How Much of a Market Is There on the Right for Real Reporting?

Four years ago, Tucker Carlson went before the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and told them that instead of creating more media forums to talk to each other about what a bunch of jerks liberals are, they ought to nurture outlets that actually report news, with a commitment to accuracy. For his trouble he was booed vigorously, and I guess he learned his lesson about what conservatives are interested in, because instead of creating a newsgathering organization he created the Daily Caller. I'm sure it's doing quite well with it's target audience, and I couldn't help but think about Carlson upon seeing that Erick Erickson, proprietor of RedState.com and CNN talking mouth, issued a plea to conservatives to come work for him and actually do journalism. First though, he identified the problem:

I think conservative media is failing to advance ideas and stories. Certainly part of that is because the general media has an ideological bias against conservatives, which makes it harder for the media to take our views seriously. But many conservatives are, instead of working doubly hard to overcome that 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.

You think? It's a bit of a surprise to see this coming from Erickson, who in the past has had, shall we say, a taste for bombast and insults (he called David Souter a "goat-fucking child molester" and Michelle Obama a "Marxist harpy"; see here for more). But hey, people change. I completely understand how somebody can spend some time playing the role of shouting partisan, then decide it really isn't accomplishing much and there might be a better way of accomplishing your ideological goals. Erickson went on:

Educating conservatives is a critical component of our mission. We have never viewed RedState as a site engaged in reporting, but as a site engaged in activism. Though occasionally we do break news, it has not been central to our existence. But, an honest accounting of facts and news is important and mission critical. Consequently, I would like to hire some reporters who can help educate conservative activists — who will not be focused on the outrage du jour, but focused on the daily grind of Washington and how the sausage being ground out in Washington will affect the conservative movement and the nation. Over time, I would like to expand this to covering governmental sausage making in the states too.

Good for him, I suppose, though I'll admit I'm skeptical. There are certainly conservative reporters out there—heck, there are even some real reporters at Fox News—but the question is just how much of an audience there is for what they produce. The problem isn't just that the really successful conservatives are bloviators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, it's that the entire movement seems content to treat their constituents like they're a bunch of idiots who want only to nod their heads and mutter about how Barack Obama is a socialist and liberals are evil.

Consider the recent case of Jeff Sessions' GAO report. The Alabama Republican senator asked the GAO to give him a report on how much Obamacare would add to the deficit if all the spending stayed in, but all the ways to pay for the bill, from cost savings from innovation, to reduced payments to providers, to tax increases, were taken out. The GAO has to respond to these kinds of requests, so it did. And then Sessions went in front of the cameras proclaiming that the GAO says Obamacare will increase the deficit by eleventy bazillion dollars, and one conservative news organization after another (here's an example) picked it up, saying, "See! See! See!" As Steve Benen said, the whole exercise was "roughly the equivalent of the Boston Celtics' coach asking someone on his staff, 'Figure out what our record would be if our opponents' points didn't count.' Then, soon after, the coach called a press conference to declare, 'Good news everyone! We're undefeated! And every game was a shutout!'"

My point is, this is not how serious people who respect their constituents act. But Sessions knew that conservative media outlets would run with his ridiculousness, and they in turn knew that their audiences would eat it up. In the end, the whole thing did nothing but make conservatives a little dumber on the issue of health care. And you know what? They don't care. Oh sure, there are some conservatives who are embarrassed by that kind of thing, but they're the quiet ones, and they're outnumbered.

And that's what Erick Erickson will be confronting if he really wants to hire real reporters to do real reporting: there just aren't enough people on his side who want it.

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