The recent, and sad news that LA Times trans-sexual sports reporter Mike Penner aka “Christine Daniels” was found dead at home at the age of 52 cements the transition of the LA Times from popular, metropolitan daily newspaper to a specialized, “Stuff White People Like” (ala the book and blog by Christian Lander) daily appealing to relatively few while having mainstream costs. What is likely to happen is that the LA Times model of high costs but “select” readership will fail, spectacularly, the transformation of the Wall Street Journal become Rupert Murdoch’s costly mistake, and the Financial Times remain the model for daily newspapers: tightly focused on premium content subscribers will pay for (because they cannot get it anywhere else).
As a long-time LA Times reader, it was a difficult decision to cancel the subscription. But, the failure of the paper to deliver, well, news, made the decision easier. Gone were mainstream, middle class, middle of the road columnists such as Jim Murray, Jack Smith, and Scott Ostler, dead, retired, or moved on. Gone too was any desire to even approximate news reporting (instead of propaganda and news suppression), with story after story being broken by local bloggers such as Luke Ford (LA Mayor Tony Villaraigosa’s affair with a Telemundo reporter covering him) or Mayor Sam’s Sister City (the various goings on in LA council districts). But the deciding factor was the sports page.
Penner’s story, and the paper’s promotion of it, became a freak-show instead of a refuge from daily life. Sports are supposed to be about entertainment, rather than the Oprah-Jerry Springer circus that infest daytime TV talk shows. With the LA Times being unable to fathom the tradition, customs, and respect of the sports world, the transition was complete. Into a new, politically correct paper that won the approval of gay and women’s groups, but left male sports readers cold. Sure Jim Murray could write about Howard Jones (the USC football coach not the 80’s pop singer), or Ben Hogan, or Red Sanders, long-dead but not forgotten sportsmen who shaped the modern sports world (but were politically incorrect, being dead straight White males). Though long-dead, they formed the tradition of sports which being mostly a male section of the paper, was important. But the paper had other things on its mind, most principally being a politically correct, three ring circus (frankly, exploiting Penner/Daniels), guaranteed to win the plaudits of people who did not read the paper anyway, and alienate the White middle of the road, middle class that did.
The LAT is planning another 40 layoffs according to Deadline Hollywood Daily‘s Nikki Finke. The Washington Post will close it’s LA bureau entirely by Dec. 31st. The problem is that there is not enough “Stuff White Like” to make a daily newspaper profitable. Particularly when the paper refuses to cover notable stories and retains a high cost structure. Daily Kos and the Huffington Post probably don’t make money, but they probably don’t lose much either and their backers make their political statements on the cheap. Much of their contributions come in for free, and their only real cost is likely server space and bandwidth charges at their hosting company.
The LA Times is sitting (according to Mayor Sam’s Sister City) on the brewing scandal with Mark Ridley-Thomas, with ties to SEIU and perhaps, ACORN (if it is true he is being questioned by Federal Prosecutors). The LA Times has not covered the ACORN story, other than to take at face value the ridiculous claims (proved false by Breitbart’s release of damning video) that the duo of James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles (posing as pimp and prostitute) were turned away from LA ACORN offices (they were not, with the spokeswoman herself offering to help with the importation of child prostitutes). The LA Times has still not released the tape of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama attending the Rashid Khalidi going-away banquet (their conduct must therefore be truly appalling). There has been little coverage of the dramatic fall in LA Port traffic, or the business flight from LA under Mayor Tony Villaraigosa’s “progressive” agenda. It is no wonder then, that the paper is bankruptcy proceedings (and has consistently failed to make money for years, even before parent Tribune Company’s highly leveraged purchase).
The lesson is simple. There just aren’t enough SWPL in the LA Basin to make the LA Times profitable, and the reporters and editors are incapable of producing anything approaching a mainstream, middle class appealing newspaper.
The Wall Street Journal, purchased by Rupert Murdoch in 2007, is likely to also fail. For much the same reasons. Murdoch, has long been rumored to be a potential buyer for the New York Times though some predict he will instead buy the New York Daily News. The New York Times, as the “nation’s newspaper” (the standard setter for all other newspapers even if the broad public does not read it outside New York), has served as a (failing) model for most other newspapers, and Murdoch seems intent on making the Wall Street Journal into a national competitor for the Times.
To the detriment, I might add, of the Wall Street Journal’s reporting and coverage of events.
This move to compete with the New York Times in it’s own SWPL image, is consistent with Murdoch’s inevitably failed strategy to de-list itself from Google Search and ally itself with Microsoft. The Wall Street Journal, as part of that strategy, has tried to remake itself in the New York Times image. With many SWPL sections on fashion, “colorful” doings in Third World hell-holes, and movie and entertainment sections that crowd out serious business news. The “lifestyle” sections and other content are clearly aimed at the terminally politically correct crowd that reads the New York Times and is terrified of being caught out in an politically incorrect thought or word. The coverage of Barack Obama by reporters and editors is nearly indistinguishable from the worshipful, rainbows and unicorns from his ass, tone found in other newspapers. Mark Morford’s column from the San Francisco Chronicle about Obama being a “lightworker” and “spiritually enlightened being” would not be out of place in many articles about Obama in the Wall Street Journal. To be fair, the editorial page is still mostly conservative (though appalling on immigration). But the daily tone and content of the Wall Street Journal’s reporting crowds out the otherwise excellent business news for fluff and Politically Correct Dogma.
