A pundit is a person who offers to mass media
their opinion or commentary on a particular subject area (most typically political analysis
, the social science
) on which they are knowledge
able (or can at least appear to be knowledgeable), or considered a scholar
in said area. The term has been increasingly applied to popular media personalities. In certain cases, it may be used in a derogatory
manner as well, when it is used to imply that false claims are being made regarding someone's knowledge or understanding.
The term originates from the Sanskrit
'' पण्डित), meaning "knowledge owner" or "learned man".
It refers to someone who is erudite
in various subjects and who conducts religious ceremonies and offers counsel to the king and usually referred to a person from the Hindu Da Vimal
caste but may also refer to the Siddhas
, or Yogis
From at least the early 19th century, a Pundit of the Supreme Court
in Colonial India
was an officer of the judiciary who advised British judges on questions of Hindu law
. In Anglo-Indian
'' also referred to a native of India who was trained and employed by the British to survey inaccessible regions beyond the British frontier.
's book chapter ''The Decline of the Public Intellectual and the Rise of the Pundit'' describes a change in the role of public experts and relates to developments in the audience and the media itself.
[Josef Joffe, “The Decline of the Public Intellectual and the Rise of the Pundit,” in Arthur M. Melzer and Richard M. Zinmann, The Public Intellectual, Between Philosophy and Politics 2003, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, p. 109–22.]
One of the problems related to expertise is the rapid amount of specialisation and knowledge, especially strong in the American universities. While in the 1960s, political science had just 5 subdisciplines, the number had increased to 104 by 2000. In the second half of the 20th century, foreigners like Hannah Arendt
or Jürgen Habermas
and others gained a certain position in the US as public intellectuals due to the (over)specialization of US academics.
A pundit now combines the roles of a public intellectual and has a certain expertise as a media practitioner. Pundits may be regarded as more shallow and superficial from a university perspective. The intellectual dimension might and should be challenged. But they play an increasing role in disseminating ideas and views in an accessible way to the public. From Joffe's view, Karl Marx
in Europe and e.g. in the US, Mark Twain
were early and ''relentless pundits'' ante festum.
In addition, the growing role of think tank
s and research institutions like the Brookings Institution
, the American Enterprise Institute
and the Manhattan Institute
provided a place for those dealing with 'big issues' in public language.
The term ''talking head'' (in existence since 1964) has derogatory overtones. For example, the judge in the David Westerfield
trial in San Diego in 2002 said "The talking heads are doing nothing but speculating about what the jury may or may not be thinking".
Punditry has become a more popular vehicle in nightly newscasts on American cable news networks. A rise of partisanship among popular pundits began with Bill O'Reilly
of Fox News Channel
. His opinion-oriented format led him to ratings success and has led others, including Bill Maher
, Keith Olbermann
, and Nancy Grace
to express their opinions on matters on their own programs.
At the same time, many people who appear as pundits are recognized for having serious academic and scholarly experience in the subject at hand. Examples are pundits Paul Krugman
, who received a Nobel Prize in Economics
, and Stephen Biddle
, who received U.S. Army Superior Civilian Service Medal
s in 2003 and 2006.
s commentating, a "pundit" or color commentator
may be partnered with a play-by-play announcer
who will describe the action while asking the pundit for analysis. Alternatively, pundits may be asked for their opinions during breaks in the play.
Popular in the United States
during 2007 according to a Forbes
top 10 list:
* Politics and current events
** Bill O'Reilly
** Rush Limbaugh
** Bill Maher
** Lou Dobbs
** Geraldo Rivera
** Al Franken
** Rosie O'Donnell
** Greta Van Susteren
** Roger Ebert
** Leonard Maltin
** Bill Walton
* Color commentator
* Opinion leader
* Carl Diggler
– fictional character parodying contemporary American political pundits
* Stephen Colbert (character)