01/25/2006: Apropos the "Conservative Appeal"
Over at The Flypaper Theory, The Pesky Fly (himself a practicing Memphis journalist, though not with the Commercial Appeal) makes this perceptive comment:
The CA: Is the CA Rightist in tone and content? Not really; they did endorse John Kerry, after all. The fact is it's neither liberal, or Rightist. It's corporate, and as such it creates its own politics. Let's not forget which big radio group gave Air America its first big break: Clear Channel. And the company was honest about both their conservative politics and their reasons for picking up Air America: They are in the business of selling radio, and if there was a serious market devoted to German Toilet Tasting by golly, there would be a Clear Channel station devoted to German Toilet Tasting. Corporate Newspapers are still profit cows by any sane standard of private ownership, but now they are reared up to feed Wall Street, and that's a hungry beast. Everything that can be done to reduce cost is being done to wrench out every last drop of revenue--which, discounting product degredation--isn't necessarily a bad thing altogether. But these are all reactive, and temporary measures that do nothing to address the real problem:readership.
Readership is falling, and thanks to the new electronic media revenue models are changing--and nobody really knows into what. With TiVo etc. Broadcast media is feeling the first serious twinges of the same affliction as the model determining the cost and results of advertising goes in and out of focus. What we're seeing from the CA, with its constant reinvention, and frequent shifts in attitude is a newsprint answer to the Bill Dance Hour: lots and lots of good fishing.
Soon, I suspect, there will be no Commercial Appeal, but rather a series of targeted journals: the triumph of the Appeal sections. This, I believe, has been part of the paper's agenda since instituting the Neighbors section 10-years ago. The Suburban Journals, CA Publisher Joseph Pepe's last gig, functioned like this. They were also a free paper, and if the daily is to survive they will eventually have to go with this model. But it will be interesting to see--when there are many appeals--how the news is framed in Midtown vs. how it's framed in Germantown.
Len on 01.25.06 @ 08:20 AM CST