The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

25 May 2004

Strings attached

Occasionally the blog of The Dallas Morning News comes up with a zinger. This letter came to editorial writer John Chamless:

While a great many more "liberal thinkers" may be tempted to work for major media outlets, the owners and controllers of those outlets are overwhelmingly conservative. The ownership gets to decide what is covered and how. If they don't like the product, those "liberal" employees may not be around for long.

Rod Dreher (25 May, 6:14 pm) fielded this one:

That's nonsense. I used to work for the NYPost, which of course is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Rupert was way too busy to dictate our coverage. Nobody there ever told me what to write even when I, as a film critic, trashed movies produced by Fox, which Murdoch also owns. In fact, I can't think of a single newspaper I've worked for in which the owners micromanaged coverage. This is a liberal fantasy. I recall Murdoch on one occasion told the editorial board of the Post what to write it was a trade issue with China but that was it. He was hands off and the paper's metro columnists were all pretty liberal.

In the long and occasionally storied history of The Oklahoman, there are instances of exactly just such micromanaging, but E. K. Gaylord was no Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. is monstrously huge; the Oklahoma Publishing Company has seldom owned more than a handful of papers and the occasional broadcast outlet. Murdoch hired people to run the New York Post for him; Gaylord wore the publisher's hat and the editor's eyeshade simultaneously. And so far as I know, and however far to the right his paper positioned itself, E. K. Gaylord was a registered Democrat until the day he died, perhaps a recognition that for much of its existence, Oklahoma was a one-party state. (Son Edward L. Gaylord, who ran the paper for almost three decades after E. K.'s death in 1974, was too.)

Would Opubco ever hire a left-leaning reporter? I'd say it's a safe bet that they have though a writer who was interested in advancing a leftward agenda probably didn't last too long at Fourth and Broadway, and I don't think things have changed much since the paper relocated to the Black Tower.

Posted at 9:55 PM to Political Science Fiction

The coverage of newspapers are less likely to reflect the writers/owners interests as they are to appeal to as many readers as possible. Your paper is in the constant business of trying to stay in the good graces of your readers.

Posted by: bruce at 12:06 PM on 26 May 2004

Of course, since most cities have but a single daily paper these days, there's perhaps less worry about retention then there might be. Still, newspaper circulation in general is stagnant, and no one seems quite sure about what to do to improve the situation, or even if it can be improved.

Posted by: CGHill at 5:52 PM on 26 May 2004

Well, "put the other paper out of business" seemed like a sensible response at the time...

Posted by: McGehee at 8:41 PM on 26 May 2004

And this is not to say that no competition exists anymore. Around here, almost every coin rack with The Oklahoman has a coin rack with The Dallas Morning News beside it, and USA Today and The Wall Street Journal are everywhere. Heck, in some parts of town you can get home delivery of The New York Times, fercrissake.

Still, a paper does better, I think, when it has local competition, and darn few of them do anymore. Everyone knows the Times, because it goes out of its way to sell itself as the Paper of Record; most people outside New York don't know that there are two other major dailies, and their combined circulation exceeds that of the Times by a good 15 or 20 percent.

Posted by: CGHill at 8:55 PM on 26 May 2004