Ed Driscoll

How To Succeed In Journalism Without Really Trying

As Mark Steyn writes, pace England, in the colonies, “tea is not a soothing beverage.” For Americans, tea is “a raging stimulant”:

It’s rabies in an Earl Grey bag. At America’s tea parties, there’s no McVitie’s, just McVeighs — as in Timothy of that ilk, as in angry white men twitching to go nuts. To Paul Krugman of the New York Times, the tea party is a movement of “crazy people” manipulated by sinister “rightwing billionaires.” To the briefly famous Susan Roesgen of CNN, the parties are not safe for “family viewing.” Which is presumably why the Boston Globe forbore to cover them last week. The original Boston Tea Party was so-called because it took place at Boston Harbor, which I gather is a harbor somewhere in the general vicinity of the Greater Boston area. So there would appear to be what I believe the journalism professors call a “local angle” to Wednesday’s re-enactment. Might be useful for a publication losing a million bucks a week and threatened with closure by a parent company that in one of the worst media acquisitions of all time paid over a billion dollars for a property that barely a decade later is all but worthless.

Boston talk radio host Michael Graham explains the Globe’s model for business success, here:

  1. Ignore a national story inspired by local Boston history for as long as possible;

  2. Refuse to cover the story when it becomes local;

  3. Misreport the story with a wire report from Kentucky;

  4. Then wonder why you’re losing $1 million a week.

Clearly, South Park’s entrepreneurial gnomes are a model start-up compared with the Globe’s business plan.

The Globe is owned by the New York Times. Its rival in northeast corridor establishment liberal conventional wisdom is the Washington Post, whose chief spin-off publication is Newsweek. And there’s plenty of self-inflicted problems there as well, Brent Bozell writes:

Newsweek greeted the coming of Easter with a black cover, and the headline “The Decline and Fall of Christian America,” spelled out in red in the shape of a cross. Inside, it was more declarative: “The End of Christian America.” Why? Because they found that the percentage of self-identified Christians had fallen 10 points since 1990. Okay, then let’s compare. How much has Newsweek’s circulation fallen since 1990? Just since 2007, their announced circulation has dropped by 52 percent. It would be more plausible to state “The End of Newsweek.”

At the end of 2007, Newsweek reduced its “base rate” (or circulation guaranteed to advertisers) from 3.1 million to 2.6 million, a 16 percent drop. At the end of 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that Newsweek, faced with an estimated 21 percent decline in ad pages, could soon drop that circulation number by another 500,000 to 1 million readers. In February, the magazine confirmed the million-issue drop, saying it would drop to a base of 1.9 million in July and 1.5 million readers by January 2010.

“Mass for us is a business that doesn’t work,” Tom Ascheim, Newsweek’s chief executive, told the New York Times. “Wish it did, but it doesn’t. We did it for a long time, successfully, but we can’t anymore.” Now that U.S. News & World Report waved a white flag and said it would only publish monthly, the evidence is much stronger for wondering about the decline and fall of the American “news magazine” – as if Time and Newsweek haven’t already shed that label in everything but name.

Newsweek’s strategy in the midst of all its financial decline is to double and triple the amount of editorializing, cast aside all semblance of “news” in favor of long, liberal essays by self-impressed Newsweek editor Jon Meacham and his international editor Fareed Zakaria. Is that really a business solution, or is it the captains performing violin solos on the deck of the Titanic?

Finally, as I noted on Tuesday, “NBC sponsoring a political movement? Like that would ever happen!” Nice to see that topic discussed on Fox’s News Watch show today.

Related: CNN’s multifacted problems go far beyond this week’s kerfuffle involving Susan Roesgen. “CNN Invents the News”, Eric Trager writes at Commentary. Indeed they do — when they’re not keeping it to themselves.

And in other Twitter-related news, Danny Glover writes, “Direct Your Tweet Outrage To Katie Couric.”