Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Demise Of The Denver Post Has Nada To Do With "Too Much Liberal Content"

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The last gasp of the "Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire" now appears to be only weeks away. A steady stream of news regarding cuts to reporters, editors, photographers, videographers, page designers and  others, now threatens to end the 125 year run of The Denver Post which has won 9 Pulitzer prizes. For those of us who love to get our news and information from  hardcopy, print papers - this is an unmitigated disaster. Especially as the only alternative here in Colorado Springs is the cartoon paper known as The Gazette, which I take to be the print version of "Fox and Friends".

My love of newspapers probably began when,  as a seven or eight -year old,  I'd take out the "Green Sheet" from The Milwaukee Journal and work its various puzzles and games, and read the science articles.  Thenceforth in every place I lived, whether Miami (Herald), New Orleans (States Item and Times Picayune), Barbados (Nation, Advocate News), Baltimore (Sun, Evening Sun), or Colorado, I'd be sure to have the daily paper delivered.

There was something special about opening any of them up in the mornings to read the news, cup of Java at the ready with a few English muffins and avocado - maybe a hard boiled egg and slice of bacon.  But alas, in each locality, retrenchment often followed - usually preceded by losing the 2nd paper of the day . For Milwaukee,  it was the Sentinel (later folded into the Journal to become the Milwaukee Journal -Sentinel). For Miami it was the demise of The Miami News leaving only the Herald, and for Baltimore it was the folding up of the Evening Sun - - the paper that gave the great H.L. Mencken his start.

In the case of The Denver Post, I began to get worried some ten years ago when a number of liberal reporters like Cindy Rodriguez and Michael Booth were rendered redundant.. At that turning point the paper lost many of its liberal readers, and in truth, I cut my subscription down to 5 days a week.  I confess to being less interested in reading the blabber of conservative mouthpieces like Thomas Sowell, or their many clones hailing from assorted "think tanks" like the Hudson Institute, The American Enterprise Institute and others.

Then, in the last two years the Post's proportion of ads increased significantly while the original reporting - whether on the state's health care woes, the environment, higher education or assorted protests, dwindled. At that point I cut my subscription down to 2 days a week, Wednesdays and Sundays, opting to read The Financial Times online the other days.

Now, that appears to have perhaps been what many others did as well, given The Post now has its "marching orders" to cut the original 250 plus staff to 75  by July 1st.  More humiliating, the remaining core staff has had to move out of its original Denver News bldg. in downtown Denver, to a nondescript,  industrial building in Aurora.  

What hastened the paper's demise? The most immediate reason was that it allowed itself to be purchased by a hedge fund (Alden Global Capital of NYC) and thus was answerable to its shareholders.  As their pickings grew ever more slim, they began to demand the paper make severe cuts.  But as we know, nothing of quality ever comes of cuts. As one wry journalist (Jimmy Cozier)  in Barbados once put it  : "So, you're really gonna cut my legs off at the ankles and expect me to challenge competitors in a 5 K?"

For this reason the Post editorial board issued a plea in its April 8 Perspective section:

"Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn't willing to do good journalist here it should sell the Post to owners who will."

True, but please, just leave out Philip Anschutz - who owns the rag known as the COS Gazette.

Then there is liberal gadfly Jon Caldara who wrote "many conservatives can't  hide their delight, at the Post being put on a ventilator."


"It reinforces our view that papers are dying because we consumers want actual balance in reporting and the market is responding."

Ah yes, the market.  As I noted in my book, The Elements of the Corporatocracy, the market  is an abstraction which embraces the dynamics and exchanges in a money culture, consumptive society. Its priorities are not always benign but are faithfully reflected in the movement of speculative  financial markets. In the end it is nothing to base a culture or civilization on. After all. "the market" may be all agog and favor more apps that keep the hoi polloi addicted to their smartphones, or more tawdry electronic trash to fill up homes and storage units.  The market can never be an arbiter of reliable information, and by extension hedge fund ownership of a newspaper can never ensure its survival.

In Caldara's newspaper universe, every piece that attempts to educate the public about climate change, global warming, is "balanced" by a piece that denies it - or attributes it to a "natural cause" like the Sun.   But as I also observed in my chapter on the media corporatocracy, it is a myth to believe left wing or liberal views dominate the press. I cited a 1997 Nation piece, which read:

""The truth is that genuinely left-wing views rarely get a hearing. Norman Solomon had this confirmed while trying to peddle his column, when editors told him 'We've got progressive views covered - we run Anthony Lewis'.  The same Anthony Lewis who has described himself as a 'pro-capitalist, middle of the road tepid centrist', who supported George Bush Sr.'s Gulf  War."

This also explains why  - until the resurgence of robust liberal magazines like ''The New Republic', so many "leftist" authors, writers, journalists (like Greg Palast, Robert Scheer and others) were forced to go to Larry Flynt's Hustler to get their work published   There simply wasn't a place for them in the regular, "vanilla"  mainstream news papers, because corporate boards rejected what they had to offer. (For more on this see Norman Solomon's and Jeff Cohen's text, 'Wizards of Media Oz: Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News')

So I really don't know what planet Caldara inhabits but it's not the one I'm on where The Denver Post is more a centrist alternative to the extreme Right Colorado Springs Gazette.  The only other actual "left" paper, the COS Independent, is a weekly,  not a daily.  It is also of interest to note that, contrary to popular myths, even left blogs are struggling to sustain funding. See e.g.

And wifey informed me last night that even at "liberal" MSNBC there's a push to have more "Never Trumpers" appear than actual liberals.

Caldara and his whining ilk also bemoan the lack of more conservative intellectual material, which kind of shows me he needs a pair of better glasses.  He's obviously missing the op-ed fare from the toadies of the American Enterprise Institute, Hudson Institute, Stanford's Hoover Institute  etc. 

Besides, there isn't any genuine intellectual fare on the conservative side anyway, at least since William F. Buckley died.  As NY Times columnist and Nobel winning economist Paul Krugman has noted in a recent column:

"As others have pointed out, the real problem here is that media organizations are looking for unicorns: serious, honest, conservative intellectuals with real influence. Forty or fifty years ago, such people did exist. But now they don’t. To understand why, let me talk about what I know: the field of economics. This happens to be a field with a relatively strong conservative presence compared to other social sciences, and as far as I can tell even contains considerably more self-identified conservatives/Republicans than hard science. Even so, trying to find influential conservative economic intellectuals is basically a hopeless task, for two reasons.

First, while there are many conservative economists with appointments at top universities, publications in top journals, and so on, they have no influence on conservative policymaking. What the right wants are charlatans and cranks, in (conservative) Greg Mankiw’s famous phrase. If they use actual economists, they use them the way a drunkard uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.
The second problem with conservative economic thought is that even aside from its complete lack of policy influence, it’s in an advanced state of both intellectual and moral decadence – something that has been obvious for a while, but became utterly clear after the 2008 crisis."

And I have certainly given examples of this decadence in critiques of assorted  conservo  economists from time to time, e.g.

The ironic aspect of Caldara's rant is that even he admits in the end it is better to have a Denver Post paper than to be without one, i.e.

"From my point of view battling ever expanding government, we have a better chance slowing it down with a vibrant, even if liberal, paper in town."

He's partly right - but the D. Post still isn't a "liberal paper".   It's a centrist leaning paper - especially if you read its editorials, which features some liberal content - mainly in letters to the editor.

See also:

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