Wednesday, April 5, 2006

One Man’s Opinion: Illinois Will Never Turn Around Until There’s at Least One Conservative Republican Newspaper

You’ve heard it here before and will again. Join this colloquy and give your views in Reader’s Comments. In the meanwhile, here are some of the most frequently asked questions with my responses:

Why would a newspaper be that important? In an era of New Media, newspapers are old-fashioned. The times are swayed by blogs, talk radio, cable news like Fox.

New Media is a great boon, marvelous improvements in communications but the crown jewel of Old Media is the newspaper. And this isn’t just an old geezer talking. A newspaper that takes the news, analyzes it according to a philosophic perspective and comments on it editorially is indispensable for generation of ideas. It’s an educational device and has been repeated for ages. The modern conservative movement began in this country with Buckley’s National Review which began in 1955. The right at last had a responsible organ that was not goofily libertarian like The American Mercury and Freeman, not crankily dinosaur like a number of smaller sheets, not anti-Semitic-tinged like the American Firsters put out. Buckley made conservatism respectable by setting up a publication that was Burkean, spurred by the late Russell Kirk. It was thoughtful, clever and soon the swamp was drained of the nuts. Conservatives had a publication to hearken to—and nine years later, they captured the Republican party with the nomination of Barry Goldwater. Like it or not, The Weekly Standard is indispensable for promoting thought, albeit neo-conservative thought…and as I’m regarded as a neo type, I guess it suits me. (But the paleos also have a good publication: Chronicles, put out by the Rockford Institute).

But can’t Fox, talk radio with Rush, bloggers and the magazines you mentioned do it alone?

No, of course not. In this age of New Media, where would we be without The Washington Times, the New York Post, the New York Sun? My point is if we ever want to turn Illinois around, we’ve got to encourage a conservative paper here.

Well, what about the Tribune?

Sorry. The same year National Review started, Col. McCormick died. He was a remarkable old stuffed shirt with some crazy ideas, like our taking over Canada, but he had the right ideas about newspapering—that is to make his newspaper an opinionated force for change. After he died, the paper began to slide into an apologetic mode: first becoming ungodly dull, then slowly starting to drain the news staff of writers who held opinions deemed crusty and unconventional, then moving the editorial policy to ones that embraced only tried and accepted establishmentarian ideas. Then along came the man “Jim Bob,” James D. Squires, who had begun with the Nashville Tennessean who wore cowboy boots, had gone to school with Al Gore and had run the Trib’s Washington bureau. Under Squires the paper took a quixotic editorial turn, endorsing of all people God’s angry patriarch of liberalism John B. Anderson for president who got 7 percent nationally, ending up as first an independent candidate for president and lastly as a Democratic lefty, pleasing his long dissatisfied radical wife Keke very much.

Well, how can things be changed?

Both papers are in serious financial trouble. If the Trib goes belly up and has to sell its other papers, it could be acquired. If the Sun-Times which has done a good job for itself in realigning to the left so as to serve the many Democrats in Chicago, doesn’t cut it—and it’s still losing money—it could be acquired. But I rather like the idea of a third paper. If liberal New York can have two—count `em—two conservative papers Republican can’t we have one?

What kind of paper would it be?

First of all, you’d be surprised at how many veteran journalist share the conservative mantra, some retired, some not. These would be people who would make a sacrifice to out-cover and out-perform the two dailies. Second, if the idea were to germinate you’d be amazed at how many entrepreneurs would be engrossed. Do you realize the money that is spent out on many conservative agendas that has been frittered away? Do you realize the frustration from people who don’t see their ideas represented by the Mono-Media? As to what kind of paper I would hope it to be, it should cover the news from City Hall with the same kind of purposeful direction as Fran Spielman imparts—with probably a dash of more graphic realism than what she is allowed to portray: as when we wrote in one news article, truly, that Rahm Emanuel “owes his soul” to Richard M. Daley.

Continue, continue…

The editorial policy would be conservative but, I would hope, not slavishly Republican. The Republican dominance of Congress needs some criticism from the right, the fact that a crusade as it truly was when Newt Gingrich won, had been a cause. Then it became a business. Now to all appearances, it has become for too many a racket, a vehicle to get reelected. I would hope that it would be Burkean (by which I do not refer to the 14th ward’s Eddie) but reflective of Edmund as defined by Russell Kirk. In other words, a policy that sees government performing the good it must do—to defend us, to defend the weak, the unborn—but not an unduly expansive government. I could see it defending Bush on the war (with probably some criticism of our own Don Rumsfeld, a friend, for not sending enough troops), defending Bush’s social policies, criticizing him on his lack of vetoes, his failure to veto McCain-Feingold. Were it operating now, I’d hope it would support what I believe is the correct social view on immigration, the one expressed by David Brooks (and no, I haven’t run down his statistics yet) and Bill Kristol…but I’d sure have Jim Oberweis whom I supported for governor write a sharp dissent.

I would hope it would be proudly for free trade as Jim is. I’d have the best Democrat around, State Rep. Jack Franks, write often about zero-base budgeting. I’d have Ron Gidwitz who espoused it more than anyone else in his creative gubernatorial campaign write about it. I’d have Don Haider, one of the smartest guys I know, from Northwestern, examine reforms. I’d have Paul Green write in his refreshing comedic way about Illinois and Chicago.

But I must stop.

Are these just dreams? Just dreams?

I’m sufficiently familiar with dreams to know that some of them come true. I’d like to start with a few guys—oh, let me violate his privacy for a time, realizing I should have had his permission to give his name…but he’s a good contributor to this blog and a friend as well: a young guy with superb entrepreneurial vision, John Powers. I’d start with him and would buy his lunch at the CAA just to see how his bright mind tackles this problem. As I cannot, as an old retired man, buy all of you lunches, I would ask the rest of you to comment on this. Am I goofy? Can it be done? Your comments respected always at Reader’s Comments.


  1. A paper reflecting conservative values is certainly needed in Chicago. A paper can be conservative without being a slave of the RNC. The Wall Street Journal is good example. It does not hesitate to criticize Bush or Republicans in Congress. The question is -- could Chicago support a third paper? I don't know. What is the market base that would buy a paper based on politics? Good idea though.

  2. I'd love to see a conservative paper, but would it be "openly conservative" or would it be "objective"? Since the Trib and the Bright One pretend to be objective, I fear that the Chicago Conservative Times would be mocked into incredulity. Fox News, while a ratings leader, is called the Faux News in leftie circles while CNN claims to be unbiased.

    I have to stop seeing the dark side of every good idea. Sign me up for a subscription.

  3. Conservative or Liberal, a fledgling Chicago daily would be better off devising ways to generate revenue from internet advertisers and/or subscribers. Aren't the Trib and Sun-Times (as well as the NY Times) already heading in that direction?

    Though I'm not that well read, I was under the impression Burke wrote in support of monarchy. If Burke's vision of government meant defending the weak, he included the crown and the lords and ladies protected by it as amongst the weak. There is validity in that vision.

    If you get a new publication underway, consider the spirit of Tom Paine's work over that of Burke.

  4. One last note....
    Though your ideal is a conservative publication, consider the longevity of Buckley's Firing Line. His guests were from across the political spectrum. Maintain accuracy and minimize feigned objectivity while broadening the appeal of your dreamstage publication by presenting divergent views. (Sounds like your show, Tom.)

    Aside: Since the presidential conventions have become so scripted, I'd like to see genuine political opponents (not like the Dem Senator from Georgia at the GOP's convention or Ron Reagan at the Dem's convention) invited to make speeches. Celebrate political diveristy for an hour: get the GOP to give some prime time to Kennedy or Kucinich and a Green Party speaker; get the Dems to reciprocate with Brownback or Allen or Lindsey Graham, as well as a Green.

  5. Go back and read David Schippers book "Sell Out" and see how the Democrats used Demographic Shift to move important counties from Republican to Democrat. Just look at Nassau County (Long Island) New York, for years it was a Republican bastian but Demographic shift moved it into the Democrat column. Same thing is true in California..... Look at Orange County, once a Republican stronghold, now with Demographic Shift it is Democratic. Same with many of the collar counties.. Dupage is hanging on by a thread. Once it was a Republican powerhouse.... same with Lake County, Kane County..... Demographic shift in each has taken its toll.

    The Democrats know EXACTLY what they are doing! Not only that, Daley and his gang of thugs has been quietly moving into suburban politic. Look at Oak Brook.... It is political structure is now full of Daley Cronies right down to the Police Chief who is Sheehan's brother!

    Once the shift happens, it is hard to put the genie back into the bottle and unless the RINOS run like Judy.... The conservative's day probably is over... the culprit: DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT!

  6. The reason papers continue to contract, not expand, is their readership continues to dwindle and without any research (maybe you (Tom) have a better idea since you have been in the industry and brought this topic up)I cannot remember the last time a successful (local / city) newspaper was established. The USA Today is the only newspaper I recall being started from scratch which is still around today. The Chicago Daily News folded into the Sun Times.

    Your idea will only work if one of the two sell their newspaper (or go belly up and are sold in bankruptcy proceedings). Maybe the Rev. Sun Myung Moon has some spare millions to buy one of the two out.