If you’re wondering why your local newspaper is so deadly dull, it isn’t just because it’s staffed by leftwing partisan hacks; it’s that it also has no local competition for readers. Unless you live in the media-frenzy town of New York, where there’s lots of competition for readers — there’s a main leftwing paper (the New York Times), a main (marginally) conservative paper (the Wall Street Journal), a liberal tabloid (the New York Daily News), and a conservative tabloid (the fun-lovin’ New York Post). And then there’s the Village Voice, which exists to make the New York Times look centrist.
That doesn’t mean that the journalism won’t still be deadly dull, however.
New York magazine was once the Sunday supplement of a great newspaper, the New York Herald Tribune, which revolutionized journalism in the 1960s, featuring such staffers as Tom Wolfe, Jimmy Breslin, Dick Schaap and Pete Hamill. The phrase “new journalism” grew out of the efforts of the paper, as well as Esquire magazine of the 1960s, which shared many of the same writers. After the Herald-Tribune died in the wake of the 1962-‘63 New York newspaper strike and further ongoing union troubles, New York magazine soldiered on as an independent entity; Wolfe’s classic “Radical Chic,” which exposed Leonard Bernstein’s infamous fundraiser for the Black Panthers, a perennial back catalog best-seller in book form, began life as a 1970 New York cover story. However, the new journalists of the 1960s and ‘70s left the building a long time ago, as did any sense of reporting and gleeful coverage of a scandal, unless it’s involves a politician on the right.
When the news broke yesterday at National Review that rising Democrat star Corey Booker had an “imaginary friend” that he carried around with him and pulled out at campaign speeches for years, much like John Kerry’s magic hat, Barack Obama’s “composite girlfriend” and Al Gore’s serial fabrications, New York magazine decided it wasn’t going to be scooped by some conservatives with no sense of news. This story warranted some serious coverage. With a headline to match. The second coming of the New York Post’s legendary “Headless Body in Topless Bar” headline. We’ll show these rightwing plonkers how it’s done!
Nahh, just kidding. Here’s the headline that New York magazine went with:
Scandal: Cory Booker Is Not Friends With Drug Dealer
Yeah, that’ll make issues fly off the shelves, and deliver clicks to the Website. It’s reminiscent of the New York Times’ efforts to bury “WeinerGate” in 2011, because taking one for the DNC is far more important than actually selling newspapers. At the very moment that Andrew Breitbart hopped onto the podium at Anthony Weiner’s press conference on June 6th of 2011 for The Greatest Press Conference of All Time Ever, this is what the New York Times tweeted, to save face, covering a fat, juicy, meaty, beaty, big and bouncy (OK, sorry) scandal that they wanted nothing to do with, because it involved one of their own, instead of somebody with an (R) after his name:
Or as Mark Steyn wrote at time, “nobody who could write that headline with a straight face should be in the news business:”
It’s one thing to lose the story to Andrew Breitbart because you’re too snooty to sully yourself with Weiner’s briefs. It’s another thing to pile on and support Weiner’s slandering of Breitbart out of ideological solidarity. But, when the congressman himself is at a press conference admitting he’s e-mailed explicit photos of himself around the Internet and you choose that headline to convey the story to your readers, you’re basically telling them you’re the paper for court eunuchs.
Which dovetailed perfectly with Andrew Klavan’s remarks that day:
Watching Breitbart crush Weiner beneath his heel like an insignificant weiner, it occurs to me that Breitbart’s genius – and he really is an information genius – consists almost entirely of two pieces of knowledge: one, leftists will lie knowing the media will back them and two, the media will back them. With those two principles, he manages to make utter fools of both lying leftists and their corrupt mainstream media cronies again and again. Not to mention again. It’s wonderful.
The blogger Mickey Kaus likes to distinguish between the news and the “under-news.” The “news” is what you get from your bland monodaily or your incontinence-pad-sponsored network news show; the “under-news” is what’s bubbling out there on the Internet. I can see why Obama, Edwards and others value the king-rode-in-the-park model. But it’s not clear what’s in it for America’s failing newspapers. If you’re conservative, you don’t read them because they’re biased. If you’re an informed leftie, you don’t read them because they don’t have the gleeful partisan brio of the Daily Kos or the Huffington Post. And, if you’re apolitical, you don’t read them because they’re just incredibly boring.
Throughout the [1990s], from O.J. to Monica, the ethics bores of America’s journalism schools bemoaned at the drop of a New York Times commission the media’s “descent into tabloidization.” A decade on, American newspapers are dying. Really dying, I mean; not just having a spot of difficulty negotiating the transition from one distribution system to another, which is the problem faced by British, Australian, Canadian and other newspaper markets. But better to be the dead parrot’s cage liner, than the actual parrot. Which would you say was more responsible for the death of American newspapering? The “descent into tabloidization”? Or the dreary monarchical deference of American liberalism’s insipid J-school courtiers? The king rode in the park. He was riding his videographer in the shrubbery, but you don’t need to know that.
“Keep rockin,” Tony Pierce advises his writers. Why not start rockin’? Tony sounds such a cool guy, he knows all the hepcat lingo. What a shame his newspaper isn’t as groovily written as his memos. Which may be why the Los Angeles Times’ parent company has had to file for bankruptcy protection. If this crate’s a-rockin’, it’s because Tony and his chums drove it over a cliff and it’s bouncin’ on the way down.
See also: the Washington Post, once one of the nation’s flagship newspapers (just ask them) which went from being valued at the end of the 20th century at two billion dollars (again, just ask them), to being purchased at the start of this month by Jeff Bezos for pocket change, a loss of 87 percent of its value.
Update: In sharp contrast to dull torpor of America’s MSM, Fleet Street still knows how to move the merchandise:
— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) August 30, 2013
And of course, since we’re mentioning the Sun, a reference to Yes, Prime Minister is obligatory: