Mike the Mad Biologist

Atrios makes an interesting observation about the decline in newspaper sales and political trend at major metropolitan dailies:

One of the never-discussed dirty little secrets of the newspaper industry is that many editorial pages in newspapers in major cities lean heavily right, especially relative to their potential local audience, and not just because of their heavy reliance on syndicated wingnuttery. With all the fretting about the death of the newspaper, perhaps it should occur to people that maybe people are tired of reading right wing horseshit.

I remember way back when, PIPA released a study (pdf) which looked at the relationship between someone’s primary source of news and the extent to which they believe in three statements–three false statements:

1) Evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda have been found.

2) Weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

3) World public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq.

And here’s how different consumers fall out:

pipablog

Certain newspapers have very conservative readerships, either due to region or the particular paper (e.g., The Wall Street Journal). Once you factor out those papers, newspaper readers hold views that would make them far less likely to support the Iraq war, and probably more likely to turn against it even if they initially supported the war. So why were (and are) newspapers so hawkish compared to their readers? Seems like a stupid business model to me.

Comments

  1. #1 Joshua
    March 30, 2007

    Yeah, I’m always shocked when I pick up the Boston Metro on the subway and turn to the editorial page. It’s actually a decent enough paper on most issues, but the editorial page is full of nutjobs. There’s a similar bias in the letters that get published. Yet, on the very same page, the “ask a Bostonian” (I don’t know what the feature is actually called.) item always trends more, well, like you’d expect from Boston.

    It strikes me as fundamentally weird that not only do editorial pages trend further right than their readerships but also further right than the rest of the paper.

  2. #2 Matt
    March 30, 2007

    Mike the real question should be this- What the F*** is wrong with our media. All of the statements are KNOWN falsehoods. How can we have a democracy when the populace makes decisions based on falsehoods. This PIPA study should be a giant red flag for every editor out there. Too many career sycophants calling themselves journalists out there.

  3. #3 Edward
    March 30, 2007

    2 points:

    1) Newspapers subscriptions usually don’t pay for the newspapers: It’s the ad revenue (which may depend or circulation, but is paid by corporate interests).

    2) I don’t see a column for e-media. I listen to NPR, but I get more info from places like the BBC web site.

  4. #4 stogoe
    March 30, 2007

    The newspaper isn’t targeted towards readers, it’s targeted towards Advertisers. Companies are huge repositories of wealth, and as such, want a pro-business environment in which to shove forth their product into the zeitgeist.

    The 3 or 4 companies who own American newspapers are also huge repositories of conservative wealth, and as such, are amenable to skewing their paper wealth-ward.

    Readers are only important in as much as they buy what’s advertised. If readers get a little information as well, well that’s too bad, because education and knowledge are anathema to low-information consumption – the gooiest, stickiest, creamiest kind of consumption there is. It’s like the promised land or the holy grail or Bluebeard’s Treasure (RAmen).

  5. #5 SLC
    March 30, 2007

    Re Joshua

    This also applies to the Wall Street Journal which has some of the best reporters in the business. Its editorial policy, on the other hand, is run by whackjobs, who the papers reporters treat with derision.

  6. #6 The Ridger
    March 31, 2007

    When I do a survey like this that doesn’t account for web media and doesn’t have an “other”, I generally say web sites are “print media”. I might call the BBC “NPR/PBS” since that’s who carries it around here.

    Also, a co-worker mentioned to me that the WSJ had a good article on language the other day, and often has good news (in his opinion), but the op-ed pages were “just nuts”.

  7. #7 Connecticut Man1
    April 2, 2007

    I wonder how the viewership of The Daily Show would have done on those 3 false statements? The results, if they were available, would likely epitomize the joke that the SCLM has become. heh

    The only news sources I trust these days? Contdown’s KO and The Daily Show’s John Stewart. They aren’t always 100% correct in their reporting, but it is obvious they aren’t trying to mislead viewers in their coverage. And neither of them seems to shy away from spanking either side of the political debate when it is merited.

  8. #8 Coin
    April 5, 2007

    I’m really, really, really not sure about this, but I’ve gotten the impression that some newspapers– at least the NYT and the Washington Post– have been going out of their way to put right-wing slants into their editorial pages at times to stave off claims of “left-wing bias”. Either they perceive that the facts being reported in the rest of the paper are unusually amenable to left wing arguments and so feel compelled to periodically put lots of right-wing slant into the commentary on the editorial page to “balance”, or they really have bought into this idea that the media is “liberally biased” and are trying to move to the right overall to fix this. Either way, the attacks on how liberal that darned emm ess emm is have never quite seemed to die down no matter how much demonstratable deference the mainstream media gives the right, and it seems as the years of this go on some of the groups thus targeted have just been getting more and more desperate to do whatever they think is necessary to prove how fair and balanced they are…

    But I dunno.

  9. #9 Lois Geller
    December 31, 2008

    I agree with you. The New York Times lost me, as did the Miami Herald, On Guts of a Burglaron
    irritating prospects

  10. #10 bitkisel ürünler
    May 12, 2009

    When I do a survey like this that doesn’t account for web media and doesn’t have an “other”, I generally say web sites are “print media”. I might call the BBC “NPR/PBS” since that’s who carries it around here.

    Also, a co-worker mentioned to me that the WSJ had a good article on language the other day, and often has good news (in his opinion), but the op-ed pages were “just nuts”.