Bono to write op-ed columns for New York Times

By Carol Eisenberg

October 23, 2008 at 4:12pm

How to attract young readers to the Old Gray Lady? Signing rock star Bono as a columnist might be a start.

New York Times Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal announced last night that the Irish musician had agreed to write between six and 10 op-ed columns for the newspaper beginning next year, on topics that will range from Africa to poverty to the music of Frank Sinatra.

But what could the cash-strapped Times possibly pay a writer who earns hundreds of millions of dollars each year from tours with the rock group U2?

Apparently nothing, Rosenthal told students at Columbia Journalism School. Bono will write the column simply for the chance to share his thoughts with the Time’s influential readers.

In recent years, Bono has become one of the world’s best-regarded philanthropists who has visited with presidents and prime ministers, and been nominated for a Nobel Prize. A story in the Times two years ago, described him as a new-style change agent.

As a co-founder or principal in a collection of nonprofit, commercial or hybrid entities aimed at tackling poverty, AIDS and debt relief primarily in Africa, and by making expedient alliances - with corporate players like Gap and Armani, or with conservative politicians like Jesse Helms - Bono has become the face of fusion philanthropy.

As for Rosenthal, the son of legendary Times editor Abe Rosenthal, he gave no hint that he had had second thoughts about signing another less-popular columnist - conservative polemicist Bill Kristol. He declined to say whether Kristol’s contract would be renewed next year.

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