January 25th, 2013

What happened to the conservative press?

Here’s an interesting question from a commenter at Ace’s:

We have always had a partisan press its just that it use to have two sides. I don’t really know what happened to the conservative side of the press, I suspect the depression and the age of FDR had a lot to do with its disappearance.

It’s true that during the 20th century, and particularly after the 30s, the country has generally become less conservative. I’m not sure about the time frame on the following, but there also has been an increasing tendency for newspapers to see themselves as “objective” and above partisanship, as though they are declaiming from Olympian heights. Preposterous, of course; back in the day, newspapers were quite up-front about their biases and political leanings.

But there is still another answer to that commenter’s question about what happened: journalism school happened, as well as the rise of the young journalist.

Used to be that journalism wasn’t about schooling. Journalists (called “reporters” back then) didn’t even necessarily go to college, much less journalism school. They started young, but at the beginning didn’t have much power or influence at all; they were relegated to lowly tasks. To work one’s way up to becoming a major force at a well-known newspaper took time, and by then the reporter had also done time in the cliched school of hard knocks, which tends to be a lot less compatible with starry-eyed liberalism than j-school is.

Remember those hard-bitten hard-nosed reporters in the green eyeshades? Remember Jimmy Olsen, cub reporter, serving his apprenticeship? Well, that doesn’t seem to be the way it works these days. A great many influential reporters are quite young (‘scuse me, journalists), and their pre-reporter credentials are mainly academic ones. So is it any wonder that conservative journalists are getting more rare? The wonder is that there are any left at all, the profession and the educational system being what it is.

13 Responses to “What happened to the conservative press?”

  1. Sam L. Says:

    Well, I think the question really is, what happened to the journals? Big cities had morning and evening papers. Evening papers likely got killed off by TV evening news. The single paper likely went to the “objective” mode and then moved left.

    My local rag is leftish, and i have concluded I will let my subscription expire when it runs out next month. It’s past time to do so.

  2. Sgt. Mom Says:

    Journalism – sorry, reporting! – was also very much more a blue-collar profession, back in the day, and it is my perception that the working reporters were very much looked down upon as ‘not our kind, darling’. They were rude, crude, drank too much, and hung out with other working-class types… although, I think the ones on the international beat could be dressed up and taken anywhere.

  3. holmes Says:

    On an invidual level, there is more money in being an op-ed star than there is in being a real reporter too. And the systems now in place reward a certain leaning (see Dan Rather’s climb to power). But there’s a governing dynamics problem- not eveyone can be at the top of the pyramid spinning out pyramids, and the product overall worsens.

    I would think there would be a real market for investigative journalism. James O”keefe seems to have found a niche as have some more liberal leaning organizations like Pro Publica.

  4. Marty Says:

    Now, instead of reporting being a working- or middle-class job, reporting is decidedly elitist. Rather than savvy, street-smart people learning the business on the police beat at the old City News Bureau in Chicago, they now go to J-school and come out with master’s degrees, fully indoctrinated with acacdemic leftist BS and no life experience to tell them any different. If they were smart they’d have been lawyers or gone into hard science, but they’re not smart, so they went into Journalism (the real stupid ones go into Education, a related story).

    So these not very bright people suck up all the indoctrination about how the left is the only moral choice, and how important they are, they get a job and find that they are indeed part of a powerful, prestigious guild as long as they follow the rules, which is easy because it’s what they believe, anyway. Don’t criticize a liberal Dem, at least not when it might matter, always give Repubs and conservatives a hard time–that’s the way to get ahead in life and be a force for “good.” Your colleagues and bosses will love you and reward you for it and you’ll feel good about yourself–and your too stupid and complacent to be at all reflective about things like “the role of the press in a free society” or any of that old-fashioned stuff.

    There’s no mystery to it.

  5. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Before WWII, most newspapers were politically biased and advertised that in their names – the Arkansas Democrat, The Arizona Republican, etc.
    During WWII, the nation came together and there was not nearly as much political critcism of governmment. Rationing, price controls, censoring of mail, etc. were all accepted as necessary evils of winning the war.

