How Talk Radio Hurt The Journal Sentinel

Sykes’ continual bashing -- allowed by corporate bosses -- badly wounded their own newspaper.

By - Oct 30th, 2015 12:23 pm
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Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner

Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner

With the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel being absorbed into the Gannett Company’s vast media monoculture, it marks the end of a 178-year era of Milwaukee having at least one locally-controlled daily paper. Many factors figured into this, but it would be a mistake to overlook the impact of talk radio. It was almost a case of assisted suicide, as the company for years allowed its newspaper’s clout in the community to be undermined by attacks from its own employees working for its radio station.  

I’ve been a reader/subscriber of the newspaper since 1957. My first job out of high school was as a messenger at the Milwaukee Sentinel. My two sons had Journal routes. I was also a small-time Journal stockholder: I bought $1,000 worth of stock about 2006, and held it until about 2012, watching it decline, finally selling it for under $100. I bought it because I wanted to hold stock in my hometown newspaper. I’m a news hound who consumes local news through other print outlets as well as radio, television and online.

For years, I observed with dismay as employees of one division of the former Journal Communications—WTMJ-AM—savaged another division, the Journal Sentinel. Weekday-radio Republican frontmen Charlie Sykes and Jeff Wagner relentlessly assaulted the politically moderate newspaper for its alleged liberal bias. More damaging, they repeatedly suggested the newspaper was out of touch or outmoded, assailing it as “The Dead Tree.”

Sykes and Wagner mocked the Journal Sentinel’s news coverage and frequently personally attacked members of the editorial staff and top management. It’s incomprehensible that Journal Communications management condoned this daily trashing while signing the verbal-snipers’ paychecks.

WISN radio talker Mark Belling also criticized the newspaper at times, but nowhere near as often. As Bruce Murphy wrote in a feature story on the Journal Sentinel back in May 2005, “Sykes…is far more unrelenting in his criticism, for the simple reason he works for Journal Communications and must prove his independence. Paradoxically, because he works for the same company, his comments can’t be dismissed (as Belling’s might be) as mere goosing by a media competitor.” 

“For Sykes,” Murphy went on, “it’s a game he can’t lose. No matter how much coverage the Journal Sentinel gives his favorite issue, he can always claim there’s a bias or that something has been overlooked. Because he is an entertainer, not a journalist, he is not required to balance his comments or calls from listeners. Yet because Sykes is a savvy media critic and WTMJ bills itself as ‘news radio,’ listeners rarely see him for what he is: a polemicist who regularly advances the talking points of the Republican Party.”

Print media had been losing ground for decades, so the Journal Sentinel was already vulnerable. Nonetheless, it made no sense that Journal Communications enabled its well-paid, home-grown radio rogues to undermine the Journal Sentinel. Sykes and Wagner created ill will, thus alienating some of the newspaper’s core audience. As Murphy noted, “Journal Communications pays Sykes to relentlessly undercut the credibility of its newspaper. And credibility – the readers’ belief in the Journal Sentinel’s integrity – is the primary thing it sells.”

All big cities have conservative talk radio, but as Christopher Terry, a media lecturer at UWM, told the Wisconsin Gazette in 2013, they more often have nationally syndicated right-wing bloviators. The fact Milwaukee has not one but two top-rated radio hosts, Sykes and Belling, espousing right-wing (and anti-Journal Sentinel) views is pretty unusual. New Republic writer Alec MacGillis was so struck by the power of talk radio here that he made it a central theme of his story explaining the rise of Scott Walker

In his interview with Scott Jensen, former Republican speaker of the state Assembly, Jensen had this to say about Milwaukee’s conservative talk radio: “The listenership is just so much higher here. And the ability to get people to march in step when [the shows] are all hammering the same themes is extraordinary.”

During the past decade, on several occasions I asked Journal Communications management why this unseemly onslaught from talk radio against the newspaper continued with impunity. Being a stockholder allowed me to raise the issue of Sykes and Wagner being a cancer in the company at an annual meeting several years ago. The powers-that-be seemed unconcerned — or at least expressed no concerns.

Occasionally, I also called Journal Sentinel publisher Betsy Brenner about Sykes. She acknowledged that the invective was disturbing but said she had no authority over him. She even said she did not listen to Sykes’ and Wagner’s shows. I warned her that ignoring them was imperiling the newspaper. Brenner had been responsive on other issues I’ve discussed with her. I had sympathy for her frustration.

I also appreciate that we live in a country with freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We all have the right to speak our minds.  But Journal Communications had no constitutional obligation, nor logical business reason, to employ people who used a company platform to hasten the demise of a sister business. That’s precisely the message Sykes’ “Dead Tree” slur conveys. Conversely, who expects to continue being employed by a corporation while publicly denouncing that company daily on its own radio station? The situation was nothing short of bizarre.

More astonishing, however, was a saga that began in 1996, shortly after Sykes started squawking on TMJ. A mysterious “Liz Woodhouse” began appearing as a pundit on his Friday radio news panel, and on his Sunday-morning WTMJ televised gabfest. The rub was that Woodhouse was an imposter with sketchy credentials, as former Journal Sentinel columnist Tim Cuprisin revealed in January 1997.  In fact, she was Janet Riordan, a sometime singer and actress in local shows–and soon enough Sykes’ third wife. While the rules for radio entertainment are not the same as for journalists, knowingly featuring an imposter on a pundit-panel show might surely raises ethical questions, if the goal is present the truth to listeners and viewers. But if Sykes got even a warning from his Journal Communications honchos, it was never publicized. For the community, it looked like Sykes was given a pass for his ethical lapses.

As one former Journal Sentinel staffer told me, reporters and editors at the paper were frequently incensed by Sykes’ attacks and outraged that the company’s executives allowed this. Why did Journal Communications executives look the other way for years as one arm of the company bashed the other? What corporation anywhere would condone such conduct?

Perhaps these damaging attacks were tolerated because of a miscalculated gamble. As ratings rose for right-wing talk-radio, Journal Communications benefited, short term, from bountiful broadcast ad revenue. Meanwhile, however, Journal Sentinel circulation declined–from above 300,000 two decades ago to about 185,000 today.

Maybe management thought they were garnering a wider share of the market by attracting listeners who identified as right-wing while their newspaper readers spanned the political spectrum. If so, they must have missed how the daily drumbeat against the Journal Sentinel helped drive away readers. Many listeners called the Sykes-Wagner echo chamber to proudly declare they no longer read the newspaper. Ironically, both TMJ listeners and Journal Sentinel core subscribers are a similar demographic—older, whiter, and suburban—just like Charlie and Jeff, who were helping convince them to drop the newspaper.

In any case, a starkly-divided-market-pie approach was not a winning strategy, even in a diversified media company. Consolidated media monopolies often share costs and create synergy. Before the spinoff and sale of the broadcast stations under Scripps, which happened a year ago, Journal Sentinel columnists and reporters were periodic guests on WTMJ-AM and TMJ4 discussing their beats. That was smart business. After all, the “T-M-J” call letters were for “The Milwaukee Journal.”  (Similarly, the Chicago Tribune named its radio station “WGN,” referencing their slogan, “World’s Greatest Newspaper.”)

But that synergy was undercut by the radio division’s two biggest stars, as Sykes and Wagner, day after day, poisoned the atmosphere for Milwaukee’s newspaper of record with their barrage of radioactive rhetoric.  

Listeners, readers and Journal Communications executives and stockholders may by now lament that Sykes was permitted to keep yakking—at the expense of all concerned. Perhaps the buyout by Gannett was inevitable, but Sykes and Wagner at the very least made the decline happen more quickly by doing their best to help the locally-owned newspaper truly become a Dead Tree.      

Categories: Business

39 thoughts on “How Talk Radio Hurt The Journal Sentinel”

  1. mots says:

    I agree 100% with your opinion. I also stopped reading the Milwaukee Journal due to Sykes and Wagner. In fact, I now refuse to listen to TMJ4 due to Wagner’s daily dose of propaganda. These two right wing idiots are not good for Milwaukee.

  2. John Casper says:

    Pat, thanks very much. IMHO, what you’ve described so well was evidence of Steve Smith’s fiduciary malpractice. Why should Republicans and corporations buy ads from Journal Communications when they could get Sykes and Wagner to use WTMJ’s, “50,000 blow torch,” at no charge?

  3. Chris says:

    Belling never held back any punches for the paper and his continual slurring of the name by calling it the Sentinel-Journal has gone on since the merger almost 20 years ago. Sykes’ dead tree nickname, like everything else he does, is borrowed from the Belling playbook. See also nickname for Chris Larson and the “standing up for …” tagline for more Belling imitations.

  4. Dave says:

    Let’s face it; we live in a unique area of the country where small populations of even minded people seeking an unbiased, substantive news source are surrounded by an extraordinary number of old racist angry delusional white people who revel in ignorance and take glee at shitting on our state’s greatest city.

