How Radio Wrecks the Right

February 28, 2009

One of the more interesting reads of the week was John Derbyshire’s cover article in The American Conservative.   In it, he bemoans the devlopment of “happy meal conservatism” (a phrase I love and which I predict will stick):

Gone are the intellectual tensions, the thought-provoking paradoxes, the ideological uneasiness that marked the early Right.  But however much this dumbing down has damaged the conservative brand, it appeals to millions of Americans.  McDonald’s profits rose 80 percent last year.

But of course, not even Happy Meals are free.  He also argues that Rush Limbaugh’s 14-million listener, 20+ year reign at the top of the radio dial has impeded the development what he calls “middlebrow conservatism.”   “I know,” Limbaugh told the Times, “that I have become the intellectual engine of the Republican.”   Well, I’ll be darned.  A self-proclaimed intellectual engine.  That may just be a first.


Google to Drowning Papers: “That Anvil Looks Kinda Heavy; Now, Put This Hose in Your Mouth”

February 28, 2009

As newspapers circle oblivion’s drain in an ever-tightening formation, Eric Schmidt’s crocodile tears seem to have dried already.  Google’s news aggregator will now run ads.  I mean, what can we say?  Some people do mourning more efficiently than others.   The only surprise is that Google held off on its grave dance for as long as it has.  Next up:  Craigslist offers free local display ads.

Too Little and Late Hall of Fame

February 28, 2009

On the verge of extinction, the SF Chronicle and Newsday decide, after “emergency” meetings, to put up paywalls.   It’s not a risky move, any more than it would be risky for a hospice-bound cancer patient to start an aggressive course of Jack Daniel’s therapy.  And, it’s about as likely to work.  There might well be examples of businesses that bought their way back from the brink by raising prices.  I’ve just never seen one.


See the whole, sad, delusional, and misguided Hearst memo here, and Jeff Jarvis’ on-target commentary here.

Say of the Day: John M. Daniel

February 20, 2009

Circa 1850 in the Richmond Examiner:

too many of our gazettes are in the hands of persons destitute at once of the urbanity of gentlemen, the information of scholars, and the principles of virtue”,

Nieman: Top 15 News Web Sites by Traffic

February 18, 2009

Full post here.

These Guys Rock

February 18, 2009

LA Times latest on

Here’s an example on the kind of reporting they are doing on the consequences of declines in defined benefit pension plans.  No issue in the country is a bigger deal to more people yet getting less coverage.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Eric Alterman

February 17, 2009

Via Newspaperdeathwatch, this from a guy called Eric Alterman last spring in The New Yorker  and more recently in The Nation.   If only all the participants  in the recent blogo-debate over non-profit journalism (including yours truly) would have read his stuff first! 

 I’d also commend to anyone who is interested Jay Rosen’s great summary of the Lipmann/Dewey debate in the first part of What Are Journalists For?

Some especially trenchant Alterman snippets:

 Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, said recently in a speech in London, “At places where editors and publishers gather, the mood these days is funereal. Editors ask one another, ‘How are you?,’ in that sober tone one employs with friends who have just emerged from rehab or a messy divorce.”  N.B.  A friend of mine who is an alumna of The  Washington Post puts the mood there more succinctly:  “It’s like theyre grieving a dying relative.”

Since 1990, a quarter of all American newspaper jobs have disappeared. The columnist Molly Ivins complained, shortly before her death, that the newspaper companies’ solution to their problem was to make “our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.” That may help explain why the dwindling number of Americans who buy and read a daily paper are spending less time with it; the average is down to less than fifteen hours a month. Only nineteen per cent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four claim even to look at a daily newspaper. The average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising.

According to “Abandoning the News,” published by the Carnegie Corporation, thirty-nine per cent of respondents under the age of thirty-five told researchers that they expected to use the Internet in the future for news purposes; just eight per cent said that they would rely on a newspaper. It is a point of ironic injustice, perhaps, that when a reader surfs the Web in search of political news he frequently ends up at a site that is merely aggregating journalistic work that originated in a newspaper, but that fact is not likely to save any newspaper jobs or increase papers’ stock valuation.

Arthur Miller once described a good newspaper as “a nation talking to itself.”

The Huffington Post’s editorial processes are based on what Peretti has named the “mullet strategy.” (“Business up front, party in the back” is how his trend-spotting site BuzzFeed glosses it.) “User-generated content is all the rage, but most of it totally sucks,” Peretti says. The mullet strategy invites users to “argue and vent on the secondary pages, but professional editors keep the front page looking sharp. The mullet strategy is here to stay, because the best way for Web companies to increase traffic is to let users have control, but the best way to sell advertising is a slick, pretty front page where corporate sponsors can admire their brands.”

Dewey also criticized Lippmann’s trust in knowledge-based élites. “A class of experts is inevitably so removed from common interests as to become a class with private interests and private knowledge,” he argued. “The man who wears the shoe knows best that it pinches and where it pinches, even if the expert shoemaker is the best judge of how the trouble is to be remedied.”

In “Imagined Communities” (1983), an influential book on the origins of nationalism, the political scientist Benedict Anderson recalls Hegel’s comparison of the ritual of the morning paper to that of morning prayer: “Each communicant is well aware that the ceremony he performs is being replicated simultaneously by thousands (or millions) of others of whose existence he is confident, yet of whose identity he has not the slightest notion.” It is at least partially through the “imagined community” of the daily newspaper, Anderson writes, that nations are forged