    When the war was over and television was coming into being there was this idea that the government was not to be criticised too much because, after all, we had won the war. Our Federal government had managed to successfully defend us from our foreign enemies and there was a willingness on both sides to defer to the government. Besides, in those days the big money was being spent on defense, not on social programs. Social Security was just getting started. There was no Medicare, no Education Department, no Federal freeways, etc. Many people deferred to the idea that our government was looking out for our interests, particularly overseas. Democrats and Republicans mainly scrapped over union issues, trade issues, “fair trade” pricing in retail stores, trying to get reclamation projects done out west, and how to build the national freeway system.

    It was the resumption of war in Korea that started some people to question whether our Federal government was always right. The communists embedded in our system saw this as an opening to begin spreading dissatisfaction with our efforts to contain the spread of communism.

    It was the Vietnam War (that actually began with the fall of Dien Bien Phu in 1954) that opened the way for the flowering of the left’s push into academia and journalism. It was Walter Cronkite that demosntrated the power of a prime time TV anchor when he pronounced the war unwinnable after the Tet offensive. It changed the attitude of our country. It was Woodward and Bernstein who demonstrated the power of investigative journalism when they were instrumental in forcing Nixon to resign. That showed the power of the press. It has been pretty much a downward slope toward being totally biased for the MSM since then, even though they continue to claim they are “middle of the road.” It took 59 years, but the left is now extremely well entrenched. Bernie Goldberg, who worked in MSM journalism, says that it is a reinforcing bubble and you have to give homage to the right (actually left) values in order to rise through the ranks.

    And that’s how it happened. Our academics, except in the STEM fields, are nearly all leftists and they produce our journalists and many of our politicians.

    Conservative principles are not self evident to most people. It requires studying history and judging what has worked and what hasn’t. It requires some willingness to understand human nature and why societies succeed or fail. Conservatism is not about feelings as much as it is about realism. Yet feelings are what moves the masses to follow the charismatic leaders. And the MSM is on board with that.

  6. expat Says:


    You probably also have to consider the background of the people who go to Columbia J school. Most are probably upper middle class kids who grew up in a suburban bubble. There is probably not much life experience to counter the received wisdom.

  7. Sefton Says:

    I see this all the time…

    “We’d do much better if it weren’t for a biased (read indoctrinated) media, the MSM”. Then the discussion turns to the J Schools.

    But it is not only the MSM. It is the K-12 educational system, the clergy and Hollywood as well. If you could some how fix the MSM you’d still have the others.

    What they all have in common is a corrupt and politicized higher education system that churns these people out in all directions. Talk about bubbles. Tenured, overfed and underworked. They have plenty of time dream up utopian nightmares and encourage others to share them.

    To me, the obvious counter tactic is to hit at higher education.

    Technology is doing its part. But I am amazed that not every conservative politician in this country is pointing out to the young and their parents how colleges have ripped them off.

    Instead, the competition is for who can extend and forgive college loans fastest. We’ll always lose that one.

    To hit (politicized and bureaucratized) higher education where it is most vulnerable (the exorbitant tuition) exposes its corruption, helps dry up the major source of its funding and begins to turn a new young generation in our direction.

    I am not, of course, arguing against higher education, but instead what it has become since the 60s with the help of the enormous funding it was given on the backs of students with the precise purpose of creating what we have today.

    It is no accident that Hollande in France wanted to hire 60,000 teachers immediately.

    Heck, I’d bet it wouldn’t be hard to prove that enormous tuition has played a large role in stymieing the middle class.

    Colleges are our equivalent of Medieval Monasteries. Where is our Reformation?

    We are missing a great opportunity to turn the young as they realize how they’ve been used by the welfare state.

    The same can be said of African Americans. No one is pointing out to them how the Democrat controlled educational system keeps them down.

    Without using these tactics, conservatives are left to argue against high costs. Therefore, they appear mean. They want to cut programs that everyone just knows are for good of the people.

    We’d won’t get rid of the current MSM, but we should find better political leaders.

  8. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Expat said, “There is probably not much life experience to counter the received wisdom.”

    Yes, and I have to admit that I was pretty much apolitical until I was faced by students against the Vietnam War in 1967. I was 34 years old (not a callow youth) and had no idea there was such anger and passion against the government’s foreign policy. It shook me to the core to be threatened, called vile names, and see such rage in the faces of fellow Americans. It caused me to start looking deeply into history and politics and reasoning out what the issues were.

