Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Right-Wing Media Moguls: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Dave Copeland used to work for Dickie Scaife over at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Back in September, he wrote an interesting article about the experience. Early on, he tries to pooh-pooh the idea that Scaife is an evil monster running the paper for purely right-wing ideological reasons, but as we get deeper into the piece, he provides information that undercuts his own defense of Scaife and how he runs the paper:

Critics like to call the Pittsburgh edition of the Trib “a rich man’s plaything,” and perhaps it hurt so much to hear it when I was working there because it was true. Compared to the Greensburg edition of the paper -- and most other newspapers, for that matter -- the Pittsburgh Trib never struck me as a legitimate, for-profit operation. In 2000, I’d heard a rumor that the Pittsburgh edition had recorded a $200,000 profit the year before. That would have been the first profit it had earned since it was formed in 1992. Then again, I suspect a bigger deal would have been made of the profit if it had been true. When the Pittsburgh edition’s Sunday circulation cracked 100,000 for the first time, after all, the feat was recorded with a banner that hung in the lobby for months. Such concerns made me uncertain about the future I had at the paper. Scaife is 72 and -- if he’s not the immortal devil liberals claim -- has no heir apparent to continue financing the paper’s Pittsburgh edition.
Sounds reminiscent of Sun Myung Moon's blowing off a billion on his Washington Times, doesn't it? And Moon is Scaife's ideological twin. Billionaires don't become, much less stay, billionaires by putting long decades and hundreds of millions of dollars into unprofitable business ventures. And media empires have far less tolerance for losses than do most businesses: The Washington Star was shut down in the 1980s by Time Inc. after only about $20 million worth of losses. Yet Moon and Scaife -- and Murdoch (whose News Inc. empire is kept afloat largely by FOX's entertainment division) and Conrad Black (whose own empire crumbled when his fellow investors decided to cut him loose once he was caught with his hands in the till) -- have lost billions and will lose billions more propping up their pet projects. Why? Ideology, of course. And the big irony of it all is that these folks who tout the Free Market and the Invisible Hand spend their time and money setting up expensive sheltered workshops where otherwise-unemployable hacks like Neil Cavuto, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter are given millions to spew their nonsense. By the way, who's reading the Trib's nonsense? Not the people in Pittsburgh, as Copeland notes:
...Though the vast majority of Trib readers live in the suburbs, the paper’s coverage has a city-centric tone, so the two papers [PW notes: the other being the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] chase the same stories and talk to the same sources... Very few people read both newspapers, and despite Cuddy’s hyper-competitive emphasis on beating the P-G, even fewer know when one paper gets a story first. Meanwhile, newspapers everywhere have failed miserably to compete with broadcast outlets and the Internet. The most telling similarity between the P-G and the Trib is that both papers are seeing their subscriber base erode.
Got that? Scaife's reader base is suburban. Meaning white-flighters. Regular Pittsburghers don't read his rag.

Proof positive that the free-market system works. "Conservatism" sells only when it is heavily subsidized.
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