Jay Severin is wrong even when he’s right

Jay spent the 4:00 hour today talking about the possible demise of the Boston Globe. Jay actually managed to state a few things correctly, such as:

  • The Globe is a business just like any other business. The fact that it is a newspaper doesn’t give it an excuse to keep operating indefinitely while losing money.
  • The Globe has a lot less to offer these days in terms of original creative content than it used to.
  • The Globe’s covers national and local events in a manner that is probably more satisfying to its more liberal readers than its more conservative ones.

But Jay’s analysis of root of the Globe’s problems was far off the mark. He repeatedly blamed the Globe for being out of touch with its readers politically and suggested that the Globe would be in better shape if its news coverage leaned less to the left. The impression I got from his soliloquies was that Jay thought this was the main reason for the Globe’s troubles; he later qualified it and said that political bias was among the top three reasons.

I suggested (on the air) that political bias was probably not in the top 10 reasons for declining circulation and advertising revenues. I pointed out that it’s not primarily alternative news sources that people are looking for, it’s alternative sources of classified advertising, sports scores, entertainment, and so on. I pointed out that of the five stories on the front page of today’s Globe, only one was even remotely political.

Think about it, Jay. Suppose you had your heart set on starting a newspaper in one of the most liberal areas of the country. How do you think you would sell the most papers? By printing something with a conservative slant? Or one with no discernable analysis at all but merely a recitation of fact? Nonsense. Look, the right-leaning Boston Herald was losing readers even faster than the Globe a year ago. If the Herald is more profitable than the Globe today (and I don’t know that it is), it’s because Herald management was better with money than Globe management. Bias in content has little to do with it.

I’m not sure how Jay responded to this, since he hung up on me and I wasn’t near a radio to hear it. But at least I was able to open the conversation with “The amazing thing about you, Jay, is that even when you’re right, you’re wrong.”

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