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June 15, 2006
Why Competition Improves The Media

Mary Katharine Ham makes her debut as a member of the Examiner Blog Board in an excellent column regarding competition and accountability in the media. Mary Katharine might be the only one of us on the board who has worked in the mainstream media, and she brings her unique perspective to the issue of external checks and balances for newspapers and broadcast media outlets:

I grew up in a cross-town newspaper battle — one of the few left in a news climate where chains had bought most major dailies and many markets had become monopolies. I learned early that two newspapers fighting for scoops and readers meant that readers got better news coverage than they would have gotten if they were served by one paper.

I know because I watched both papers grow. We got the competition’s newspaper delivered to our house for opposition research. ...

I decided to give up newspapers when I started thinking of blogs and conservative media as just another competitor to the Mainstream Media. I don’t have to be the mortal enemy of the papers I grew up with. Sure, they do stupid things, and I love to call them out for it just as they love to call out bloggers, but the truth is that blogs have the ability to push newspapers and other mainstream media to be better.

I need the foreign bureaus and the years of experience embodied by an MSM news organization in order to be a decent blogger. I see the virtues of the MSM despite its many gaffes. After spending half my career in the newsroom and the other in my pajamas, as is the blogger custom, I know that if more members of the MSM did the same, we’d all end up with better products.

There is a reason the competition newspaper landed on our doorstep every day growing up. It thumped against the stoop next to “our” newspaper, weighty with ideas that could be used and tweaked in competition against it.

How many major cities now have only one major daily? It's much easier to ask how many have two, let alone three or four. Consolidation in print journalism began decades ago, when advertising dollars couldn't spread enough to subsidize more than one or two newspapers in a given market. New York and Chicago may have the only true competitive markets with two or more major newspapers still left in metropolitan America. Los Angeles, with its enormous population and incredible mass -- it's the second-largest city in square miles -- should have at least two majors, and probably three or four. Instead, its only competition is in Orange County, where the Register has a long history of Ayn Randian libertarianism as a balance to the Times' unabashedly liberal editorial profile.

That competition not only kept the newspapers honest, it made them better newspapers. That's what competition brings -- more efficiency, better results, and in the media, better service for its consumers. Be sure to read all of Mary Katharine's article.

Also, I neglected to mention Lorie Byrd's first column, in which she wonders whatever happened to honesty in politics. That day was a bit hectic for me, and I just realized I never posted a link to it. She wrote a wonderful piece, so be sure to read it if you haven't already.

UPDATE: Misspelled Mary Katharine's middle name; I've corrected the text. Thanks go to CQ reader and blog-hostess extraordinaire Emily D from Heritage Foundation. (Actually, she's the event planner who made sure I had a wonderful experience in Colorado Springs earlier this year and one of the nicest people you'll ever meet.)

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 15, 2006 4:28 PM

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