Clearing the Fog
in the
War of Words


  logomachy--1. A dispute about words. 2. A dispute carried on in words only; a battle of words.
logomachon--1. One who argues about words. 2. A word warrior.



The bind of the bien pensant MSM

Stanley Kurtz at NRO’s Corner has a couple of notes on the shape of media to come. It may surprise you that he sees the MSM being trapped in a vicious spiral toward greater liberal bias, because of the internal contradictions of capitalism.

According to a Business Week cover story, Kurtz writes, the New York Times
is in a financial downturn. There are a variety of factors at play, but the move away from MSM and toward Internet-based news sources is clearly playing a role. That shift is not entirely driven by ideological issues, but disaffection with the paper’s liberal bias is helping to push erstwhile subscribers toward alternative outlets on the Web. . . .
The Times is now geared toward a national readership among the scattered and largely liberal educated elite. That means the paper lacks the critical mass in any one location–even New York City–to allow for targeted local advertising. The Times gained a lot of subscribers when it went national, but it also lost a huge number of subscribers in New York City. Net readership is still up, but the hit in NYC was a big one, and clearly cut into ad revenues
In other words, as Peggy Noonan puts it, “The MSM rose because it had a monopoly. And it fell because it lost that monopoly”.

This raise the question of why the MSM can't just broaden their appeal by moderating their biases to achieve a more balanced or fairer presentation. It seems that the liberal audience demands the bias (I would say as a daily affirmation of their virtuousness).

In a later post, Kurtz discusses how the dynamics of competing for an audience will affect the paper’s ideological positioning—and that of the MSM in general.
As the public turns to alternative and more conservative outlets, the mainstream media’s audience grows more liberal. . . . the readership of the Times is now much more liberal than it used to be. That puts even more pressure on NYT to keep its news coverage tilting left. In time, the paper may even proudly tout its liberal slant.
The more fully media bias is exposed, the more readers desert MSM, and the more liberal the remaining MSM audience becomes. This is why CBS has not done more to admit its political leanings, or to show regret for its treatment of the bloggers. Those kind of admissions would imply a determination to change. But CBS doesn’t want to change–and can’t change–if it’s going to hold on to its own increasingly liberal audience.
Besides the loss of local readers to the less rigorously liberal NY Sun and Post, the pressures are apparent on the Times’ op-ed page. Safire and Frum are as "conservative" as the paper's readers can tolerate, one at a time; they raised a stink when it was reported that the NYT was looking for a second "conservative" columnist. Over on the tube, liberals hate Fox News not because it doesn't give them their MDR of liberal shibboleths, but because it treats conservatives as part of the family.

Like the Democrat party, the MSM is finding that the audience ideological spectrum is not a smooth curve; it is discontinuous, and that dicontinuity is a trammel that trips anyone trying to stake out a range of the political spectrum. Both the MSM and the party depend on the self-regarding, bien pensant liberal base for their cachet, and they are finding that it is not very tolerant. Too little acknowledgement of conservative viewpoints and concerns, and the conservatives look elsewhere. But give more than token space to conservative ideas, and the liberals stalk out in a huff, muttering about stakes and garlic.



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