Another day, another canceled subscription

This weekend will be the last time in my life that I read the Raleigh News and Observer dead tree edition. It's been a long and bumpy ride, but I've finally reached the end of the road.

As some of you may know, I love journalism. Not only that, I'm married to a woman who teaches in the UNC School of Journalism, where I myself graduated with an M.A. But there comes a point where you have to vote with your pocketbook, and I've reached mine. I am canceling my N&O subscription ... for the last time.

Up until a few years ago, I had taken delivery of the N&O every day for nearly 20 years. Then one day, in a fit of frustration over the John Locke Foundation's domination as one of their news sources, I canceled my subscription. About six months ago, I resubscribed, convinced by my friend George that it was the patriotic thing to do. He was right, of course, good journalism needs our moral and financial support, which is why I'm still subscribing to the New York Times.

But on Saturday, I came across this fountain of wishful thinking by Marc Rotterman, former Reagan acolyte and minion at the Puppetshow. That was the straw that finally broke this camel's back.

When a paper with all the resources of the McClatchy organization finds itself turning again and again to Art Pope's Five Million Dollar Opinion Factory for local commentary, something is badly out of whack. Whether it's a function of laziness or just bad judgment matters not. I will no longer allow the price of my subscription to be used to help spread the Pope agenda.

I miss the Old Reliable. In fact, I've been missing it ever since the Daniels family sold out years ago. It's sad really.

Best wishes to everyone at the N&O, I hope the organization figures out a way to survive. A bit of original, independent thinking on their editorial pages might be a good place to start.


With the passing of Walter Cronkite

the MSM has another feeding frenzie rating-a-thon. Yet with all this reflection on what a good and honorable journalist he was they still don't get it. The fact is that he was the "most trusted" newsman because he did not have an agenda. (Except for pushing for our removal from Vietnam.)

The slow death of many paper publications is a testament to not only the American conscienousness that supports 'a more perfect Union'. It is also a testament to the effects of a true free-market!

They most certainly don't get it.

If Mr. Cronkite had been broadcasting during the Bush Administration, the right wingers would be wanting to fire bomb his house instead of heap praise on him. He called 'em like he saw 'em, unlike todays so-called news anchors who call 'em like their corporation tells 'em to.

North Carolina. Turning the South Blue!

this posting

Just to let you know: This post is being trumpeted ( by a right-wing blog, McClatchy Watch, which regularly rails against McClatchy. The post is being used as an example of the hypocrisy and inflexibility of the left. I have to say that taken by itself, your entry is pretty shallow. You canceled your subscription because you don't agree with something written on the editorial page? Not a very sophisticated way to approach the marketplace of ideas. If you're fed up with a newspaper because of perceived bias in news coverage -- which is what many on the right are constantly harping about -- I can begin to understand your motivation. But canceling over an op-ed column is just, well, kind of embarrassing. And then to tout an MA in journalism -- well, double embarrassing.

What I find ultimately embarassing is selling the editorial page

of your newspaper to a group that will only discuss one side of the equation, while continuing to ACT as though they are a respectable and even sided information vehicle.

The double embarassing part of what you said? Not taking into consideration that a publication that has a background with being bought by a group that is spewing ideas and commentary of the right wing agenda while that incorrect information is still being bought and paid for by the people of Raleigh and surrounding areas through their subscriptions is untenable.

Touting your ability to understand what the diarist said? Triple embarassing? Your call.

North Carolina. Turning the South Blue!

a reply

So. Let me get this straight. You're upset because the editorial page of your local newspaper ran a one-sided, biased commentary? Commentaries are by their very definition one-sided and biased, and that's what editorial pages are supposed to do -- present opposing views. It's very common for special interest groups/organizations and politicians to write op-ed pieces. Are you saying that you want the Raleigh paper's editorial page to only run stuff you agree with? I don't know the subject of the commentary, and I don't know the person or group responsible for it. What I do know is that the person who wrote the original post, by saying that he canceled his subscription because he disagreed with an op-ed piece, comes across as intolerant and ignorant of the role that an editorial page plays in a community. Conservatives are laughing at and mocking him. As a liberal myself, that disappoints me.

Read the poster's complaint before typing your assumptions

He says

When a paper with all the resources of the McClatchy organization finds itself turning again and again to Art Pope's Five Million Dollar Opinion Factory for local commentary, something is badly out of whack.

This is a long-standing complaint of the McClatchy-owned papers in NC since they were bought by McClatchy.

They've steadily given space to opinion pieces from an ultra-conservative empire in NC while discontinuing syndicated columns and staff writers...without giving the same opinion space to any of the myriad non-ultra-conservative groups in NC.

Get educated about a long-standing topic on this blog, Mr. I've-been-a-member-here-six-hours (links and search tools are available, dontcha know).

Better yet, just don't waste pixels with your pitiful assumptions.


So, let me get this straight:

You have no prior knowledge about the specific special interest group that's referred to here, and how they have saturated the state's newspapers, talk radio and blogosphere with their propaganda, yet you are fully prepared to apologize for them anyway. And you also are "disappointed", because a handful of regulars on an obscure conservative blog on the other side of the country are mocking what was posted here, which somehow represents a potentially dangerous chink in the armor of the liberal ideology that you hold so dear, prompting you to throw a bucket of cold water on such a childishly embarrassing display of unreasonableness.

Whatever would we do without you.

I wish I had your way with words

I can't tell anymore whether people who drop in like this are trolls working to disrupt the conversation, or well-meaning-but-uninformed neophytes really trying to contribute.

I figure that getting George's blessing is enough to satisfy me. He and I have talked about this issue many times, and I've tried really hard to understand where the N&O is coming from, but this shit just doesn't pass the smell test any longer. Between Martinez keeping his column and Puppets serving as "experts" in news stories on a regular basis, I figure the N&O is too far gone to try to salvage. And judging by their financial troubles, I would say I'm not alone in lamenting their decline.

Another well-meaning neophyte here

If the party is private you probably shouldn't advertise. If, on the other hand, the think tank is open to all comers, a Masters Degree in what's going on in your head is a bit intimidating. I get both sides here, and have to say you guys are probably on the same team. I'll also add that James, just like all of us, you probably have more to learn from any newcomer than they do from you.

Thanks for the kind advice

I figure I have a lot to learn from any newcomer, and I always appreciate fresh thinking. That said, I also appreciate it when people take time to look into issues for themselves.

For anyone who's interested, this is the newspaper's first and only response to my original post on the subject.

This is the original post.


The content below is from one of my earlier diaries on this subject. I'm posting it here for Richard Rubin, who I hope will read about Mr. Hood and the business of manufacturing opinions.

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Lance has already given a brief mention to the Public Editor's column in today's News and Observer, but there's a story inside the story that may be worth your while.

First, though, kudos to Ted Vaden for actually looking into this question. I've written him about a handful of bias issues and I fully expected him to blow this one off too. So I was surprised to learn last week that he was actually looking into the story - and I appreciate his effort.

The column itself is surprisingly candid. Vaden takes N&O reporters to task for their over-reliance on John Locke Foundation propaganda, all the while admiring the right wing thing tank for its marketing prowess.

John Hood, the foundation's ever-quotable president, makes no apologies for that and indeed, says one reason for his organization's creation "was to ensure that the public policy discussion includes these conservative views." But he says media manipulation is not part of the plan.

"If your goal is just to get the conservative message out, that will not be effective," he said. "What I try to encourage my staff to do is to provide usefulness and value to journalists seeking to provide balance in coverage of public policy issues."

Media manipulation is not part of the plan? That's rich - and more than a little ridiculous. Media manipulation is the entire plan. Why else would the Puppetmaster be spending millions of dollars each year to drive his propaganda machine? Why else would the creation of every John Locke Foundation "report" start with its foregone conclusions and then find data and evidence to back those conclusions up?

Ted Vaden got one thing dead right. The John Locke Foundation is an opinion manufacturer that is itself a story.

Which raises this question: Why is the right wing think tank such a huge deal in Raleigh, when it's virtually irrelevant at the News and Observer's sister paper in Charlotte? This is a big chunk of the story that Mr. Vaden neglected. And you can see why.

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In case it's not entirely clear, what's playing out here in North Carolina is just a microcosm of the national disgrace that is the mainstream media. Big Media - like Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Corn, Big Bulldozers and Big War - are just another cog in the corporatization of democracy. And because right wing interests are so closely aligned with Big Business interests, you can always count on them having undue influence.

That's what we're up against. And it ain't pretty. In fact, Ted Vaden's opening paragraph nails the problem nicely.

Is the N&O a shill for the right wing? That criticism would surprise a lot of our readers, but it's one being made lately by some folks who see excessive attention to the conservative John Locke Foundation in the pages of The News & Observer. Emphasis added.

The editors at the N&O often say that they get plenty of criticism from right-wing Neanderthals who argue loudly that the paper is nothing but a liberal mouthpiece for that scumbag Bill Clinton. (Yes, they still drag out old Bill.) That's how bad things have gotten. What used to be the political "middle" has slid so far to the right that some people actually consider the N&O to be too liberal. And I can't decide whether to laugh or cry.

You had me at calling out "Big Corn"

Now I can't decide whether to laugh or cry.

But now I get where you're coming from. That helped a lot.

May I suggest tights and a cape?

Working through the maze

After I read Botany of Desire, I moved Corn to the top of my list of alien life forms to watch out for. Corn is WAY smarter than people, from what I can see.

Tights and a cape. Now that's funny ... put it might give me the chance to play out one of my superhero fantasies.

Donald, you've been writing here for a little over six hours

... and I've been writing about the N&O's problems with balance for about three years.

You are apparently unaware that the paper has a long and sad record of prostituting itself to the John Locke Foundation ... not just on its opinion pages, but also by using JLF "experts" as sources for news and political coverage year round.

Indeed, the former ombudsman of the N&O, Ted Vaden, agreed in one of his own columns with my basic premise, noting that the paper relied too heavily on the multi-million dollar opinion manufacturing operation run by Art Pope. Not that it changed anything. Pope still spends his money to crank out op-ed commentary, and the N&O carries all the water he pumps. Maybe you think that's responsible journalism, but I don't.

Stick around and get to know the BlueNC community. One thing you'll find is that the minions of the Art Pope Puppetshow dominate news and editorial coverage in North Carolina to a degree that is both offensive and, in my opinion, dangerous. Another thing you'll find is that I don't spend one second of my life worrying about what conservatives think about me and what I write.

If you actually want to know the facts behind this issue, there's plenty of information waiting for you in the Google machine.

The double edged sword!

For better or worse, my Google machine is set up to self-destruct when confronted with right-wing rhetoric. You almost crashed my computer!


My own balance


After a month to think about your cancellation, here's a reaction.

I don't have any problem boycotting, or I might use the term "not patronizing," businesses whose actions or owners I don't go for. My not patronizing Whole Foods (maybe I won't be totally strict, but haven't been there recently and will lean against shopping there) won't change the CEO's mind, but it might reduce the company's bottom line by a few dollars, and that's fine. I had an aunt long ago who wouldn't buy Pepsi because Nixon's law firm represented them, and that sounded like a good enough reason for me.

The N&O's publication of columnists (and letters to the editor) I disagree with is outweighed by their muckraking. That's my balance.

What really sets me off is those horoscopes, which are indefensible nonsense. But I'm ignoring those, too, in the balance.

Best to you and yours,


I love your aunt

I wish I had your thoughtfulness. I'm a hot head sometimes and go with my gut. I share your sense that both Whole Foods and the N&O are "net positive" in their civic functioning.

On another blog this morning, someone called me to just ignore the postings of a particular person. That was good advice, too.

I suppose we all have different "ignore it" ratios, and I wish I could dial mine down. It's that Virgo.

Good to see you.