitzer-winning Raspberry, who died today at 76 of prostate cancer, wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post for nearly 40 years until he retired in 2005. His voice was always important, but it is sorely missed in today’s take-no-prisoners, hyperpartisan political and media culture.
In a wonderful profile of Raspberry that ran in AJR in 1994, Linda Fibich spotlighted the columnist’s unique approach.
She quoted L. Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center, as saying, “I think [Raspberry is] is one of the best columns in journalism today. Why? Because while I might not agree with him all the time, he is always thoughtful, always mannerly, and always well meaning…
“I’m sure conservatives do this, too. But in the Washington Post, read Richard Cohen, read Michael Kinsley, and you know what they’re going to say almost word for word. They’re as predictable as running water. Raspberry isn’t.”