We Have a Winner

Actually, 10 of them. The October Surprise contest is over at last.

“It’s going to be a long night,” a friend and Bush adviser said to me in late October, looking ahead to election night. That turns out to have been the understatement of the year. It was 6 p.m. on the East Coast when the first polls closed Nov. 7, in Indiana and Kentucky. Eight hundred sixty-seven hours later, Al Gore delivered his concession speech.

The Florida firestorm gave us a lot to write about on OpinionJournal, but it also left us with some unfinished business. For one thing, there was our October Surprise contest. When we started the contest the day after Labor Day–asking readers to guess what President Clinton would do in October to influence the election–we promised to announce the winners “shortly after the election,” and we will do so in a moment.

First, a few words about OpinionJournal. When we launched the site late in July, we joined the fast-moving discourse on the Web, where some of the most interesting political discussions are taking place. We aimed to expand the journalistic capabilities of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, freeing ourselves from the physical constraints of print publication and enabling ourselves to cover breaking news more quickly than ever.

Two of our columnists deserve special recognition in this regard: John Fund and Peggy Noonan. Mr. Fund, a member of the Journal’s editorial board, typically writes several times a week for his Political Diary, which combines reporting, analysis and commentary. Ms. Noonan, the celebrated Reagan speechwriter who is now a contributing editor of the Journal, writes a weekly column. Well, we call it a weekly column, but she often surprises us with an extra essay–as she did on Wednesday, when she weighed in with a sensitive, perceptive memo to Al Gore on how he should concede the presidency.

In addition, our Best of the Web Today feature has evolved into a running commentary on the news, posted every weekday in the early afternoon. The day before the election, Robert L. Bartley, the Journal’s editor, described in this column how Mr. Fund, Ms. Noonan and Best of the Web Today gave up-to-the-minute coverage of the 11th-hour revelation of George W. Bush’s 24-year-old drunk-driving conviction–a story that broke on a Thursday night, after the deadline for Friday’s Journal, and thus one that in the pre-Internet age we wouldn’t have been able to cover until Monday morning.

Readers seem to like what we offer; by all measures the site has been successful beyond our expectations. In the month of November, we received more than three million visits from more than a million unique visitors who read nearly eight million pages. As we look ahead to a new year and a new administration, our basic challenge remains the same: to offer the most intelligent, timely and hard-hitting commentary on the Web.

You may have noticed a few changes on the site over the past few months:

� Last month we introduced a new columnnist, Pete du Pont, former governor of Delaware. His “Outside the Box” column appears Wednesdays.

� In September we introduced another new columnist, Tunku Varadarajan, deputy editorial features editor of The Wall Street Journal. His “Citizen of the World” runs Mondays.

� In the weeks following Election Day, we rolled out our Hail to the Chief feature, building on a survey in which the Journal and the Federalist Society asked scholars to rate all the presidents. The survey results and the essays that followed will remain on the site, a trove of information for history buffs. Hail to the Chief was edited by Brendan Miniter, who in September joined OpinionJournal as assistant editor.

� Because of other obligations, Mark Helprin has discontinued his weekly “Written on Water” column. He remains a contributing editor of the Journal and his work will appear occasionally both in the paper and on the site.

Our other columnists–Tom Bray, Collin Levey, Seth Lipsky, Claudia Rosett and Kim Strassel–will all continue to write. And we’ll keep publishing Robert Bartley’s and Paul Gigot’s columns as well as selected other stories from The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page.

In due course we’ll unveil other new OpinionJournal features. Stay tuned.

OpinionJournal’s Political Diary

Abramoff sings; Trent Lott eyes a comeback; Eliot Spitzer needs therapy; Texas quarrel riles the Republican ‘family.’

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