Over at RedState, Erick Erickson scolded conservatives for their poor track record of investing in the movement online. His gripe focused specifically on the failure of conservative groups to invest in bloggers by buying advertising space on their sites — not sites with “national clout” like RedState but blogs like Minnesota Democrats Exposed, which did some heavy journalistic lifting in covering last year’s Norm Coleman-Al Franken Senate race.
But this observation near the top of Erick’s post has implications beyond advertising and to the practice of conservative journalism more broadly:
Every day in Washington, there is some right-wing group somewhere bemoaning the efforts of the right online. Sadly, for them and the rest of the right, their first thought is “let’s do it ourselves” instead of “let’s invest in the existing talent.”
I made a similar point in a Facebook discussion with John Hawkins of Right Wings News last night. John had suggested that Republicans need a Washington-focused, Politico-style journalism publication of their own, to which I replied:
Why would the GOP need that? There are enough center-right online publications already, and a GOPolitico isn’t going to accomplish anything new.
The problem with conservative political media isn’t that it doesn’t exist but that too many publications are trying to do the same thing — and few of them are consistently good at it. Ironically, the inherent entrepreneurial nature of conservatives is an obstacle to media success because every conservative who cares and has the finances to make a go of it wants to to launch THE publication that makes it big.
The key is to get the best conservative media minds working together rather than competing against each other.
John elaborated by saying that conservatives need an “online zine with the resources to do heavy Capitol Hill reporting,” and that’s true. But when it comes to journalism, conservatives are too independent for their own good.
Conservative readers can get their news fixes at Cybercast News Service, Human Events, Newsmax, Townhall and WorldNetDaily (and probably others I’m forgetting). More traditional conservative publications like American Spectator, National Review and The Weekly Standard have bolstered their daily online presences in recent years. And in the past few weeks, Fox News and The Washington Times have added their own right-leaning online operations, TheConservatives.com and The Fox Nation.
There are multiple conservative video voices online, too. Pajamas TV, which is targeting the conservative-libertarian market, has been making a big publicity push since last year’s Republican convention. It sponsored the Conservatism 2.0 side conference at February’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington and has been covering the anti-tax “tea parties” the mainstream media have been ignoring. Breitbart TV also will cover the tea parties all day on April 15, the deadline for filing federal income taxes.
Besides those better-known operations, conservatives have two active video-sharing sites, Eyeblast.tv (I served as its executive producer last year) and New Media Alliance Television, and one inactive site, Qube TV. John also launched the blog Right-Wing Video in January to serve as a portal to videos on YouTube and other sites.
All of those conservative journalistic efforts may have merit when examined individually. But when you step back to see the big picture, you realize there are too many small fish in the big media pond. Save for the two newcomers from Fox and the Times, none of them have the resources to do individually what all of them could accomplish together.
As Erick said, the first thought of conservatives when it comes to online media is, “Let’s do it ourselves.” On the left, meanwhile, The Huffington Post just launched an investigative journalism project to the tune of $1.75 million, and here’s the kicker: “Work that the journalists produce will be available for any publication or Web site to use at the same time it is posted.”
When will the best minds in conservative media get together to brainstorm projects like that? And when will the big money on the right wake up and start funding them?
The best way to combat liberal media bias in the information age is for conservatives to be the media themselves, perhaps by adopting a donor-backed business model like the one at Spot.us. But everyone can’t be in charge. Until conservatives decide to join forces, the left will continue dominating new media as effectively as they have old media.