Journalism Jaws, part 666

jaws_bigger_boat-tjpgYes, your friends in the mainstream press are starting to feel a bit like Roy Scheider in "Jaws." Which is why I have let this topic rest for a week or two in my GetReligion guilt file. But the issue of the endangered Great White Shark that is the mainstream press -- love it or hate it -- will not go away. If you want to know what I am talking about, click here and flash back to a previous GetReligion discussion that defines some terms and the borders of our discussions.

The bottom line: Many, many conservatives are utterly convinced that tragic deaths of many newspapers, and the near-death experiences of others, are rooted in media bias. The political right/moral majority is saying enough is enough and those subscribers are pulling the plug. I guess that this would also somehow explain the main cause of the current crisis, which is a radical falloff in ad revenue in the WWW age, but we won't go there (along with millions of people reading news for free online).

But for a decade or two, it has been clear the press has all kinds of critics on the left and the right. In terms of religion, click here (if you have lots and lots of free reading time) and check out the classic Freedom Forum document entitled "Bridging the Gap," which offers a left-friendly take on the issue of media bias and religion.

However, here is the link that I really want anti-MSM readers on the right to click. This will take you to a column by the Boston Globe's brilliant conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby entitled, "Liberal bias isn't killing newspapers." He opens with the glee that many conservatives are expressing about the waves of layoffs in newsrooms. Then Jacoby gets down to business:

I wish it were true. I wish the lack of ideological diversity that tends to characterize most major newspapers -- the reflexive support for Democrats, the distaste for religion and the military, the cheerleading for liberal enthusiasms from gun control to gay marriage -- really did explain the industry's present woes. Because then newspaper companies would know what it would take to recover: a reorienting of their editorial views from left to center-right and the recruitment of editors and writers with a more conservative outlook.

But if liberal media bias is the explanation, why are undeniably left-of-center papers like the Globe, The New York Times, and the San Francisco Chronicle attracting more readers than ever when visitors to their websites are taken into account? How does liberal bias explain the shutdown of Denver's more conservative Rocky Mountain News, but not the more liberal Denver Post? How does it explain the collapse of newspapers in lefty enclaves like Seattle and San Francisco? ...

Newspapers are in extremis not because of their political agenda, but because the world around them has been transformed.

Read it all. Think about it. And while you are at it, think about the crucial question that I keep asking: Where will you get your news content, without essential structures of the mainstream press such as the Associated Press and the local newspapers that support it? What do conservative critics offer to replace that public utility of information, the foundation on which blogs, talk radio, newsletters and other forms of advocacy discourse are built?

Photo: Yes, the shirt is real.

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