While these outlets are by no means dead and sold for parts, the networks and print referred to by conservatives as “the MSM” have been bleeding audience share for almost two decades. However, they haven’t been marginalized to a size commensurate with America’s poor opinion of them, and for a while I’ve felt this is a fault of certain “content providers” who should, by now, have a better grasp of these outlets’ practices, intentions, and greatly diminished influence.
(Even Gob gets it.)
Conservatives, or their handlers, should also better understand the tools now available, and the changing cost-benefit analysis those tools have nudged. For example: a camera, Twitter, and a colleague with a steady hand on retainer sure beats having that “crisis management” PR firm on retainer.
Yesterday, John Hinderaker of Powerline wrote of his recent experience considering whether or not to appear with Bill Maher:
Bill will head up a panel that includes two conservatives, one old and one young, and two demographically similar liberals. The producer told me that they have already lined up my old friend Ana Marie Cox as the senior liberal, and they very much wanted me to participate as the senior conservative. The event will not be televised live, but it will be filmed. The producer told me that Maher will use clips from the program on his television show and will post them on YouTube.
I had misgivings — the last thing I want to do is act as a foil for the likes of Bill Maher — but she argued persuasively that it would be helpful for me to take part, and that we conservatives would get an even break. I said I would think about it overnight and call her back in the morning.
Think rationally about why New Media — such as PJM and Powerline — even exist, and why studies have confirmed what Twitter users generally observe, which is that conservatives dominate liberals in trending topics on that medium: there is an audience that understands conservatives simply do not get a fair shake in the MSM, stretching back to the New York Times of the early 20th century, pre-television.
So our new products filled the vacancy, and further, that’s where all the market share the MSM bled has gone. People didn’t tune out altogether — instead, they tuned in to Fox News and Roger L. Simon and John Hinderaker.
The truth regarding the media landscape is self-evident. So why would a conservative ever agree to have his or her message strained through an MSM colander? Rationally, what are the pros of appearing taped on an outlet or with a specific host known to distort conservatism in general and individual messages in particular? Through a Maher producer’s eyes, what are the pros for them in extending you an invitation?
Here’s what Hinderaker did:
I decided to participate in the event and do my best to support John’s candidacy, but on one condition: that I be given a copy of the video promptly after the event so that I, too, can post clips on Power Line and on YouTube. After all, if you have an hour or two of video to work with, and you want a 15 second clip that will make you look good or the other guy look dumb, you will surely find it. If I had a copy of the video, not only could I post useful footage, but I could also–to some degree–keep Maher honest. I also intended to promote the event and try to get Power Line readers and others to attend so that the crowd reaction would be balanced.
The next morning, I called the producer and conveyed that offer. It got a rather icy reaction. The producer said that giving me a copy of the video could be a problem; she would look into it and get back to me by the end of the day. The day came and went with no call from her, as did the day after. Finally, at 5:19 on Friday, I received this email: