At CPAC 2013, the creation of a new conservative cable news channel, One America News Network, was announced and since has launched. It is owned and operated by Herring Broadcasting, and is a joint project between Herring and The Washington Times. Now I personally have nothing against One America News Network. I have not seen much of their output and cannot comment on its quality.
But the announcement reminded me of my thoughts formulated months earlier on what I believe is wrong with the conservative approach to news.
Remember MarcoPhones? That Breitbart.com ignominy was quickly exposed as absurd, even by fellow members of the Right. The site’s creator, Andrew Breitbart, would never have stood for such nonsense. His mission was to expose the stories and the facts of stories that were being left out by the mainstream media — not to make stories up that advance the narrative you like. That is supposedly our problem with the Left.
Sadly, it is also the exact problem that is beginning to rear its head among conservatives.
Breitbart.com needed to tank Rubio and this seemed like an easy way. I wasn’t trained as a journalist, but disproving this story was hardly difficult. But these are the stories that are going to be run when your first criteria for a journalist is that he toes the line on your political views.
We don’t need conservative journalists. We need good journalists who happen to be conservatives. Margaret Thatcher once famously said, “The facts of life are conservative.” Do conservatives trust that that is true?
If so, their news sites would not emphasize their slant and would not pitch themselves solely to a conservative audience. They would not try to blow unimportant stories into something huge because it happens to fit their narrative. Such things will only get you ignored by the independents and Reagan Democrats we should be converting.
RedState’s Erick Erikson, whose site is, incidentally, a little too biased for my taste, recognizes this. He says, in part:
[M]any conservatives are, instead of working doubly hard to overcome [liberal media] bias, just yelling louder about the same things. The echo in the chamber has gotten so loud it is not well understood outside the echo chamber in the mainstream press and in the public. It translates only as anger and noise, neither of which are conducive to the art of persuasion.
Even PJ Media’s Michael Walsh — who defends citizen journalism on the Right because it at least “provides an alternative to what we have” – admits the following:
Today there remain some websites on the right that I simply do not either believe or trust, and I expect you can figure out which ones those are: they are marked by amateurish writing, shoddy reporting, and misapprehension of facts and circumstances that more experienced hands would instantly grasp. Further, there is something called “news judgment” — what is and what is not a story, which varies from editor to editor but which is vital to any institution, from the New York Times down to the lowliest blog, for it to have any credibility and influence.
Too many conservative news sites and papers lack this news judgment and, thus, lack this credibility and influence. It’s as though some conservatives are afraid to report the facts that the mainstream media gets right along with the ones they are leaving out — afraid that the stories the mainstream media considers important might actually be important, and that fact is why liberals feel the need to skew them.
What can conservatives do to fix this?
Two things. First, sites like Breitbart need to act like Andrew himself. For example, he famously stole the narrative about Anthony Weiner by high-jacking his press conference. Andrew was — and a handful of others like James O’Keefe are — masters of knowing what about the story is important and dropping it in such a way to make it so it cannot be ignored. The narrative must be told and it must be told their way.
Many self-described conservative sites do precisely the opposite. By “yelling louder””about everyone and everything, they justify the disregard with which they are treated by the mainstream media.
Secondly, we need more “conservative” papers that are not labeled as such. Americans are continually found in polls to recognize the liberal slant of the media. They know The New York Times leans left and yet they consider it objective. Why? Because it acts objective. It doesn’t parade its bias for everyone to see. The same goes for The Washington Post, The LA Times, NPR, BBC and on down the list.
There are relatively few examples of this on the Right. The Wall Street Journal and (to a lesser extent) the UK Telegraph are a couple. But no one who isn’t conservative can go to the websites of The Washington Times or The New York Post without thinking that it is right-wing nonobjective reporting.
It’s time conservatives started trusting the facts to speak for themselves a little more. The New York Times and The Washington Post look objective. They sound objective. Conservatives can take it one step further: by being objective.