This is a contest aimed at people who've read a column in a newspaper or watched a talking head on TV and thought: "Hey, I could do that." It's for people who may already regularly voice their opinions -- but wouldn't mind a bigger audience. It's for people who want to influence the national debate.
About 1,400 people entered, each sending us a short opinion piece and bio. Among the entrants were people from 43 states and D.C.; students in their late teens and retirees in their 80s; people boasting Washington insider knowledge and people claiming to represent average Americans; devoted Democrats and die-hard Republicans and all political perspectives in between. Now, Post editors are reading through all the entries and judging them on the basis of style, intelligence and freshness of argument (but not on whether we agree or disagree with the point of view). We plan to publish the top 50 entries on or around Oct. 11. And then we'll be looking to readers to help us narrow the field to ten finalists.
Get ready for the great debate.
Beginning on or about Oct. 18, our finalists will face off in challenges that test the skills a modern pundit must possess. They'll have to write on deadline, hold their own on video and take questions -- and criticism -- from Post readers. (Contestants won't have to quit their day jobs, but they should be prepared to put in about eight hours of work a week for two weeks.) After each round, a panel of Post personalities will offer kudos and catcalls, and reader votes will help to determine who gets another chance at a byline and who has to shut down their laptops.
The title fight.
The ultimate winner will get to claim the title of America's Next Great Pundit and to sign a three-month contract with The Post. Our Opinions lineup includes a dozen Pulitzer Prize winners, regulars on the national political talk shows and some of the most influential players inside the Beltway. We look forward to bringing a new voice -- someone who will contribute weekly columns and occasional blog posts -- into that mix and to providing a platform from which our promising pundit can make his or her opinions heard.