Study: Conservatives Dominate Op-Ed Pages
This Media Matters report
won't surprise you, but it should infuriate you. They actually contacted almost every daily newspaper in the U.S. on an individual basis to collect the data to show that conservatives are greatly over-represented in the opinion pages. On the plus side, I remember coming of age in the 90s just knowing this was true -- it was obvious -- but back then it seemed like there was hardly anyone willing to say or do anything about it. That, at least, has changed.
Still, the findings are depressing. For instance:
- Sixty percent of the nation's daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists every week than progressive syndicated columnists. Only 20 percent run more progressives than conservatives, while the remaining 20 percent are evenly balanced.
- In a given week, nationally syndicated progressive columnists are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of 125 million. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, are published in newspapers with a combined total circulation of more than 152 million.
The ten-thousand pound gorilla in all this is -- again, no surprise -- George Will, who reaches half of America's newspaper readers, which comes out to slightly more readers than Alien & Sedition reaches in an average millenium.Editor & Publisher reports on the report
; the article interviews Alan Shearer, editorial director of the Washington Post Writers Group, which syndicates Will and other columnists. Shearer suggests that the bias comes about largely because newspapers publishers themselves tend to have conservative leanings. MyDD's Shai Sachs offers a more nuanced analysis
, examining the effects of regional variation and the syndication business -- noting that "the real winner is the Washington Post Writers Group."
Sachs does what a good political analyst should do: rather than complaining about the state of affairs, she asks: "Is there an opportunity for a liberal entrepreneur to step into this space and offer low-cost but popular progressive syndicated columnists?"
This is an excellent question. The syndicates, as Sachs notes, are unimaginative and stagnant, offering the same fare nationwide and ignoring the growing wealth of online voices. This could present an opportunity:
I'd be very interested to see a liberal entrepreneur create a new syndicate to compete with the titans of the syndication industry. Certainly, the raw materials for such a company are in abundance: the progressive blogosphere is well-stocked with a diverse collection of intelligent, articulate writers who can give George Will and Cal Thomas a run for their money. Aside from a chorus of fresh progressive voices, such a syndicate could offer services like localization (helping newspapers identify columnists in their region), integration with social networking sites, and increased writer/reader interaction. No doubt, it would be tough to drum up business, but I think it would be an interesting experiment, and it could help restore balance on op-ed pages.
I can't stress enough how important this kind of thinking is (and, again, how different from the hopeless 90's). One of the most fundamental lessons one learns, studying the conservative movment, is that when a movement is shut out from existing institutions, it must innovate
. This Media Matters report is an opportunity for progressives, not to complain about how unfair the world is, but to develop innovative strategies to get around that unfairness.
Labels: George Will, Media, MediaMatters, MyDD