A death to be regretted?

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby argues that liberal bias isn’t killing newspapers. Jacoby contends that the dead and dying newspapers are the victim of an obsolete business model.

I think it’s a fair point, but it requires qualification. It would be hard to see how liberalism has hurt the Globe, anyway, which is a great liberal newspaper serving an overwhelmingly liberal community. Yet some newspapers — newspapers not dependent on classified advertising — continue to turn a profit, and one would think their example would be cause for some soul-searching among those who support the cause of the newspaper trade. Even some small local newspapers and their owners (I’m thinking specifically of Forum Communications) seem to have adapted to the current environment and continue to turn a profit.

By the same token, in the automobile industry several manufacturers continue to produce cars that people want and that turn a profit, even if Detroit doesn’t. Unions and related work practices seem to have a lot to do with the difficulties in the case of newspapers as well as automobiles made in Detroit.

Are the death throes of the newspaper industry to be rergretted? I think the answer is affirmative, unless another form arises to take the place of the daily newspaper in gathering and disseminating the news. I have been confident that one will arise, but it really hasn’t happened yet.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune presents an interesting case for Jacoby’s thesis. It is in bankruptcy proceedings that may give it new life. Its liberalism has certainly alienated many readers and former subscribers. Its news and editorial coverage dominate the media in Minnesota, and I think the Star Tribune’s relentless liberalism has had a corrosive effect on the civic life of the state.

I can think of many examples in the area of politics and public policy, where the Star Tribune has never met a tax it didn’t like and where it has been paralyzed by political correctness in the coverage of major stories in its own backyard. Its passing from the scene would in some respects be a blessing, but a blessing that would not be unmixed.


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