February 22, 2003

New National Post Column --...

New National Post Column -- The Tabloids Strike Back: A roundabout article in which I comment on the gap between the rhetorical populism of newspaper employees and the practical elitism of their bosses, abetted, IMunHO, by the craft's drive for professionalism ... and from there the discussion shifts to the actual populism of the new free tabloid dailies that are springing up from coast to coast -- earning the scorn of the aforementioned rhetorical populists. Got it?

Maybe I should just say, Tim Blair-style, that the quoted in this story include: Jeff Jarvis, Paul Krugman, Robert McChesney, the Tribune Co. CEO, the publishers of the Philly Metro and Nashville City Paper, newspaper analyst John Morton, and more.

Posted by at February 22, 2003 10:37 AM
Comments

All excellent self-serving sentiments that will mostly remain dutifully ignored across the country where the article was published. (But the same section of the Post did feature rather decent stories on the Maharishi's TM HQ and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ...)

Posted by: marc weisblott at February 22, 2003 03:04 PM

Self-serving? I'm helping launch a newspaper that has little to do with the types I describe, beyond being distributed for free. If anything, I should be charged with being a hypocrite.

Posted by: Matt Welch at February 22, 2003 04:37 PM

Well, exactly. I didn't mean it as an insult, after all ...

Posted by: marc weisblott at February 22, 2003 04:43 PM

So, by "exactly," you're calling me a hypocrite? Damn you, Weisblott!!!!

Posted by: Matt Welch at February 22, 2003 04:51 PM

For the benefit of everyone else, any "out with the old" sentiment is always appreciated ... Toronto has two transit tabloids, two alt-weeklies and two national newspapers, in addition to the local behemoth, yet the sensibility of what the L.A. Examiner promises to be is nowhere to be found at present.

Posted by: marc weisblott at February 22, 2003 04:58 PM

"I didn't mean it as an insult, after all ..."

Ah, but he never does.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at February 22, 2003 05:50 PM

I see the same phenomina in the Arizona Republic, but with a coutervailing factor. The advertising and feature articles are directed almost exclusively at the affluent, but the editorial and news pages have evolved into an instrument of propaganda for Cultural Marxixm.

I can't convince my wife to cancel our subscibtion because of the coupons and features, yet we get all of our news from the Internet and seldon read anything else but the sports page. All of the young people we know who are interested in public affairs are Internet junkies.

The Republic is attracting the affluent with their features, but repeling many of them with the news and editorials. I sense some impending creative destruction.

The lower quintile at the time of Hearst went to rigorous schools and were far more literate than today.

Posted by: George H. Beckwith at February 22, 2003 06:13 PM

It's kind of odd that you would say that ignoring the bottom third of readers does not fit in with the ideal of "afflicting the comfortable", rather than "comforting the afflicted".

Kinda sounds like you think The Poor are better served by bashing the rich (which is easier, and more fun) than supporting the poor.

Hey, is that a nit? Yummy.

Posted by: Angie Schultz at February 23, 2003 07:15 AM

Along with your observations regarding class, the NYT is now $1, which virtually guarantees no working people can buy it.

Pair this with the LAT being forced to LOWER their price to $.25 cents and then----what a surprise---both the LAT AND Daily News raised prices to $.50 on the same day. AntiTrust anyone?

I think the "dumbing up" of the industry has more to do with the huge numbers of people now in the upper middle class than anything else. When the "immigrants" ruled they were the middle class. Things changed after WWII because of the GI Bill, which made a college degree possible for millions. If you read the commentary by the ex-GI's of that era you will see that the professors hated them because they were all lower class. It was the sheer numbers of ex-GIs that won out. And don't forget the success of the union movement, for a time. They got people high wages, until they got so high nobody could afford their output and the jobs went overseas. This job flight has diminished the number of middle to lower end of the middle class population.

Then there is the lack of buying power of the less than upper middle class in a society where a house costs half a mil, movies are $10, football games $100, basketball games $250, and a dinner at a decent low priced place like Norm's is at least $7 plus tip; the "good" places run at least $50 per without drinks. It goes without saying that posh places need posh clientele who need posh places so they don't have to associate with the peasants..

From what I can see of the "free press", the ads are for whores of every conceivable type, clubs that offer a drug culture experience, movies, and restaurtants (lots of very small ads). Then there are the fringe medical quacks (big dicks, bigger tits, and smaller asses), lawyers on the make (trolling for class action suits against Russia, France, and Kinkos), and therapists ditto. None of these appear in the up-scale press. Oh, and the personals (SWF with large breasts and passionate nature seeks financially secure male who likes trips to Vegas, Europe, and the South Seas).

