What Is a Pundit?

A pundit is a person that publicly expresses their opinions or comments on a topic on which they consider themselves an expert. The term "pundit" can be used to describe someone who is an expert in a field, and it can also be used negatively to classify someone who has definite opinions but lacks the expertise to back them up. It is used to describe recognized authorities and, increasingly, to describe TV and radio hosts that are louder than they are learned.

Key Takeaways

  • A pundit is a person (expert or claiming to be an expert) that publicly expresses their opinions or comments to the public.
  • The term "pundit" can be used to describe an expert in a field.
  • The term "pundit" can also describe someone in a negative light.
  • In the information age, it can be challenging to fact-check the claims of a pundit.
  • Often a proven track record of success is one way to separate the truth from the hype.

Understanding a Pundit

In modern usage, the term pundit is often used to describe media personalities who are vocal proponents or critics of certain political ideologies, sports teams, investments, social issues, etc. The terms "right-wing pundit" and "left-wing pundit" are used to describe outspoken conservative and liberal figures, respectively.

Examples from the finance world would be a well-known market analyst that gives the public buy and sell recommendations on stocks or a business columnist who writes opinion pieces for a national newspaper or website. Cable television networks with vast amounts of time to fill and talk radio are the preferred venues of the pundit.

Age of the Pundit

This may be the golden age of the pundit. Never have so many people written, said, and tweeted so much about so many issues. These days on the national political stage, nearly all pundits can be sorted into left and right, Republican and Democrat, with shadings on both ends that go from the extreme left to the extreme right. Many believe the pundits have furthered the polarization of the country. It can be difficult to fact-check a pundit's claims in the information age, but a track record of success is one way to separate the truth from the hype.

Pundits can skew in a specific political direction. Two examples include self-described "liberal" Rachel Maddow, a political commentator and television host on MSNBC, and Ann Coulter, a conservative media pundit, who makes the rounds on cable news channels, and writes about conservative political issues for a variety of publications.

Many pundits will come and go, but the lasting ones have built a loyal following, like Sean Hannity, a conservative pundit, and commentator on Fox News.

Special Considerations

The word "pundit" comes from the Hindi pandit. And pandit was derived from the Sanskrit pandita, which means "a learned man or scholar." The term first entered English in the late 17th century, referring to a court official in Colonial India who advised English judges about Hindu law.

"A striving pundit comes to the gates of the content mine and learns first and foremost that career-greasing respectability comes from having the courage to agree with your peers, to flatter their savvy while they flatter yours," writes Emmett Rensin in the Los Angeles Review of Books. "In the pundit class, it is better to commit the same error as everybody else than to risk the possibility of an embarrassing divergence."

Punditry is "all one terrible feedback loop, every day drawing the circle of knowledge a little darker, and a little tighter around the mind," he writes.

How Much Do Political Pundits Make?

Political pundit is not a job per se, but political commentators, many of them considered pundits, are paid a wide range of salaries for their work on television. Most media companies do not disclose the salaries of their commentators, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Handbook cites a median salary of $55,030 for reporters and news analysts working in television and radio. However, the highest-paid salary (and most pundits are highly compensated) is listed as $127,370 and up.

Who Are the Most Famous Political Pundits?

Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, Rachel Maddow, and Sean Hannity are all popular political pundits and commentators for the media.

What Does the Pundit Class Mean?

The "pundit class" simply refers to any group of high-profile pundits who are featured on television and in the media.

The Bottom Line

Twenty-first-century pundits are a mix of experienced political journalists, former politicians, doctors, academics, and others who use their experience and personality to pontificate on politics, social inequities, and other areas of life. Some pundits spout off their opinions without bothering with research or facts but garner a large enough following, often via social media or television, to seem credible.

Article Sources
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  1. Ann Coulter.com. "Ann Coulter." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

  2. NPR. "Rachel Maddow: Sassy, Acerbic And-Yes-Liberal." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

  3. Fox News. "Sean Hannity." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

  4. Merriam-Webster. "Pundit Definition." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

  5. Los Angeles Review of Books. "Punditry and Commitment." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

  6. Career Trend. "Surprising Salaries of Cable Political Commentators." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

  7. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Handbook 2020-News Analysts, Reporters, and Journalists." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

  8. The Guardian. "The pundit class continues to misunderstand Bernie Sanders – and it shows." Accessed Jan. 24, 2022.

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