The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Amid a Steaming Heap of Predictable Liberal Snark, Two Important Sentences

Posted on | April 27, 2012 | 38 Comments

Alex Pareene is a writer who has figured out that liberals like reading stories about how evil, stupid and nasty conservatives are. This is obviously the reason why Pareene is willing to sacrifice whatever self-respect he ever had by working for Salon.

Salon is basically the cockroach of Web ‘zines. Begun in the age of dial-up modems, it has survived the dot-com bubble, the rise of blogs and social networking, etc. While it has survived, however, no one can say that Salon has thrived. It spent a dozen years as a Slate wannabe before trying to re-invent itself as a weak imitation of HuffPo or something.

No one knows how much money Salon has lost since 1995, although it was estimated last year that its annual operating loss was $1.5 million. So, cumulative losses by now are probably somewhere between $20 million and a metric buttload.

In 2009, Salon laid off six staffers out of a total editorial staff of about 30. Its marquee bylines nowadays are the execrable Joan Walsh and the keening hysteric Glenn Greenwald. At about the time Arianna was palming off HuffPo to AOL for $315 million and Tina Brown was buying Newsweek for $1, there was some talk of selling Salon to Michael Wolff’s Newser, but negotiations reportedly broke down because nobody could figure out what Salon was worth, if anything.

Having formerly covered himself with infamy at Wonkette and Gawker, Pareene is now playing third banana to Joan and Glenn at the arguably worthless Salon, where today he piled 2,200 words of derision on top of Tucker Carlson’s head. This we might easily ignore, except for two sentences that intrigued me:

“Carlson’s Daily Caller was supposed to be a home for edgy, independent voices and serious, well-reported journalism from a conservative perspective. No one actually wants that — if they did, it would exist, right? — because the online right-wing audience simply wants to be told reassuring and outrageous lies.”

Is this true?

Forget for a moment that this is Alex “Ping Pong Balls” Pareene writing at Salon, mocking conservatives for the sake of mocking conservatives. Leave aside Pareene’s derogatory focus on Carlson, and put out of your mind entirely the question of whether the Daily Caller has lived up to Carlson’s original stated goal of making it the “HuffPo of the Right.” (Having never had a high estimate of HuffPo itself, the idea of reverse-engineering it didn’t seem to me a very lofty ambition.)

What I found intriguing in Pareene’s formulation was the suggestion of a market mismatch problem for conservative journalism. Of course, Pareene utterly ignores the “serious, well-reported journalism” that is produced by a great many outlets, old and new.

Citing a partial list would be somewhat unfair to those omitted, but can anyone deny that, for example, the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal constitutes “serious, well-reported journalism”? To pull another name out of a large hat, the Free Beacon seems to be off to a promising start.

Nevertheless, there remain deficiencies and persistent problems in conservative media that deserve attention:

  • What I call “the Fox Trap” continues to plague conservative thinking about New Media. The regnant idea that conservative journalism’s success begins and ends with a story getting mentioned by Bill O’Reilly or Brett Baier is a dangerous delusion. As I recently explained: “In January of this year, the nightly audience for the three major broadcast networks’ evening news programs averaged a combined 24.2 million viewers (9.3 million for NBC, 8.2 million for ABC, 6.7 million for CBS). By comparison, the highest-rated program for Fox News, ‘The O’Reilly Factor,’ averages less than 3 million viewers nightly.” Simple math demonstrates that an obsessive focus on Fox ignores 7/8ths of the total news market.
  • The tendency in conservative journalism to value punditry over basic reporting is well-documented. As my young friend J.P. Freire has remarked, we need fewer Bill Buckleys and more Robert Novaks.
  • The emerging online news environment tends to encourage sensationalism — the “gotcha” story that will merit a Drudge headline — at the expense of basic, solid beat reporting. This problem is by no means limited to conservative New Media, but given the structural disadvantages imposed by liberal bias in the major media, the relentless pursuit of “gotcha” headlines may be a greater temptation on the Right than the Left. Reporters with this attitude resemble a baseball player who is always “swinging for the fences,” trying to hit a home run, and too often striking out rather than trying to be a good contact hitter, collecting singles and doubles. Good thorough beat coverage will yield its share of front-page “home runs,” but it also generates lots of less attention-getting reporting that is nonetheless important to creating a well-rounded news product.
  • Complacency is conservative journalism’s worst enemy. For some reason, the Right’s celebration of free-market entrepreneurialism persistently falls short in media. It is easier to complain about media bias than to do something about it, and the pioneers of conservative New Media have always found themselves swimming upstream against indifference or outright opposition. Nobody saw the potential of conservative talk radio until Rush Limbaugh showed how it could be done. It took years for Roger Ailes (who first put Limbaugh on TV) to put together Fox News. Matt Drudge started out with a simple e-mail list and no influential sponsors. And the late Andrew Breitbart, whenever someone called him a New Media “mogul,” would roll his eyes and remark that he was almost certainly the world’s poorest “mogul.”

