Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

A bunch of >>FAIRNESS<<-holes

I was doing some reading on the WaPo’s editorial trajectory and turned up this quote from Newsmax:

Although the Washington Post has yet to cover its own metamorphosis, conservatives such as Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., chairman of the Republican Study Committee; Dave Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; and Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund have noticed the change and applaud it.

Congrats kettle, the pot calls you white!

What’s Newsmax’ ideal of fairness?

Regardless of one’s politics, most people want to feel they are being exposed to all sides of an issue. That is one reason Newsmax.com has been so successful. With an average 4 million unique visitors a month, according to Nielsen Online, Newsmax is bigger than many news Web sites, including the Drudge Report. If ranked among the nation’s top 10 newspaper Web sites, Newsmax would rank with leading brands such as The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. It is also one of the few Internet news sites to make a profit. Though it features conservative columnists and news angles that the rest of the media ignore, Newsmax prominently runs stories that are critical of Democrats and Republicans alike.

…So three articles of evidence: (1) their say so; (2) anonymous “unique visitor” numbers; and (3) the odd article critical of Republicans.

What a high and meaningful bar!

Article (2) especially irks me… you constantly hear similar arguments from O’Reilly, Hannity, and Fox more generally, as well as Limbaugh, and Drudge.

The “increased circulation = proof of fairness” argument is used analogously in the article to make a big claim about the WaPo:

The results are beginning to show up in circulation numbers. During the six months ending March 31, circulation has declined by just 1.2 percent, despite the fact that young people prefer reading news online,. During the first three months of the year, circulation Monday through Friday actually rose by 0.7 percent. In contrast, the New York Times, which has continued to pursue a transparently liberal agenda in its news columns, saw its circulation decline by 3.6 percent in the six-month period.

What does “young people” preferring to read news on-line say about the Post in particular? What percentage of “young people” read paper editions of the Post anyway?

The WaPo’s readership is very different from that of the NYT, comparing the two without more data (on the type of subscription holders… on the demographics of readership…) says nothing.

Considering that the subscribership of the WaPo’s print edition is heavily concentrated within the Beltway, and considering who those D.C. based subscribers likely are (people and organizations directly involved in the political establishment), it doesn’t strike me as odd that their demand would be less elastic that of the NYT (whose readership is much more heterogeneous and diffuse).

Stats like these are screens for an irresponsible interpreter’s projections. And it’s not even like they can claim the WaPo has made gains (which would be worth active interpretation from more credible sources).

Basically, there’s no reason to think that the editorial shift has been good for business. Which even if it did, might mitigate (from the perspective of the publishers and share holders), but certainly wouldn’t obviate the WaPo’s seriously damaged credibility.


Not that whether or not news reflects the ideology of those who read it has anything to do with the truth, but even if we were to put truth aside, bias claims using circulation as evidence can only stand up if one completely ignores any data about the preferences and leanings of (a) the actual audience, and (b) the public as a whole.

But ought truth be put aside? To indulge in a reductio ad Hitlerium, from wiki:

Der Angriff (meaning “The Attack” in English) was a newspaper founded in 1927 by the Berlin Gau of the NSDAP.

The circulation in 1927 was around 2,000 copies, in 1936 146,694 copies and in 1944 306,000 copies.


Das Schwarze Korps (German for The Black Corps) was the official newspaper of the Schutzstaffel (SS)…. The first edition appeared on March 6, 1935,[citation needed] with 70,000 copies in print. In November of the same year, publication reached 200,000 and by 1944 had increased to 750,000. The newspaper was published in close co-operation with the SS Secret Service, which had substantial editorial control.


Der Stürmer (literally, “The Stormer;” or more accurately, “The Attacker”) was a weekly Nazi newspaper published by Julius Streicher from 1923 to the end of World War II in 1945, with brief suspensions in circulation due to legal difficulties….

In 1927, it sold about 27,000 copies every week; by 1935, its circulation had reached around 480,000… After the war, Streicher was tried at the Nuremberg trials for crimes against humanity for his role in inciting Germans to exterminate Jews. His publishing activities were a major part of the evidence presented against him. Streicher was found guilty and hanged.

Excellent circulation growth numbers! Putting aside the wrongness of Nazi ideology, one can only marvel at how fair these newspapers must have been…



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