I admire Kevin Drum’s candor about the dilemma of having to write a regular column when you don’t necessarily have anything profound to say as often as the column appears. I believe this problem affects some of the “hacks” that Alex Pareene singles out for lousy work (I didn’t agree with all his list, but some of his choices are dead on).
When I wrote an occasional column about health and medicine for the San Francisco Chronicle, my (truly wonderful) editor was always asking me to write more often. But it was only every 3 weeks or so when I felt I had something sufficiently important to write about, and, had enough time to do the research and prose polishing to give it a proper analysis. The only way I could have complied with a weekly deadline is to write less well about less important things.
The columnist/pundit’s dilemma is that every call to comment on this or that news item is a chance to push their own brand, and every published column is a payday. They thus have no incentive to say “You know, I don’t know enough about that to appear on your TV show and comment about it” or “Frankly, I don’t have a good column in me this week so I will pass”. I think that’s why many of us readers come away from some well-known columnists’ writing now and then with the sense that absolutely nothing of substance has been said.