Jeff Jacoby Disses Hugh Hewitt: “Liberal Bias Isn’t Killing Newspapers.”

Some of you know I moved here from Boston about 12 years ago and I’ve been following the situation at thge Boston Globe, New England’s largest paper, that faced a shutdown by the New York Times Company without major union concessions.  The unions caved last night and looks like editorial, advertising and office employees in the Guild will be taking a 23 percent pay cut.  But the Globe still lives…for now.

But that’s not what this post is about.

There’s a perception out there that Liberal Media Bias is the cause for dramatic decreases in circulation figures at major newspapers.  That perception also exists among liberals and progressives here in Orange County that the OC Register’s conservative editorial content coupled with a dramatic increase in the population of OC residents who are liberal, progressive and Democratic, are contributing factors to the Register’s circulation declines over the past several years.

Both claims are hogwash.  Its not often I agree with the Boston Globe’s conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby, but he’s right that what ails the newspaper industry is not media bias, but a changing culture about where and how people get their news. And the bonus is a noted conservative like Jacoby taking apart Hugh Hewitt’s long held belief that Liberal Media bias is the culprit.

Jacoby writes: 

“Conservatives often accuse liberals, with reason, of clinging to emotion-based fantasies even when they are contradicted by real-world facts and results – of preferring to see what they believe, rather than believe what they see. But the right has its shibboleths too, and one of them is that liberal bias explains why so many newspapers are hurting.

“The newspaper industry is indeed failing before our eyes,” writes Hugh Hewitt, a syndicated talk-show host who regularly inveighs against the liberal and Democratic agenda of the mainstream media, or MSM. “A great deal of that failure (is) because of the widespread and justified alienation of news consumers who do not trust the legions of ‘journalists’ working in MSM to be critical of the party of government . . . Newspapers don’t have to die. But suicide is the right term for continuing to try and package liberalism as news.”

I know many people believe blogs are killing the newspaper industry.  The fact is we don’t have the numbers nor the ad revenue to do so.  Few blogs do.  When Art Pedroza makes claims that his politically powerful blog is somehow cutting into the influence of the OC Register or the LA Times, I wish he would count the number of stories he lifts from those papers daily.  And where would the Flash Report or Red County be without the morning newss summary of links lifted from newspapers? They benefit from the paid newsgathering services of professional journalists without any sort of financial burden on their part. 

And for that matter, Red County editor Matt Cunningham recently chided Tustin council member Debbie Gavello recently for paying for a subscription to the OC Rgeister when “you can read it online for free.”  You can read a portion of the Register, but what you miss are those stories that catch your eye has you turn the page or there’s a photo that sucks you in.  There is nothing quite like sitting down with a newspaper, touching the newsprint and smelling the fresh ink as you dive into a story.  Gavello did the right thing by subscribing to the paper, and I wish more Orange County residents would take advantage of the papers available to them including the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Investor’s Business Daily, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Register.

A newspaper should reflect the values of the community it serves. 

Conservative pollster Adam Probolsky is now a columnist for my local weekly, the Irvine World News.   He is not identified as a partisan Republican Party activist that he is.  I contact the editors of IWN after Probolsky’s debut column to complain.  Irvine is a progressive city.  The city council majority has won five straight elections.  The city voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama for president and voted No on Prop. 8.  Progressives and Democrats in Irvine are not nearly as closeted there as they are in other Orange County cities.  And yet, the local paper hired (and pays) a conservative columnist to write a community column.  Onwe of the editors invited me to submit some suggestions for a counter-columnist to Probolsky and I did.  I have sent two subsequent emails to follow up, the last one pointing out an inaccuracy in Probolosky’s column comparing John Campbell with Beth Krom. 

Neither email has been returned. 

If you are left of center in Orange County and you want to be heard by the Register, it seems your only option is the Reader Rubuttal column.  My only real surprise is that this column isn’t published in agate type like the sports transactions or box scores.  It’s not like we’re asking for equal time and space, just a little time and space.  Given how liberal publications like the LA Times and NY Times carry conservative columnists (and the NY Times even suggests that Letters to the Editor with a conservative bent are more likely to be published), I find it hard to believe the folks running things on Grand Ave can’t find a few column inches for a center-left columnist once or twice a week. 

Imagine the hate mail they’d get for that?

  7 comments for “Jeff Jacoby Disses Hugh Hewitt: “Liberal Bias Isn’t Killing Newspapers.”

  1. RHackett
    May 7, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Good gawd Dan. Don’t give the geniuses {sarcasm} on Grand Ave any ideas.

    Instead of reexamining their market and adapting, they’ve pulled up the drawbridges and armed the parapets thinking that will save them

    I know dozens of folks who have dropped their subscriptions to the OC Reg because of the editorial maniacs writing from the libertarian world of planet wingnuttia.

    The sooner they die the better. The market will then be ripe for an enterprising individual to introduce a media outlet more reflective of the market in the area.

    Isn’t capitalism great?

  2. junior
    May 7, 2009 at 9:57 am

    “There’s a perception out there that Liberal Media Bias is the cause for dramatic decreases in circulation figures at major newspapers.”

    Dan – Your statement seems to concede that “Liberal Media Bias” truly exists in major newspapers; and by extrapolation in all of main scream media.

    Am I reading you correctly?

  3. May 7, 2009 at 11:16 am

    Actually, while many journalists may personally be politically liberal, I don’t believe this notion of liberal media bias. Eric Alterman has an excellent book called “What Liberal Media?” where he chronicles how most of the MSM favors conservative thought over liberal bias. I’ve fond that most conservatives don’t have a problem with media bias as long as its conservative media bias (Fox News….)

  4. junio
    May 7, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Da,

    I will cop to Fox News conservative bias if you will cop to main scream liberal bias.

    Deal?

  5. junior
    May 8, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Dan,

    I will cop to Fox News conservative bias if you will cop to main scream liberal media bias.

    Deal?

  6. May 8, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Junior — Alterman’s book pretty much refutes the notion of liberal media bias. Try going to MediaMatters.org for other studies that also dispel your perception of liberal media bias.

    So, no. I’m not biting.

  7. junior
    May 8, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    From an Amazon review of Alterman’s book:

    “The argument that these big corporations are controlling the mouths of the media is mentioned, but no where demonstrated in the book. Brent Bozell’s Cyber Alert newsletter is packed everyday with 4-6 examples of Major Media hosts taking the liberal line and Alterman doesn’t once address Jennings, Rather and Brokaw, Couric, or Gumbel. To him, the media is George Will’s 15 minutes at the end of the George Stephonopolis show.”

    Dan – The Altrman book is hardly a scientific study of liberal bias. It sounds more like a lame cover-up of liberal bias in the media.

    The conservative bent of Fox News IS balance.

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