Times have changed, Matt. No more middle and lower class news papers because most business with ad money has priced themselves out of reach; Nordstroms, Bloomies, and Tiffany.

Posted by: Howard Veit at February 23, 2003 09:40 AM

Wouldn't the NY Times say that technology, innovation, and a customer-first attitude are driving it as well? I don't see how those things equate to "populism."

And it doesn't sound like any of those new newspapers you cite are anything but a smart business play, capitalizing on the fact that poor/middle-class people are being under-targeted by newspaper advertising. You offer them as a counterpoint to the profit-minded monopolist dailies, but do you really think they care more about journalism (whether it be "tabloid" or "professional") than they do about profit margins?

Posted by: greg at February 23, 2003 12:01 PM

Greg -- I don't think I said anywhere that the new papers cared more about journalism than profit margins; and in fact, the only one that interests me a great deal journalistically is the Nashville paper, which was something like 98% originally generated, non-wire copy for the first 18 months of its existence. I just find them as an interesting new business model after 40 years of nothing much new happening in the daily newspaper front. And they also strike me as having far more of a customer-first and populist attitude than most major dailies, or the rhetorical populists who work for them. I could be wrong.

Posted by: Matt Welch at February 23, 2003 12:58 PM

> I can't convince my wife to cancel our subscibtion because of the coupons and features, yet we get all of our news from the Internet and seldon read anything else but the sports page.

If you'll pay for a newspaper with a sports section and coupons, that's an incredibly lucrative biz model. If you won't, it probably still makes money. (IIRC, dailys get most of their money from adverts. If the customer price covers less than the material the above reader ignores....)

Posted by: Andy Freeman at February 23, 2003 01:46 PM

sure, they're an interesting business model, but if you're implying something is wrong with traditional journalism in part because it has forsaken interesting journalism for interesting business models (i.e., they're targeting rich people instead of the widest possible audience), then i don't see how the new prole-papers offer any counterargument to that, since they're mostly about interesting business models too. but maybe i read you wrong and you weren't implying what i thought...

as for not much happening on the daily front - what i was trying to get at, without actually citing any specific examples, is that a lot has happened. The Times of today is quite different from the Times of the 1960s, and technology and a focus on the customer have driven the changes. It's just that the customer they chose to focus on happens to be rich (and not necessarily residing in New York).

Posted by: greg at February 23, 2003 04:13 PM

Actually, Toronto's two free transit tabloids merged last year to form "Metro Today" It's nothing but slapdash Reuters rewrite.

Posted by: Sean Kirby at February 23, 2003 05:08 PM

Lower overheads, populist energy, grassroots content, new technology, cheaper distribution... these papers you praise sound like blog wannabes.

Why boil the water without making coffee?

Posted by: henry at February 24, 2003 06:02 AM

I don't usually read the National Post. I did on Saturday and found your article caused me to think. Thanks.

Posted by: Jane Bailey at February 24, 2003 08:36 PM
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ns, that's an incredibly lucrative biz model. If you won't, it probably still makes money. (IIRC, dailys get most of their money from adverts. If the customer price covers less than the material the above reader ignores....)

Posted by: Andy Freeman at February 23, 2003 01:46 PM

sure, they're an interesting business model, but if you'rehe new prole-papers offer any counterargument to that, since they're mostly about interesting business models too. but maybe i read you wrong and you weren't implying what i thought...

as for not much happening on the daily front - what i was trying to get at, without actually citing any specific examples, is that a lot has happened. The Times of today is quite different from the Times of the 1960s, and technology and a focus on the customer have driven the changes. It's just that the customer they chose to focus on happens to be rich (and not necessarily residing in New York).

Posted by: greg at February 23, 2003 04:13 PM

Actually, Toronto's two free transit tabloids merged last year to form "Metro Today" It's nothing but slapdash Reuters rewrite.

Posted by: Sean Kirby at February 23, 2003 05:08 PM

Lower overheads, populist energy, grassroots content, new technology, cheaper distribution... these papers you praise sound like blog wannabes.

Why boil the water without making coffee?

Posted by: henry at February 24, 2003 06:02 AM

I don't usually read the National Post. I did on Saturday and found your article caused me to think. Thanks.

Posted by: Jane Bailey at February 24, 2003 08:36 PM
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