Two columnists, prompted by the same sensational story, reflect on the newspaper industry.
Anchorman,* at The Daily Caller:
I’ve written often in these columns about the stifling and paralyzing effects of political correctness on our culture. Political correctness is a deceit. It is a lie. It is an Orwellian form of propaganda. It is censorship. . . .A few days later, Jonah Goldberg (in a newsletter—no direct link) on the Washington Post's staid coverage of the Wone case:
And so it is, with much of the coverage of two recent murder cases in Washington, D.C.—the murder of D.C. school principal, Brian Betts, and that of a promising young attorney, Robert Wone. They are arguably two of the richest mother lodes of both tabloid titillation and murder mystery in Washington, since Chandra Levy turned up missing. But so much of the reporting of these cases fails to uncover the real hidden truths. Most reporters are sticking to a non-controversial script. Why? Because homosexuality is involved.
For generations, newspapers were such a profitable business, it's like they forgot they were businesses at all. It's not that they forgot they were providing a service, but they saw themselves as providing a "public service." This high-minded goal got so high-minded, the keepers of the craft seem to have lost sight of the very public they're supposed to be serving. It's hard to think of many businesses that have strayed so far from their customers. . . .*Anchorman is "a well-known news anchor from a top-10, big-city station. The Daily Caller has elected to redact his identity to protect his anonymity."
With the obvious exceptions of the New York Post and, to a lesser extent, the Daily News, it's not clear that any of the major American newspapers care that much about making their newspapers fun to read. . . .
I'm not just talking about political correctness or media bias -- though Lord knows I could be -- I'm talking about making things interesting for the reader. Mark Steyn has made similar observations more than a few times.
So let's get back to Wone. I'll admit, this might not be the best example, because the Washington Post is a family newspaper and this is a story that's hard to tell in PG-rated terms. But this is also a story that lots of people living in Washington, D.C., can't stop talking about. If this had happened in the New York Post's backyard -- or in London! -- the story would be a huge national sensation.
I hope I'm not telling anybody something they don't know, but people are interested in sex. They're also interested in murder. They're also interested in cover-ups. And, while I have less evidence to back this up, I suspect they're also interested in strange, alternatively structured "families" involved in murder mysteries that are festooned with sex-dungeon props.
And yet the Washington Post has been covering the story of Robert Wone's murder as if it were an ag-bill mark-up. I want to be fair: The coverage has been adequate in the journalism-school sense. The who, what, when, where, and whys have been addressed, if not exhaustively, then at least professionally. But in no sense has the Washington Post covered this bizarre story in a manner you'd expect from a business trying to sell newspapers.