If you ask me how much conservative journalism we need, my answer is one simple word: “More.”

Yet for some reason, the people would write the checks always seem to think we’ve already got enough conservative journalism. Why is it, one wonders, that conservative donors always seem more eager to lavish millions on GOP political campaigns — including doomstruck losers — than on building a stronger online New Media apparatus?

My friend Jimmie Bise Jr. once pointed out that permatanned Florida RINO Charlie Crist raised $4.3 million in a single three-month span of 2009 for what anyone with an IQ above room temperature could see was a doomed senatorial campaign.

Do these dimwit Republican donors have any idea — anything even in the remote proximity of a f–king clue — how much reporting $4.3 million would buy? In case you weren’t paying attention earlier, Salon has persisted for more than 15 years with an estimated annual net loss of $1.5 million, and at one point had about 30 staffers.

So the $4.3 million Republican donors pissed away on Charlie Crist’s worthless Senate campaign might have been enough to run a decent online news/opinion magazine for three years.

The basic math isn’t complicated, people. Look at the expenditures for four Republican presidential campaigns:

Tim Pawlenty ………….. $5.0 million — Quit: Aug. 14, 2011
Herman Cain ………….. $16.2 million — Quit: Dec. 3, 2011
Michele Bachmann …… $9.0 million — Quit: Jan. 4, 2012
Rick Perry ……………… $19.3 million — Quit: Jan. 19, 2012

Four candidates, two of whom quit before the first votes were cast, and two others who quit before the South Carolina primary, who between them raised and spent a total of $49.5 million.

Ask yourself, “How much journalism would $49.5 million buy?”

I’ll give you a rough estimate: Suppose that the average cost of employing one news staffer (including benefits and expenses) was $80,000. For $49.5 million, you could hire a staff of 60 people and employ them for 10 years even if you never collected a dime of revenue from advertising — and have $1.5 million left over, maybe to throw a really rockin’ Christmas party every year.

At a more modest level, a million bucks a year would hire a staff of 12 and leave a cushion of $40,000 for additional expenses (promotions, marketing, fees to freelancers, etc.). And for what was spent on those four GOP primary campaigns, you could fund four such operations for 10 years and still leave $9.5 million laying around.

You, dear reader, probably don’t have access to that kind of money, but obviously somebody does. And there is nothing stopping you from making some contribution to online journalism.

If you found this brief article informative, useful or merely amusing, please hit my tip jar – $10, $25, $50, whatever you think it’s worth. You can also post a link to this article on your Facebook page, or send it via Twitter or e-mail to your friends.

And if you know somebody with $49.5 million to spare . . . 

 




 

 


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Comments

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    I don’t think of Fox as conservative so much as right-of-center moderate. And I’ve seen some instances where if I didn’t know what I was watching I’d assume I’d accidentally turned on MSNBC. That’s the real problem, there’s no such thing as conservative journalism outside of the blogs and talk radio, and lets face it, most of that is punditry, anchored by just enough real journalism to give it weight. A cable news network that would be as conservative as MSNBC is liberal, and with an equal balance of journalism and conservative opinion, is something we might unfortunately never see in our lifetimes. 

  • robertstacymccain

    I think it would be worth more to have two or three conservative assistant news producers at each of the Big Three (ABC, NBC, CBS) than to have another conservative network.

  • http://twitter.com/RangerSG Shawn Gillogly

     Agreed. Fox isn’t nearly as conservative, or even threatening to the establishment, as the Liberal Elite tries to make it out.

  • http://twitter.com/RangerSG Shawn Gillogly

     I don’t argue that either. But the issue is getting into the big 3, which has already demonstrated it’s willing to play double standards on that score. Why else would Stossel get chased off to Fox?

  • BobKenobi

    I would love to see another news outlet that is more “fair and balanced” than Fox. Not that Fox doesn’t have its moments but it would be nice to have a truly conservative network that would not shy away from the stories that need reporting.

