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HLS Student Is Pundit Finalist

By Elias J. Groll, Crimson Staff Writer

Old media may be dying, and career paths into journalism may be rapidly evaporating, but one Harvard Law School student may have found a shortcut from Langdell to the top of the Washington Post opinion page.

Jeremy L. Haber, a first year student at the Law School, is one of four finalists remaining in the Post’s “America’s Next Great Pundit” contest, the winner of which will write 13 weekly op-ed columns on a topic of his choice.

Haber, who said he entered the contest on an impulse, has emerged from over 4,800 entrants to outlast six other finalists — including a Nobel laureate in physics, an assistant secretary of commerce in the Bush administration, and a Middle East expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

But for all that, Haber describes himself as anything but the stereotypical blogger-columnist.

“I’m not a natural writer,” Haber said. “Blogging is not a natural form for me.”

Up to this point, the contest has included a variety of assignments that include a traditional opinion column, blogging assignments, and online chat sessions with readers.

Haber said he was skeptical about his chances of winning and that he was unsure of what he might devote his column to if he wins the competition. The contest so far has relied on reader voting to eliminate candidates but the coming weeks will give Post editors increased power to cut candidates.

Still, Haber hinted that he would devote his column to representing the voice of his generation, since it has traditionally been under-represented on the nation’s opinion pages.

“There are 70 million 18-34 year-olds, and none of them are invited to participate on the op-ed page,” Haber said. “There is a youth perspective on every issue, there’s no one on the Post’s opinion page, and I don’t think that’s sufficient.”

Ross G. Douthat ’02, a 29-year-old former contributor to The Crimson, was made an editorial columnist for the New York Times in April 2009. No Washington Post editorial writers or columnists are under the age of 35.

Though he has no experience as a reporter, Haber said he might use his opportunity to highlight under-reported issues with national significance. So far, he’s used his online column to interview Massachusetts Senate candidates Alan A. Khazei ’83 and Steven G. Pagliuca, and to discuss leadership and the Red Sox’ 2010 prospects with team president Larry Lucchino.

David M. Zucker, another first-year student at the Law School and a friend of Haber, described Haber’s decision to enter the contest as characteristic of a man who likes to take risks.

“He’s a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kind of guy, and he’s obviously very successful at it,” Zucker said.

Haber received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Brown and travelled after graduation, taking trips through East Africa to work on development issues and spending time in Rwanda contributing to reconciliation efforts in that nation.

—Staff writer Elias J. Groll can be reached at egroll@fas.harvard.edu.

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