It’s not the liberal bias, stupid!

By Steve Outing

Egads. It was painful reading through the reader comments on this column by Mike Littwin of the Rocky Mountain News, bemoaning the impending doom of his newspaper. (It seems highly unlikely that there’s a white knight in the Rocky’s future, which means it will probably shut down in early 2009, after 150 years of serving Denver.)

Reader comment threads often bring out the loonies, and the thread on Littwin’s column was full of them blaming the Rocky’s failure on its “liberal bias.” I get the occasional e-mail from someone saying that about newspapers in general, since I write a lot about what ails the newspaper industry; I normally write off such comments as the rantings of someone who doesn’t have a clue about the news business.

(You want liberal bias in your news? Listen to or watch Democracy Now. Want right-wing bias? Watch Fox News.)

But the amount of “it’s the liberal bias that’s killing newspapers” (in a country that just elected its first Democratic black president and Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress) in this comment thread surprised me; Denver is a pretty “blue” city and long has been.

To those who buy the “liberal bias” argument, I say bullshit. Do some research on the industry; read back over columns that I’ve written for Editor & Publisher Online for many years. Newspapers are suffering mightily now because of the catastrophic hit they’re taking in this recession, on top of secular changes in media consumption habits and advertising shifts that have been evolving over the last decade. On the latter, newspaper executives haven’t mustered the will to transform quickly enough to serve the digital generation, and they would have paid the price for that mistake, recession or not. The severity of this economic crisis just speeded up the process — by a lot.

If political bias in media meant anything and was a financial negative, Fox News would be but a (pleasant) memory instead of a major success story.

(Correction: I originally misspelled Mike Littwin’s name; it’s been fixed above.)

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!