Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Ted Rall Controversy

Orbusmax has posted this "exclusive" investigation into a cartoon drawn by Ted Rall, which was picked up by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's website. According to Mark Trahant (the P-I's editorial editor), the cartoon was never actually published in the newspaper. Trahant says the cartoon made it onto the website because every cartoon that Rall draws is automatically published onto the website via a feed.

After looking at the cartoon and reading what Orbusmax said, I'll agree that the cartoon he's complaining about is entirely tasteless. Furthermore, I think it's not only pointless, but it's pathetic. Is this the best Ted Rall can do? If so, how disappointing.

Editorial cartoonists are known to be provocative at times, but there's no merit to this cartoon. It seems to be an unnecessary and silly attack on our troops over in Iraq. Now, NPI is against the war. We believe it was a mistake to launch this preemptive conflict and we believe we need to leave Iraq quickly.

But while we're against the conflict, we see no reason to disparage our troops. It wasn't their decision to go into Iraq. They're just serving their country - they did volunteer for the military.

A few of them have acted dishonorably, and many of those instances have been well documented by the media. But most are serving with honor and conviction, and they don't deserve this.

Now, that I've said that, I want to make a couple of additional points.

First, it's worth keeping in mind that figures on the right also say and do outrageous things all the time. Ann Coulter's garbage is a perfect example of this (no need for me to repeat it here); and you can't forget about Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reiily, who are both liars and keep on making outrageous, indefensible statements.

I'd like to see more people on the right standing up and agreeing with those of us on the left when we point out something equally outrageous coming from somebody like Coulter or O'Reilly.

Now on to my second point. In his commentary on Rall, Orbusmax wrote the following:
Maybe the P-I is turning a corner and finally realizing what is causing their subscription numbers to plummet. As someone who wants to see a 2-major-newspaper-competition continue, I am hopeful.
Additionally, I saw this today (via Orbusmax) on an Oregon news website:
Eugene's stridently Bush-hating Register-Guard newspaper continues its vicious editorial attacks on the President of the United States and on American covert and military personnel who are engaged in the war on terror. That newspaper is losing readership, which may be the result of its editorial policies.
Assertions that newspapers are losing subscriptions because their editorials don't reflect a conservative stance are entirely ridiculous. I'm getting really, really, really tired of hearing it.

Seattle and Eugene, which are the respective cities served by the Post-Intelligencer and the Register-Guard, are known to be fairly liberal and progressive. These newspapers' circulation numbers are NOT declining because the papers aren't conservative enough. It's a myth. Orbusmax and Oregon News Online publisher Dennis M. Becklin are wrong.

Newspaper circulation is declining across the country: it's a general trend within the industry. Newspaper circulation is declining not because newspapers are not conservative enough, but because they're getting competition from television (to a lesser extent) and the Internet (to a greater extent). And that's not the only reason, either:
Industry analysts pointed to a number of factors continuing to drive down circulation.

For several years, more people, particularly young adults, have turned to the Internet for news. At the same time, newspapers are cutting back on less-profitable circulation.

A 2-year-old federal law against most telephone soliciting is continuing to hurt subscription numbers. As of 2004, the number of new subscribers from telemarketing fell to 30.9 percent, from 39.1 percent in 2002, said the Newspaper Association of America, a trade group.

Publishers are increasingly conservative in reporting circulation figures because of stricter reporting rules and increased caution after a circulation-misstatement scandal a year ago, said John Murray, circulation vice president for the association.

"The price of making a mistake went up dramatically in terms of visibility and notoriety," Murray said.
So there are several good reasons to explain the declining circulation of both the Times and the P-I (as well as the Register-Guard), but one of those reasons is not that newspapers need to change their editorial policies.

Go and read this article (the one I linked to above). You'll see that newspapers across the state and the country are suffering from the same trend. The P-I and the Register-Guard are not in unique situations.

Finally: Orbusmax and Becklin failed to take into account that while newspaper circulation may be declining, total readership is not necessarily declining:
Lee Rozen, who heads production of the P-I's Web site, said an all-time high of 1.7 million unique visitors visited the site in October, yielding a record 28.3 million pages viewed. For the six months ended Sept. 30, page views went up 13 percent, compared with the same period the year before.


In a survey this summer, 12 percent of regular P-I readers said they read it only online, Rozen said.

"I can say we're taking in more money from Internet ads than we're spending on personnel and equipment for the Web site," he said. "It's profitable."
An all time high, eh? The web site is profitable, you say? It seems the P-I's total readership may actually be growing, thanks to its web presence. This information authoritatively debunks the myth propagated by Orbusmax and Becklin. Moving to the right will do absolutely nothing to change circulation; in fact, it will probably just cause the decline to get worse by alienating loyal readers.

The people running both the P-I and the Register-Guard obviously are aware of all of this, but it's important that right wing myths be debunked whenever they are propagated.

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