Where Have All the Smart Media Moguls Gone?
In the old days, movie moguls and newspaper barons lived for the bottom line. But if the profit motive still drives their industries, you'd never know it.
April 27, 2008 - 12:36 am
For several years, I have marveled at the arrogance that Hollywood has displayed towards its customers. Or, perhaps I should say potential customers or even ex-customers. Why, I’ve been asking myself, have they insisted on churning out one movie after another about lowlife drug addicts? The only druggie movie I can think of that made money was “The Man With the Golden Arm,” back in 1955, and that was based on a best-selling novel and starred Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak.
Lately, they’ve added a second genre that has proven equally unprofitable. I refer to war movies that present the American military in a bad light. No sooner, it seems, does “In the Valley of Elah” bomb at the box office than Hollywood rolls out “Redacted.” Even the titles they stick on these turkeys seem to have no other purpose than to keep audiences as far away as possible.
Unless these movies are simply some accountant’s madcap idea of a tax shelter, I can not imagine why they keep producing them. Perhaps red ink has become Tinsel Town’s version of the red badge of courage.
In the old days, Hollywood was run by a bunch of tough cookies who kept one eye on the starlets and one eye on the bottom line. These days, it appears as if the movies are in the hands of bozos who think there’s something tacky about making movies that actually turn a profit.
Still, there’s another group that makes these guys look like hard-headed businessmen. I refer to those people who own newspapers. The way they carry on, you’d think their names were Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Gummo.
Thanks to all the many incarnations of Hecht and MacArthur’s “Front Page,” we’ve always known that reporters were fast-talking, hard-drinking, irresponsible double-dealers who’d run over their own grannies to get a scoop. But their bosses, the lords of the fourth estate, appeared to be a collection of sober-sided capitalists who could read a profit-and-loss statement even if they were sitting in a cave during a solar eclipse.
That, however, is no longer the case. And while I have heard various theories as to why people are canceling their subscriptions, the main one being the Internet, I think there is yet another reason; namely, liberal bias.
People on the left, even those who believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, deny that liberal bias even exists. That’s because they believe everything they read in the New York Times and the Washington Post, everything they see on CNN and WSNBC, and every word uttered by Chris Matthews and Bill Maher. Once you accept that those institutions and individuals are dispensing objective truth, it stands to reason that only those at the opposite end of the political spectrum could possibly be slanting the news.
However, if you are a conservative and every time you pick up your daily newspaper, you find that everything you believe, not to mention all the things you hold dear, are being ridiculed not only on the editorial page, but throughout the entire paper, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the day finally dawns when a lot of them are going to say, “Why am I paying for this bilge?”
The question that comes to mind is why a business – any business – would go out of its way to antagonize, depending on the city, between, say, 40 and 60% of its market. Is it possible that while my back was turned, the DNC bought up every paper in the country except for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times?
Living in Los Angeles, as I have for the past 60-odd years, I’ve seen the L.A. Times bury one competitor after another. But ever since 2000, the paper has been slowly bleeding to death. In a desperate attempt to keep breathing, the paper has fired scores of employees and amputated entire sections. They’ve done virtually everything except try to put out a newspaper that doesn’t resemble one of James Carville’s wet dreams.
While I have no doubt that many of the 300,000 former subscribers simply decided there were cheaper, more convenient, ways to get the news, I happen to personally know that a good many left because of the paper’s relentless bashing of conservatives.
Even the letters to the editor are slanted. Rarely will they run a letter that disagrees with their editorial position. In fact, if you’re dying to see your name in the paper, all you have to do is attack George Bush or the war in Iraq. The Times will celebrate a blue moon or hell’s freezing over by publishing an op-ed piece by a conservative, but they absolutely draw the line at publishing a letter in praise of it. In fact, one could easily get the idea that Max Boot and Jonah Goldberg serve the same role as those poor saps at the amusement park who stick their heads through a hole in the wall so that the paying customers can bonk them in the noggin with baseballs.
I wouldn’t want to give you the idea that my hometown newspaper is entirely heartless when it comes to right-wingers. In fact, just recently, I had occasion to write the following letter to the editor: “First it was William F. Buckley who got a terrific, extremely respectful, front page sendoff. Today, it was Charlton Heston’s turn. Clearly, all a conservative has to do in order to get his just deserts from the L.A. Times is to die on a slow news day.”
Television writer Burt Prelutsky is the author of Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco (101 Reasons Why I’m Happy I Left the Left).