James Taranto (born 1966) is a Manhattan-based columnist for The Wall Street Journal and
editor of its online editorial page, OpinionJournal.com.
He is best
known for his daily online column, entitled Best of the Web
, in which he links to and comments on news stories and
Web sites submitted by readers. He also appears occasionally on
Most of Taranto's commentary is politically oriented and conservative
in perspective. He lambastes various
public figures and organizations, from John
Kerry, often described as "the haughty, French-looking Massachusetts Democrat, who by the way
served in Vietnam," to Reuters, for which he uses headlines with excessive
use of quotes in mockery of the service's overuse of scare quotes.
Taranto comments occasionally on topics of special interest to him
such as the Roe effect
that parents who support abortion
will have fewer children, causing support for abortion rights and
politically liberal causes to decline among young people) in his
column and also wrote an article about it.
attended California State University,
Northridge but "never bothered to graduate"
clashing with the journalism faculty over free speech and filing a
lawsuit against them.
Best of the Web Today
Best of the Web Today
features a number of recurrent
in-jokes and self-referential word plays that are not readily
apparent to novice readers. One of Taranto's pet peeves is the
of measurements, "an
outmoded collection of weights and measures based on pagan
superstitions about the power of the number 10
Moreover, "metric" has become a derogatory term as when Taranto
refers to soccer as "metric football." (August 24 and August 25,
Best of the Web Today
also includes non-political items
which are concerned with journalism nationwide. Often-seen titles
are "You Don't Say", "This Just In", or "Stop the Presses",
followed by a common-sense headline such as "Shedding a Few Pounds
Beneficial for Obese" (June 1, 2004) or "Sperm May Play Role in
Growth of Embryo" (May 13, 2004). Another commonly used title is
"What Would We Do Without Experts?", followed by headlines such as
"Experts Remind Staying Warm Important After Cold Contributes to 5
Deaths" (January 7, 2004). "World's Smallest Violin" is his lead-in
for stories about whiners undeserving of sympathy. A more recent
recurring feature is "Bottom Stories of the Day", rounding up
supposedly unimportant or unsurprising news items, such as "No E.
Coli Reported in Tompkins County" (December 8, 2006).
Taranto exposes what he sees as overly harsh punishment of minor
drug- or weapon-related offenses in schools under the title
"Zero-Tolerance Watch". He corrects his previous mistakes under the
title "Homer Nods
". Taranto used to
publish a section called "Good News Watch" to counteract what he
viewed as liberal media bias in covering the 2003 Iraq war
and the subsequent
U.S.-led occupation of
Other recurring features include "Homelessness Rediscovery Watch"
and references to Generalissimo Francisco Franco
(in turn a reference to
from Saturday Night
A newer feature is "Man (or Woman) Without a Party," taking note of
the tendency by many news organizations to avoid mentioning the
party affiliation of Democratic
caught in embarrassing or corrupt circumstances, while Republican
usually are so identified. Another new feature is "Everything
Seemingly is Spinning Out of Control," a collection of
panicky-sounding headlines. The name of the feature mocks the
headline of an infamous 2008 Associated Press story.
The subheading on each item in Best of the Web Today
to whatever Taranto is
commenting on. For example:
- Contre le Stéréotype
- :A New York Times report suggests
maybe the French aren't cheese-eating surrender
monkeys after all:
Paris court today sentenced a Frenchman with ties to a
suspect in the Madrid train
bombings to four years in prison for helping Islamic terrorists in Europe.
man, David Courtallier, was convicted of conspiring with criminals
engaged in a terrorist enterprise and was not implicated in the
Madrid bombings, which killed 191 people on March 11. But Mr. Courtallier, a
cheese vendor from France's Savoy region who converted to Islam in 1997, had been
in contact with Jamal Zougam, one of
the first suspects arrested in the Madrid attacks.
- :That they have arrested him in spite of his vocation is all
the more impressive.
One of his signature styles is an alternate headline for a news
item, followed by the actual headline. Examples:
- Parry! Thrust!
- :"Raiders Safeties to Play Duel Roles"--headline, San Francisco Chronicle, June 12
- :: —BOTWT, June 13, 2007
- ‘This Is a Fashion Disaster!’
- :"Frank Critical of Bush on Suits"--headline, Washington Post,
- :: —BOTWT, June 15, 2007
- The Roe Effect: The right to abortion has
diminished the number of Democratic voters, James Taranto,
WSJ, July 6, 2005
- Disparate but Not Serious: College is an expensive
way of taking an IQ test, James Taranto, WSJ, May 18,
- College Campuses Crawling With Crazies, James Taranto,
New York City Tribune, July 13,
- Everything seemingly is spinning out of
control, by Alan Fram and Eileen Putman, Associated Press,
June 22 2008