Liberal newspapers hurtling toward extinction

British scientist Charles Darwin showed 150 years ago that creatures failing to adapt to changes around them become extinct. The Darwinian maxim also pertains to newspapers.

pile of newspapersWe all know the multi-year story about the mass migration of readers and advertisers away from daily newspapers. Newspaper executives and editorial boards flirt with extinction when they misjudge the reasons readers desert them.

Too many newspaper executives want to sing the song blaming their arch-enemy, the Internet media, for the loss of readers and the decline of ad revenues. No question, that’s a big factor. But while there is truth in that song, there is a deeper truth: People are not, and have not, been getting what they want from newspapers. When people don’t get what they want, under the immutable Law of Supply and Demand, they go elsewhere. The Internet is merely supplying what disgruntled newspaper readers are demanding but not getting.

Many of those migrating readers are, for lack of a more precise word, “conservative.” I believe that at least 50 percent of readers in Florida fall somewhere between light conservative to deep conservative. That’s because this state is right of center in its citizens’ political beliefs.

Here’s what mainstream news execs need to know about what most conservative readers believe about most newspapers:

  • A liberal bias creeps into the selection of stories covered by reporters and editorial writers. They seek topics that fit their personal biases, and avoid stories that don’t.
  • Writers are often as much subjective as they are objective. They want the reader to accept their beliefs.
  • Every newsworthy story offers a variety of “takes” or “approaches” that can be selected by the writer. Many news writers tilt or slant their “take” on a story to suit their personal worldview. Too often, those worldviews reflect a liberal bias. Liberals don’t “think” as much as they “feel.”
  • Conservatives believe most newspaper editorial positions serve collectively as boosterism for the leftist worldview. Newspapers highlight or promote a way of life, and opinions, that disagree with the views of roughly half the population.
  • Newspapers keep stale news on the front page if it boosts their political and social worldview. Editors, perhaps subconsciously, sometimes move what should be back-page news toward the front pages for the same reason.

I have long believed that the media’s biggest untapped audience for new readers and viewers is the estranged conservative: the person who values private solutions over government solutions; less government intervention; capitalism over collectivism and state-ism; traditional culture over New-Age culture; responsibilities staying abreast with rights; and family values over “Hollywood” values.

Let’s not leave out broadcasters. Darwin said it is not the strongest that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change. And yet, most newspapers and broadcasters are unwilling to change to attract conservatives.

It’s partly because newspapers and TV have failed to adapt that BIZPAC Review was born and flourishes.

In South Florida, The Palm Beach Post personifies rotten journalistic behavior and is the champion of biased spin. The Sun Sentinel is a better newspaper, which is one reason it now sports higher circulation than both the Miami Herald and The Post, and why it is profitable.

In the struggle for survival, I predict that if newspapers and broadcast media would adopt balanced and unbiased editorial approaches, truly require a factual basis for opinions based on the weight of evidence, stop eternally championing consumers over business and quit presenting opinions as facts, they would see dramatic gains in new readers and viewers. But don’t hold your breath.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company.

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