Right-wing media analysts vs. real media analysts on Newsweek's woes

Blog ››› ››› TERRY KREPEL

Right-wingers love to haul out the tired liberal-bias mantra anytime some significant media event happens. So when it was announced that the Washington Post Co. was planning to sell Newsweek, guess how right-wingers reacted?

At NewsBusters, the Media Research Center's Brent Baker claimed that Newsweek "repeatedly showcased their favorite candidate, Barack Obama, on the cover" and asked, "Might such obvious blatant liberal advocacy, which anyone could see in the grocery store checkout line, help explain its decline in fortunes -- in credibility followed by finances?"

He was joined by fellow MRC employee Clay Waters, who complained that a New York Times article on the sale failed to mention "Newsweek's purposeful shift toward liberal opinion over news-gathering."

At Fox News on May 8, contributor Liz Trotta highlighted John Podhoretz's claim that Newsweek is "a liberal journal of opinion masquerading as a news publication," added that "even The Washington Post" called it left-leaning, and posited that Newsweek's strategy of "shoving liberal opinion down [people's] throats" failed because it "colossally ... misjudged what the American public and the American readership is. It's not a bunch of lefties from New York."

Then again, Trotta also thinks that The New York Times has "an evil ... hate-whitey agenda," so her idea of media criticism is a tad skewed.

Which is exactly the problem with such right-wing "analysis." It's a classic embodiment of the aphorism that if the only tool you have is a hammer, you treat every problem as a nail. Of course Trotta and the MRC would blame Newsweek's woes on its supposedly liberal content -- they are political activists whose very existence heavily depends on portraying media outlets like Newsweek as liberal.

Meanwhile, actual media analysts offered actual, insightful analysis of Newsweek. For instance:

  • Slate's Jack Shafer blames the recession-caused drops in ad revenue and generational changes in reading patterns (i.e. people prefer the Internet over newsmagazines).
  • Reuters' Felix Salmon cites the slow demise of print (again, due to the Internet) and content that doesn't stand out from the competition.
  • New York magazine's Chris Rovzar points out that "the entire industry" has been "struggling," also noting that the magazine recently moved into new offices created from "a costly long-term deal struck at the height of the real-estate market."
  • The Big Money's Marion Maneker blamed it on a "fatal misreading" of the Economist magazine model Newsweek's recent redesign was based on.

Notice the difference? The real analysts examined all aspects of the magazine; Trotta and the MRC could see only content that ran afoul of their political agenda.

That blinders-on philosophy does not work in reverse, however. When The Washington Times up for sale last week by its Unification Church-controlled owners, we should have been treated to the MRC and Trotta telling us that its unfortunate situation is due to its right-wing leanings. But we weren't.

Fox News Channel, Media Research Center
Liz Trotta
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