The Echo Chamber Loses an Echo

As we have noted many times over the years, the editorial board of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has been one of the few institutions in America more consistently left-wing than the New York Times and perhaps, even, MoveOn.org. This cutting-edge leftism has been carried out for the last 15 years under the leadership of Susan Albright, who was let go by the paper yesterday:

The editor who oversees the Star Tribune’s institutional voice will leave the newspaper because of philosophical differences with the publisher, who favors a deeper focus on editorials about local rather than international issues, the paper said Wednesday.
Publisher Chris Harte said the change was necessary to steer the paper’s editorial and opinion pages toward more local topics at a time when opinions about things outside Minnesota are easy to come by.

The Star Tribune changed hands, again, some months ago, and the new owners are trying to make some money. I don’t know whether they are any less liberal than Albright and her cohorts on the Strib’s editorial board; likely they are not. But the economics of the newspaper business do not reward me-tooism in regional newspapers. Leftism is freely available on the internet; readers who want goofy commentary from the New York Times editorial board, Frank Rich, et al., can get the real thing on the web. Regional papers like the Strib need to add value, and their best opportunity to do so is in local news, sports and weather coverage:

“I believe the role of a metro newspaper is changing radically and rapidly in a world of instant global access to information,” Harte wrote in a memo to staff. “I see the need for our editorial pages, like the rest of the newspaper, to concentrate more heavily than ever on local, state and regional issues.”
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“The push is on all of us right now: local, local, local,” Labbe said, adding that it’s easy for an editor to find opinion pieces about international topics, but, because editorials are always done in-house, they can’t be replaced by a wire service.

Would things have turned out differently if the Strib had had a conservative editorial board? In that event, the paper might have presented a real alternative to the mind-numbing liberalism that prevails on TV network news, network entertainment shows like “The View,” the prime time lineup of all the TV networks, the major national newspapers (with the partial exception of the Wall Street Journal), essentially all Hollywood movies that deal with political topics, and most other mass media outlets.
In the end, though, it may not have made any difference. Newspapers are like many other markets that have gone national. Local and regional competitors must either become one of the national players, or find a local niche that the national outlets aren’t filling, or go out of business. Economics, not ideology, dictated that the Star Tribune stop pontificating about Iraq and the federal budget. The paper will still take a left-wing line, but for the foreseeable future, it will focus on local and regional issues.
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