One of the worst offenders is Joe Morgenstern. A frequent movie commentator on NPR (which says something right there), Morgenstern is an admirer of Dogma 95 and has devoted both columns and NPR spots touting it. Basically, Dogma 95 (a set of rules drawn up by Lars Von Trier [Dogville, Breaking the Waves] and others) specifies a lot of joy-draining dictates: no artificial lighting, jump cuts, make up for actors, action, stunts, special effects, sound tracks, or anything else that makes films exciting and fun instead of a misery-inducing bore-fest. In other words, SWPL central, for a film devoid of enjoyment but filled with status (that you’ve seen it and endured it). SCTV famously parodied this sort of Bergman-esque idiocy in “Whispers of the Wolf”:
Here is a sample of Morgenstern’s latest reviews.
The problem with Murdoch’s hope of creating a pay-wall for content (which the New York Times tried and found created a great loss in traffic) is that it is only successful for specialized content a few customers are willing to pay for. Business News, which used to make the Wall Street Journal’s core content, is one such specialized content. The Wall Street Journal’s daily circulation is now 2.1 million, only recently surpassing USA Today’s circulation (the latter losing free copies in hotels and travel spots). This compares to the New York Times circulation of 928,ooo daily. However, the desire to create a mass market newspaper is doomed. Despite gains in circulation, the Wall Street Journal faces the same problem all newspapers face: the people who create it have a huge chasm in terms of attitudes and beliefs from the mass-market. The film “Up” had according to Box Office Mojo, a box office revenue of $293 million. The animated film “Monsters Vs. Aliens” had $198 million in revenue. Both are miles away from the bleak, unhappy “the Road” with it’s SWPL status mongering misery. As commentator Bernard Goldberg noted, the media elite looks down up and hates, really, those people who eat at Red Lobster. But most of America, the potential customers for a mass-market, truly “national” newspaper, would think a meal at Red Lobster a fine affair. Rather than the elite’s dream, of eating at Thomas Keller’s “French Laundry” or Momufuku, which the Wall Street Journal celebrates, appeals only to the terminally status-mongering trendy.
Murdoch could scour the planet, and not find enough reporters and editors who have even a nodding acquaintance with tastes, morals, values, and desires of the average American. Hollywood also has this problem and outside Pixar and Dreamworks Animation, has not been able to consistently make films that people enjoy and pay money for. Murdoch aims to make money. So far, he’s been successful with lots of leverage (debt) in risky ventures like the Fox Network, and Satellite TV, most aimed squarely at the middle class. Murdoch accurately senses the gap between the regional dailies, and the “national” newspapers the New York Times and Washington Post, and the desire for most people still to have a newspaper in the morning at breakfast. However, the Wall Street Journal at best can produce a paper with business news and lifestyle features aimed at the business class and those interested in business news (and willing to pay a premium for it). Unlike Fox Network in the mid 1980’s, he faces little growth opportunities, because he has no one to execute a mass-market strategy. Worse, his likely successor as CEO, son Lachlan Murdoch, has no ability whatsoever to understand middle class life. While Murdoch was well-off, his upbringing in traditional Australia in the 1930’s and 1940’s giving him an entirely different perspective than his son raised from birth in celebrity and massive, modern wealth.
Which leads to the Financial Times. With a of only 432,000 internationally, the paper is much smaller in reach, compared to either the Journal or New York Times. However, it focuses mostly on financial news, and to a much greater extent than the Wall Street Journal, on international finance. While editorially the paper is appalling, signing on to every lunatic idea from global warming to the International Criminal Court, the news content is quite good, focused on business reporting. Unlike the Journal, the coverage of US economic policy has been quite critical, though again the editorial positions of the two respective papers are as reversed, mirror images of each other.
With the Financial Times available online as well as in various major US cities, it stands to pick up potential business customers wanting business news and not another copy of the New York Times SWPL manual. Coverage of the purchase by India’s Central Bank of 200 tons of gold (equivalent to $6.7 billion), selling dollars to buy gold, has been excellent, as has the coverage of the US Mint’s suspension of gold coin sales. Indeed the “gold section” at the Financial Times is better, more specialized coverage than what you will find in the Journal. The Financial Times has also covered the Dubai shock in more depth than the Wall Street Journal.
The FT will never become of course, a mass-market newspaper. But it is likely to sustain itself in moderate profitability in reporting business news. Because its relatively small global readership will still pay a premium for solid, business reporting and analysis.
The Journal is likely to prove an expensive, and given Murdoch’s News Corp. deep pockets, slow-motion failure. In aping the failed New York Times, which has lost money consistently for a good many years, Murdoch can make the SWPL elite happy, but not investors. Because despite the media power and considerable wealth the SWPL crowd enjoy, their numbers are slim, and further thinned by the recession.
The LA Times is the most abject failure, and the easiest to see. Quite likely it will soon be an online only “publication” like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Competing for the same page views as Daily Kos and the Huffington Post, at much higher costs.
The new “morning newspaper” is sadly, going to be online only. A new venture by someone like Breitbart, or another entreprenuer, who understands middle class values and desires, and meets them with an informative, fun, and news-filled site. America will miss the feel and pleasure of a printed newspaper, but not the SWPL PC enforcers that turned the sad journey of one individual into a public spectacle, and cheapened the relief of the sports pages from the hectoring tone of the PC enforcers.