The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Inside scoop on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

So much media writing is from the outside looking in. Second-guessing, reading the runes that editorial copy is truly written in, spiced up by the odd bit of gossip.

Bruce Murphy's piece is a breath of fresh air. It's actual reporting - the distillation of his three years working as a journo for the JS. And, blissfully, he names names.

The rag is, it seems, in steady decline, in circulation, influence and the quality of its journalism.

One reason is that one of the local conservative morning drive jocks, Charlie Sykes, is for ever on its case.

The twist is that Sykes's station is part of the same group that owns the JS. And the paper only supplies a quarter of the group's revenues these days, so Sykes gets to carry on spewing his bile.

The piece is full of great circumstantial detail like this, but is written pretty straight and without pretensiousness. Otherwise it would be just right for a New York Times Magazine cover story...


The timidity of the JS when it comes to greenlighting politically contoversial stories - as detailed by Murphy - is to be contrasted (to some extent, at least) with the boldness of the Toledo Blade in sticking with the Coingate farrago [1].

Now, as lefties point out, the GOP controls the Ohio state house and both houses of the lege. And the Blade's persistence has uncovered all sorts of facts about the regime that are something much more serious than just a single-cycle political embarrassment, to be wiped from the headlines by the next missing white girl or celebrity trial.

The state GOP machine has surely taken countermeasures against the paper. But, it seems, to no avail.

What's up with that? How does the Blade hurt the state panjandrums where they live with apparent impunity where so many other rags across the nation prefer the safety of he said she said?

  1. The Blade site is down right now (not a DOS, surely?). There should be a Coingate index page, like there was for the papers series on the Vietnam Tiger Force (January 5 2004) story it won the Pulitzer for.


A couple of reasons for the Blade's differential level of friskiness compared with other regional rags:

Firstly, as I mentioned (I now find!) on January 26 2004, the Blade is not part of a conglomerate but is owned, via Blade Communications Inc, by the Block family. (The ownership details are, I suspect, hard to find in the absence of SEC filings - I just checked!)

Secondly, Lucas County is a Democratic stronghold: Bush polled around 87,000 votes in November 2004, Kerry 133,000. I'd speculate that the Blade's core circulation area is also pretty blue, and that Coingate is a crowd-pleaser for most of its subscribers [1].

I'm thinking that, if the Blade found that Toledo Mayor Jack Ford had been keeping doubtful company, that would be a tougher sell for the paper's editors.

(The worst thing the Ford administration has managed so far, a cursory search suggests, is that Hizonner's chief of staff Jack Black called in to a TV show under an assumed name.)

Of course, if, in 2006, there's an electoral sweep which throws the rascals out of Columbus, things may become trickier for the Blade...

  1. The result in the US Senate election was rather different: in Lucas, Voinovich got 123,000 votes to his Dem challenger's 90,000. Go figure.

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