  • flicka47

    Wasn’t that Stacy’s point?

    “Real” reporters/journalists are able to report “news” because they are paid to go out there and find it. Unfortunately for us, there’s a real dearth of folks that don’t slant/color their reportage to the liberal tune, even on Fox.

    It’s all well and good for bloggers to try and run down info off the interwebs(Though even that seems harder and harder to do. Just try and find any report/study that you might find mentioned in a news article. If the report isn’t linked there, good luck!) But how many stand a chance of say interviewing even a presidential candidate? Maybe they can take the day off to go see a candidate that has a rally near them, but they can’t by definition go “on the campaign trail” with a candidate…

    Many of the bloggers are just as smart and able as the left-leaning MSM, but they can only do it as an avocation, not a job…there’s no money there. So, right off the bat they have a distinct disadvantage. They don’t have time or money to find the news.

    Wish I had that $49.5 mil for ya Stace…

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Another conservative network? What’s the first one? Oh yeah, you mean Fox. Well, I mean have one that is nothing but conservative, with maybe just a few liberal guests every once in a while, the opposite of MSNBC in other words. If they ran it right, and actually had real journalism in addition to opinion, the ratings would be through the roof.

    Nobody would notice conservatives at the Big Three Networks, because by definition they would be dominated by the liberals. They would just be viewed as tokens, a way for the networks to “prove” they aren’t biased, even though any conservative they had would be so tightly muzzled and put on a tight leash they would be as useful as gelding thoroughbreds for breeding purposes.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    They don’t hate Fox so much because they’re conservative as because Fox tries to give both sides a fair hearing. They think conservatives should always be treated like they are treated by the Big Three Networks and major publications like the New York Times. In other words, like they don’t have a valid opinion about anything worth taking seriously, unless its as an example of racism or some other negative.

  • jwallin

    As opposed to the condescension and obfuscation that’s handed out daily by the MSM?

    Sure.

  • jwallin

    Actually, I don’t even really mind that the MSM has an agenda and leans leftist. I just despise the fact that they lie about it.
    It’s obnoxious and insulting to my intelligence to piss on my shoes and tell me it’s raining.

  • TR

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    You make a good commentary
    in spite of the putrid writer that is or was the central subject.  In fact
    though, it was either you or Dan Riehl who bemoaned (in jealousy or envy) the
    millions that Tucker used to (belatedly) launch his website. 

    So do you want a “Soros” type sugar daddy to front you the $49M or
    what exactly is your point? 

    Rush makes a reported $33M per year, and Beck used to pull in around $20M,
    (O’reilly is slated at around $10M/ year).  This no doubt relates to the
    number of their viewers or listeners and their own resourcefulness.  What
    relationship does this have to the quality of their conservative journalism or
    to the money needed to run a national or statewide campaign?  Your
    observations may be true but add up to one big non sequitur.

    Yes the dollars are big.  I believe that book contracts (for writers like
    you) or  TV, cable or radio contracts tend to power most of the money in
    the field.

    If you took a closer look at even the loser Charlie Christ, you would probably
    see that he promises influence to the rich doners he got the money from. 
    In fact, Trump is one of the few people who knows this trick of how combine
    influence and promise and presto, he is a billionaire. 

    Stacy, here is my word of advice (given at risk of being labeled an advice
    giver and as you know that is a Polonius Crime: “Give every man thy ear but few
    thy voice, take each man’s censure but reserve thy judgement”):  write one easy to read book, call it something
    like “The Vegomatic School of Bloggerism” (based of course on the how
    to get 1 million hits….) then add repeated 2-4 AM infomercials and you too,
    will become, a millionaire.  (You won’t even need an invite from Tabitha,
    you can host your own  School of Bloggerism seminars).

  • TR

    sorry for the leftover format jazz.  Edits in MS word just cant be cleaned well for the comment section.

  • Adobe_Walls

    That is precisely the problem the hypocrisy of insisting that they have no bias. They can say this with a straight face because they believe a liberal slant is unbiased. Just like with globull warming they believe that presenting some but deleting other facts equals truth. In short they believe that are not two sides to any story they report.

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  • http://twitter.com/DaTechGuyblog Peter Ingemi

    Stacy what are the odds that your post and mine would go up the same day?