    Today it bothers me to talk with my daughter’s contemporaries (in their 40s) and realize how little they know of the world and politics other than what they see/read from the MSM. Though well educated and not callow youth, they are mostly low information voters. Fortunately for my sanity, my daughter resisted the brain washing and is a staunch, gun-owning conservative. She’s an anomally in her field of psycho-therapy. It’s pretty much dominated by left leaning people.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    Sefton: actually, we’ve discussed the education problem in many, many other threads. It is indeed a very large one.

  10. neo-neocon Says:

    J.J.: your daughter might be interested in this post.

  11. Sefton Says:

    While I’m pontificating about tactics…

    Talk about ending the Dept of Education or what have you means nothing to the average Joe. All he cares about is getting a big tax refund come the Spring as if he wasn’t just getting his own money back. But those who feed off Joe through the DOE care a lot and fight to the death to keep the DOE bloated military expenditures, farm subsidies, etc. going.

    Me? I as a politician (or better some grass roots organization) would suggest we’re cutting the DOE (or even across the entire budget ) this year and every dollar cut will be placed in refund checks come this Spring.

    Instead, the suggestion is to incentivize the politicians to make cuts. They get more. But there are too few of them now centralized in DC not to be overwhelmed by lobbyists.

    I’d love to see a congressman explain why his constituents (with an emphasis on the Da Little Guy) won’t be getting an extra $500 (or more) in their refund check this year. The whole dynamic is changed. I’d love to see Krugman explain why they shouldn’t.

    People might finally see what the government is costing them and how much is siphoned off by K Street.

    Heck, what can we lose? We’re heading to hell in a hand basket now. At least the enormous amounts of money we’re borrowing and printing might find its way back into the real economy.

    Will this work as a budgeting tactic? Don’t know. Could just be a populist alchemy or lunacy.

    Might not matter if it starts some interesting discussions about priorities, how things really work, and makes many politicians squirm.

    Wasn’t turning tables like this in the plot of some movie the name of which I can’t recall?

  12. Kyndyll Says:

    More than 20 years ago, I was a journalism student at a major university and it was my impression (for what 20-year-old memories from a time when I was a 20-year-old are worth) that the trend toward “active” journalism was kicking into gear. I had gone into journalism idolizing investigative reporters that dug out the truth and war correspondents that put their own lives on the line to bring news to the people. As a teen of the 80s, it never occurred to me to think of the government as a good thing; the government was an impeding force, if not the actual villain, in my world.

    I don’t specifically recall the trend putting a white hat on the government, but what it did do was try to suggest to a generation of reporters that journalism was about making and shaping news, not just reporting the story.

    It offended me. I abandoned a career in journalism and went into the sciences instead. (Although, as a footnote, I found out later how political the sciences were, too. My belief in the sciences as a pure and honest pursuit of truth was naive at best.)

  13. IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States and some Canadian provinces Says:

    Here’s a link to a facebook thread discussing the whole CT-GC-Liberal Bias meme with a journalist named Derek Rose.


    Notable for the following comments:


    THE PUBLIC DOES NOT WANT OBJECTIVITY. Would you really want your TV news read to you by a robot? People want human beings with human emotion bringing them their news. I can’t imagine telling a story of a horrific case of child abuse, say, in an “objective” manner. Or about the Nazi holocaust.

    OBJECTIVITY IS DEAD, and has been for years. The only people who talk about it these days are bias-hunters who accuse the mainstream media of not being “objective.” GUILTY AS CHARGED.


    The Society for Professional Journalists removed “objectivity” from its code of ethics guidelines back in 1996.

    He doesn’t seem to Get It at all that mainstream media STILL SELLS itself as being “objective” to the people.

    Lots fewer are buying it any more, and I’d argue that has A LOT to do with plummeting revenues in the newspaper and magazine fields, as well as lowered viewer numbers on the TV. Only a percentage of the population only wants to hear exactly what they already believe, and it’s not 50% of them. It’s mostly the True Left (about 30%) and the Honestly Whacko Right (about 10-15%).

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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