Editor's Note

A ROARING FAILURE

How can Republicans have such a terrific product yet have such an awful brand

Posted

I’ll confess that when I moved here back in December, I didn’t expect much of our newspaper of record. I knew that the Times-Union, like every paper everywhere, had fallen victim to shrinking news holes and budgets. I knew that its sister paper, the St. Augustine Record, had recently beclowned itself, first by getting scooped on a major cops-behaving-questionably story in its own backyard, then by bizarrely criticizing The New York Times for doing the scooping. And I knew that both papers were owned by Morris Communications, an outfit that made no bones about its Christian-conservative worldview — and papers run by organizations devoted to right-wing agitprop are seldom worth a damn. I knew as well that the T-U’s editorial page, under former editorial page editor Lloyd Brown, had been proudly to the right of Attila the Hun, raging against opponents of the Iraq war and telling us that slavery wasn’t that big a deal [Cover Story, “Falling Down,” Billee Bussard, Oct. 12, 2004].

So my expectations were low. But I’m happy to say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find a paper that, as frequently as not, punches above its weight, particularly on local issues. The reporting is generally solid. The writing is occasionally good. Editor Frank Denton’s commitment to government transparency is exemplary. And the editorial page, while hardly a bastion of hippiedom, has apparently toned down the crazy.

Complain all you want, but, all in all, you’ve got a pretty decent daily newspaper.

And so I can only imagine the collective groan last week from the T-U’s newsroom when Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan — a former Folio Weekly contributor — reported on Morris’ latest effort to reach The Kids, a “crappy little Tumblr with more right-wing bullshit” (Nolan’s words) called Roar (which stands for the Renaissance of American Responsibility), a “multimedia project of Morris Communications” that will advocate for “individual freedom and responsibility” and “constitutional principles.”

Michael Ryan, Roar’s executive director (as well as the editorial page editor for the Morris-owned Augusta Chronicle, which just this weekend was making the completely sane argument that the Obama administration is trying to flood the country with illegal immigrants to intentionally create a humanitarian crisis, or something), took umbrage with Nolan’s description: “One critic dismissively predicted a ‘right-wing’ site,” he wrote last week. “Why? Because we believe in freedom? Personal responsibility? Property rights? Self-reliance, tempered with old-fashioned compassion and brotherhood?”

Maybe — just a thought — because the site’s very first post opened with this question: “How can Republicans have such a terrific product — freedom, capitalism, limited government, growth and prosperity — and yet have such an awful brand?” (The answer is that Republicans aren’t sufficiently conservative.)

Morris is advertising for a social media manager for the site, though I’d recommend against applying: Mark my words, this little experiment will be relegated to the ash heap of failure by year’s end. In fact, if it does anything, Roar’s exercise in propaganda will only undercut the reputations its parent company’s newspapers have worked so hard to build. If I were at the T-U, I’d be pissed about that.

Tags: Confess, Newspaper, Times-Union, St. Augustine Record, Morris Communications, Frank Denton, Michael Ryan,
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southerncharm01

Dear Mr. Jeffrey C. Billman,

Thank you for your refreshingly honest article. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to involve our teens in the political system. Our students/teens know a few general government facts but, are not aware of important political information/decisions that will control their bitter future. It's imperative that we involve our youth and involve them now. Are you a father Mr. Billman? If so, you are fearing for your child’s livelihood, moral and ethical character and the ugly disgusting social spoon-fed quality of propaganda that will destroy this country. Our founding fathers left the American dream in our hands. What are we leaving in their hands? One screwed up pile of …. If you are a father, you are perfect for the job.

“The dissatisfaction with politics runs deep both here and abroad. People have come to doubt the future of the democratic system and its institutions. They distrust the politicians and have little faith in the future. If the elector suspects the politician of making promises simply to get his vote, he despises him, but if the promises are not forthcoming he may reject him. I believe that parties and elections are about more than rival lists of miscellaneous promises—indeed, if they were not, democracy would scarcely be worth preserving. President Roosevelt's wartime declaration was ‘freedom from want.’ Since then in the Western world there has been a series of measures designed to give greater security. I think it would be true to say that there is no longer a struggle to achieve a basic security. We have a complete new generation whose whole life has been lived against the background of welfare. These developments must have had a great effect on the outlook and approach of our people even if we cannot yet assess it properly. we have far more information about events than ever before and since the advent of television, news is presented much more vividly. It is much more difficult to ignore situations which you have seen on film with your own eyes than if you had merely read about them, perhaps skimming the page rather hurriedly. Television is not merely one extra means of communication, it is a medium which because of the way it presents things is radically influencing the judgments we have to make about events and about people, including politicians. our innate international idealism has received many nasty shocks. Many of our people long to believe that if representatives of all nations get together dispassionately to discuss burning international problems, providence and goodwill will guide them to wise and just conclusions, and peace and international law and order will thereby be secured. But in practice a number of nations vote not according to right or wrong even when it is a clear case to us, but according to their national expediencies. And some of the speeches and propaganda to explain blatant actions would make the angels weep as well as the electorate. All of these things are a partial explanation of the disillusion and disbelief we encounter today. The changes have been tremendous and I am not surprised that the whole system is under cross-examination. I welcome healthy scepticism and questioning. It is our job continually to retest old assumptions and to seek new ideas. But we must not try to find one unalterable answer that will solve all our problems for none can exist. You may know the story of the soldier of fortune who once asked the Sphinx to reveal the divine wisdom of the ages in one sentence, and the Sphinx said ‘Don't expect too much.”~ Margaret Thatcher Wednesday, June 25|Report this

 
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