Klavan On The Culture

About "The Daily"

Well, I wanted to blog my thoughts this week about Rupert Murdoch’s iPad newspaper The Daily. Then news reached me that one of my publishers—Thomas Nelson, who’s been doing a terrific job bringing out my young adult fiction—is being acquired by News Corp.’s HarperCollins…  which means, I’ll now actually be working for Murdoch. So everything I say from this sentence on can be assumed to be an obsequious attempt to curry favor with the boss.

Nah, I’ll savage anyone—that’s just the kinda guy I am. And while all in all, I like The Daily, I do have some major complaints.

It was easy to decide to cancel my subscription to the Los Angeles Times and replace it with The Daily.  The Times had been running increasingly hilarious and desperate headlines on the order of, “Obama Heroically Defends Civilization Against Savage Child-Killing Republicans” as the O presidency continued its historic collapse. And for around forty bucks a year, an iPad newspaper sounded like a good deal—and to a large extent, it is.

So far, here’s what I love about The Daily (Mr. Murdoch, sir).  Love the beautiful hi-def photos. Love the gimmicks: 360 degree pictures, video, interactive screens. Love the sports coverage—one of the main reasons I take a second paper in the first place after the Wall Street Journal. Love the energetic tabloid-style writing. Especially love the New York Post level headlines:  “No More Moammar;” “Rotten to the Corzine;” there’s a good one almost every day.

Here’s what doesn’t work. Murdoch’s media business model has been not—despite what his detractors say—to add conservative bias to his news outlets, but to eliminate liberal bias. That’s what makes libs so nuts about Fox News—it actually is fair and balanced. The most popular commentators there are conservative or libertarian, but there are plenty of liberal voices available and the first half hour of Bret Baer’s program is quite simply the fairest and least biased news delivery service on TV.

But The Daily seems to have slipped the Murdoch net. The liberal bias is not yet egregious but it’s edging that way. The coverage of the Herman Cain sex accusations has been shamefully one-sided (loved the “Squirmin’ Herman” headline, but still). And the anti-God bias is even worse. Virtually every mention of God or religion in the paper is snarky or even nasty. It’s off-putting—first, because there actually is a God and second, because, even if there weren’t, most of the audience believes there is and you ought to have respect for the people who pay for your product.  [I wrote this yesterday — and this morning, there was a strong piece by Jen Floyd Engel defending Tebow’s Christianity in almost the same terms I did here Wednesday, so good on her.]

The greatest offender is the advice columnist Coquette, whose embrace-your-inner-slut advice is so bad as to risk being harmful to anyone stupid enough to listen to her. Here’s an actual example:

Q: Why do I always feel so guilty after hookups?

A: Because you were raised to believe that hooking up is a moral violation. There’s nothing inherently wrong with hooking up, but until you’re strong enough to develop a personal morality that is free of sexual shame, you will continue to feel guilty.

What crap. There may not be anything inherently vicious or cruel in hooking up, but of course it’s degrading to treat your body as if it were detached from higher human needs and desires like love and respect. It’s a recipe for self-hatred and depression, especially in women, who inherently know better and have more to lose. Who prints fashionable garbage like that knowing it could have a hugely destructive effect on impressionable people? Shame.

If Murdoch isn’t policing The Daily to root out such nonsense, he ought to start. I’m not looking for conservatism or piety, just balance and simple decency. And toss Coquette in the trash where she belongs.