  • fuh koff

     it worked smitty

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shawny-Lee/100001989148504 Shawny Lee

    Exactly!  Truth in reporting, actual investigative journalism with any kind of integrity would be a good start and leave the political bias and spin out of the equation whether you’re liberal or conservative.  The best way to accomplish that is when Americans unplug their cable and satellite T.V. in protest.  Now you’re talking some REAL money for internet (particularly conservative news sites because we still are a center-right nation and hungry for the truth) journalism if they can live up to the talk and not sell out to highest bidder.  More video news like Glenn Beck is trying to do too.  Whether he’s your cup of tea or not he’s put a lot of real investigative journalism and sourcing into his programs and people are willing to pay for it.   There needs to be an unmistakable contrast, a line drawn between the bias of the mainstream media and the “rest of the story”that Paul Harvey was so famous for.  

  • Adobe_Walls

    Actually they can it’s just a pain in the ass.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shawny-Lee/100001989148504 Shawny Lee

    Well, ok but let’s take for example the coverage for Ron Paul and the election coverage in general.  Both sides have shown bias by omission or just plain outright lies.  Astoundingly, the only ones to expose that were liberal reporters Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow, not the folks at Fox like Chris Wallace.  Now here’s a news video “showing” fraud in my state. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MXGOd6nKdE and I’d pay real money for this kind of reporting because it doesn’t matter who the candidate is, people need to know when and in what way the process is being gamed. 

  • Finrod Felagund

    I’d rather have all of those conservative assistant news producers at one of those three.  Conservatism needs to take over one of the Big Three, and let the other two be as liberal as they want to be.
     

  • K-Bob

    Just use notepad instead, and remember to leave out the carriage returns, except when you want a separation.

    -or-

    1) Compose in Word
    2) Save as text (NOT Word format)
    3) Load into Notepad
    4) Use Replace to get rid of extraneous carriage returns

    -or-

    1) compose right here in the box, saving occasionally to notepad for when the internet chokes on you.

  • K-Bob

    Well done, Stacy.

    I’m amazed Salon and Slate still exist.  I’m guessing Soros money can keep a number of losers afloat.

    I always wonder the same sorts of things as you wrote here, concerning the film industry.  Why in hell can’t a few film backers look at the money Mel Gibson made from a film that drew a massive audience, most of whom are not likely to ever darken a theater door.

    A modern-day John Wayne movie would have an audience that makes money, even though the lefties wouldn’t bother to go see it.

  • TR

    LOL, thank you very much!
    (heh, advice is not always unwanted)

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Don’t you know what kind of people are in charge of the film industry? They can always shore up their profits with a handful of action, horror, and superhero flicks, and the odd sci-fi spectacular or two. That leaves them plenty of room to promote the “socially responsible” artsy-fartsy shit that they call “art”, the purpose of which is to “enlighten” the masses as to the “truth” about “social injustice” and the “craven capitalists” that feed off corruption and misery. The fact that these kind of films rarely make a profit, and a small one what times they do, is irrelevant. The people that go to these films are the elites that come away moved and inspired to work for the change society is hungering for. Then these people go about working for “reform” at all levels of society. Such as in the military. And the government bureaucracies. And the churches.

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  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    First of all, I would rather see a picture of Helen Thomas in full Rule 5 attire than that smarmy jackass.

    Agreed that Salon in general is a waste, and pretty much always has been, although they did have a few decent writers in the early years.  But they never turned the corner on a business model. 

    We shouldn’t even have to talk about a “conservative hard news outlet” or defend Fox News when they are defamed for presenting both sides and leaning right on their opinion show hosts.  The problem isn’t the lack of a conservative paper or network that is economically viable, it’s that every major network and newspaper has progressed from being slightly biased to the left to being whole-hog on board for the hard left of the Democratic Party without so much as a nod or a wink towards objectivity or balance.

    We aren’t going to answer that in the old formats.  It’s just not possible.  But look what happened when Democrats started pushing Romney’s biggest scandal, the dog on the roof story:  conservatives hit back hard on Twitter and blogs with Obama’s own story about eating dog meat.  This is the true Breitbart message and plan:  we beat them in ways they never saw coming, we never just shut up and take their crap.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    It is a mistake to equate the cost of failed political campaigns to the cost of starting up a news organization.  It is the same as the stupid equation, “If we can put a man on the moon, we should be able to do this, that, and the other.”  Apples and oranges.

    The fact is that the people who donate and bundle large amounts for political candidates have ZERO interest in the news business.  They are concerned with who has the actual power.  And only one guy is going to win on each side, so there is always going to be a lot of “wasted” money in contested primary campaigns.  Look at Dean in 2004 for a record amount raised, spent, and wasted early.  Or Phil Gramm, who had raised a then-record $25 million in 1995, who couldn’t make it to New Hampshire.  John Connally also raised a ton of money in 1980 and went nowhere. 

