Saturday, February 28, 2009

Is the Democrat-Gazette Going Conservative?

It is written that the leopard cannot change its spots. Can the Democrat-Gazette change theirs?

The editorial page of the Democrat-Gazette yesterday was great reading. Parts of it, such as the center-piece column by David Brooks, was brilliant writing. The unsigned editorial dissected the hidden hooks in Beebe's spending plan with near surgical precision.

So what gives? Is this the same newspaper that came out against the marriage amendment? The same paper that ran column after column implying that anyone who wanted to act to protect us from a tidal wave of illegal aliens was a racist? Is this the same paper that has been in favor of just about every tax increase that has come down the pike in the last decade?

This was not just a one-day wonder. My friend and I agreed that the paper has appeared to take a right-ward tilt recently. What is behind this? A sincere change of heart? Possibly, but I have a more realistic hypothesis........

Right now, the Democrat-Gazette is in a paper war with a strong regional rival, the Morning News. The Morning News in its various forms sells a lot of papers from Fort Smith to the Missouri line. The Morning News is a traditional newspaper, which is to say, liberal. They are a liberal paper in a very conservative region of the state. Perhaps the Democrat-Gazette has spotted this weakness. The Democrat-Gazette wants to be the dominant paper up here, and maybe they decided that this is what they will have to do to get there. At least for a while.

You may recall that there is a precedent for my hypothesis. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette used to be just the Arkansas Democrat. The rival Gazette was the liberal state-wide newspaper which got all kinds of awards from other liberal news outfits. The Arkansas Democrat took another strategy. They decided to write to appeal to the readers of their state rather than liberal newsmen on the east coast.

The Democrat destroyed them in the circulation wars by hiring a bunch of crusty old populists and conservatives to write their columns. As soon as the war was won and the Democrat absorbed the Democrat-Gazette a strange thing happened. The paper shot left and became the liberal rag that now lines the bottom of bird cages in conservative homes throughout the state.

So is this rightward tilt a change of heart or a tactic to take market share from the now more liberal Morning News in conservative NWA? Time will tell, but regardless, our mission should be to build up a network of conservative alternative media.


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