    It’s easy to say in hindsight they couldn’t win – if you just said that about everybody, you’d be right most of the time since only one guy wins the nomination.  But looking back at the people who have been nominated and elected in the past, America has a history of unlikely choices.

    Similarly, it’s not at all surprising that Charlie Crist was able to raise so much money in 2009.  He was the sitting Governor and the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination and general election.  He already had at least the foundations of a national fundraising operation, and lots of GOP donors like to be in on the ground floor of the winner because he will usually remember them fondly.

  • The Wondering Jew

    Alex Pareene may be the biggest idiot of all of the left-wingers in journalism.  He’s an absolute embarrassment.

    And you are certainly right that rich conservatives do not do nearly enough to support conservatives in the media.

  • AnonymousDrivel

    “…Why is it, one wonders, that conservative donors always seem more eager to lavish millions on GOP political campaigns — including doomstruck losers — than on building a stronger online New Media apparatus?”

    While one is wondering, one might consider that this is The Stupid Party we’re talking about. As such one must admit a certain stupidity populating its financiers.

    But I know a reasonable bleg when I see one. Sorry, Ted Cruz of Texas. This round goes to TOM.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Treacher/542957672 Jim Treacher

    Alex Pareene wants to be a writer when she grows up.

    And she’s done the impossible: She’s made Robert Stacy McCain defend Tucker Carlson. ;)

  • Chuck

     Well stated. I really think where the most bang for the buck could be had is in simply pointing out that the leftist “news” industry isn’t in the news business. They’re in the democrat business. The first thing we should all do is banish that insipid term “bias”. These fuckers aren’t biased. They’re team players. They’re an active, functioning component of the democrat party.

  • Chuck

     They don’t have “bias”. They’re on the damn team. They’re part of the democrat party. They’re working for the democrat party. They aren’t in the news business. We need to quit pretending they are.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     Tucker has done some good work lately, and he was good as a replacement for Hannity last night.

  • K-Bob

    Of course I know that.  I spent too many years in “entertainment” to have any trouble knowing that.  It wasn’t my point.

    I want to know why some of the wealthy folks on the right, who, as Stacy points out, have no trouble setting a pile of cash on fire, just to feel like they are “doing something,” …  well, why none of them can’t seem to find a decent film-maker who would do the full Peter Jackson and make movies like Ben Hur once again.

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

     The wealthy folks on the right probably aren’t eager to throw their money down the Hollywood rat hole. There’s insurance, finding the right distributors, the right stars, having to contend with liberal film critics, all the unforeseen circumstances that could arise. And there’s never any guarantee you break even, let alone see a profit. There’s a lot to  contend with. Forty million dollars would be a fairly small budget film. People that make movies depend on investors, they rarely if ever pluck their own money down on such a project beyond initial seed money. And if they did, it would be to say something they felt needed to be said. They’re not going to do that just to make an old-fashioned John Wayne style western.

  • K-Bob

    You left out “dealing with unions,” but that’s actually Stacy’s point in this article, isn’t it? The whole, “hey, this business is not exactly easy, but it’s cheaper than buying a certain-to-flameout candidate.”

    I mean, building a new, “not totally in the bag for Obama” news site is a very risky place to put one’s money. Just like investing in films, show horses, and unproven gold mines. Even so, it would pay far greater returns than access to a potential winner, when in fact, getting *that* guy across the finish line with YOUR donation still held in high-esteem is harder than catching lightning in a bottle. My chances of playing in the NBA are better.

    Think of some poor schmuck who gave Romney a Mil sometime last year. By the time Romney is sworn in, that guy will have to be looked up on a database of donors, just to be able to sit at the big-people’s table at some stupid fundraiser outside of the beltway, let alone get a chance to waltz into the Oval Office for a half-hour of face time.

    Someone should get a few investors together and just put out a film. You don’t even have to use Hollyweird anymore. Film-makers are found on every continent, as well as all of the support contractors, with all of the latest technology. That’s what Barefoot Pete and Mel Drunkson proved, by the way. Give a quality director the money and a good story, and you’ll get product equivalent to the best ever turned out in Hollywood, even if it’s done halfway ’round the world.

  • Liberal Bias

    This is an interesting article. keep up the good work!

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