  5. Marie says:

    These smug suburbanites’ incessant fear mongering and bashing of everything about Milwaukee has the unintended consequence (a favorite Sykes’ term) of diminishing the entire metro area.

    Spewing poison at our center of commerce, culture and entertainment just keeps people away. It thwarts any potential for big-picture solutions that could help this whole region to thrive.

    The GOP-Talk Radio Pipeline promotes ideas like wresting local control of schools, MATC and even the Marcus Center. Those who live in the outer suburbs are touted as the ones who should decide what’s best for the city and its residents. It promotes a feudal overlord system over democracy.

    However, Sykes et al are part of their own dying breed. Younger people are not buying these radio ranters’ bile.

  6. Pete Mingle says:

    Why was erstwhile journalist Charmin’ Charlie allowed by Journal Communications to skate on the thin ice of his career? When he wasn’t getting fired by his ex-wives, he managed to get pushed out the door of Milwaukee magazine by another strong woman, the late Betty Quadracci,

    And just how many times a day does Jeff Wagner’s contract at TMJ allow him to remind listeners that he’s a “recovering lawyer” and former federal prosecutor–and failed candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General?. Wagner could also use some remedial schooling in grammar. Jeff: “There is (sic )many reasons to tune you out”–to paraphrase you.

  7. Dan Wood says:

    Give me a break!

    The Urinal/Sentinal has been in a death spiral for a long time, along with all
    of the other print newspapers.

    You may have hear of this new thing called the Internet that replaces real
    journalists with bloggers that don’t do their homework?

    Oh, I guess you do.
    That is what is killing print media.

  8. progressive_resistance says:

    Either way, Skyes and Wagner win while they continue collect a pay check. A diminished J/S cowered and tamed by their attacks helps shut down even moderate criticism of conservatives and republicans, meanwhile they can continue to wail about J/S alleged liberal bias. These guys don’t have substantive arguments, but a collection of of vapid themes repeated over and over again. And the suckers fall for it and eat it up as “Insight.”

  9. BB says:

    The Journal Sentinel’s silence and encouragement of talk radio attacks are part and parcel of George Stanley’s foolish strategy to counter the “liberal media” meme by appeasing the right-wing radio audiences. That fueled the decision to aid and abet Scott Walker/GOP misrule — a tragedy for the state and the newspaper.

  10. M says:

    @Dan,

    I assume you are not calling Urban Milwaukee a maligned “blog.” In addition to its staff journalists, the news site runs pieces by other local and statewide media organizations and other articles by contributors–which are professionally edited.

    Not all print media has been decimated. However, the lines between news and “entertainment” have been blurred in many formats. Even recent presidential TV debates and other coverage display that–with an entertainer-turned-candidate setting the tone.

    Gannett triggered the dumbing down of news with its flagship USA Today in the ’80s. Nonetheless, good journalism still exists. You often have to work harder to find it.

  11. Beaker says:

    When my husband and I were first dating, I regularly tuned to WTMJ on the way down from my “up north” home to listen to the news that was on all day long. We were both quite disgusted to hear the diatribes that we were hearing after they ditched the all-news format. We moved away, and then moved back to find that not only was WTMJ still had the right-wing throwing invectives, but that much of Milwaukee believed them and started to follow behind their chosen Pied Pipers.

    I would like an all-news station back, a la WBBM in Chicago. However, the news media, whether mainstream or alternative or underground, has bias no matter where you look–you just have to have good filters and not be afraid to do your own research. This article has basically explained to me that many of the talking points I see on Facebook from the right wing come directly from Sykes, Wagner, and/or Belling. How can they be considered “entertainment” if so many people not only take them seriously, but quote them verbatim? It’s a rather dangerous form of entertainment, don’t you think?

  12. Correlation is not causality. Local newspapers in nearly all sizes of markets everywhere are dying if not already dead. Surely the diatribes of Sykes, Wagner & Belling pushed the J-S toward the grave but the cemetery was in sight anyway. To me a more important problem is that there is no credible local progressive media alternatives that can overcome the left’s longstanding racial divide. Right wing rants largely go unchallenged.

  13. Tintinnabulation says:

    WTMJ and WISN supposedly are licensed to broadcast “in the public interest”. Their non-stop free promotion of right-wing causes and unlimited free air time for Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, Sheriff Clark, and “Peep Hole” Donovan is an abuse of their licensed responsibilty to serve in the public interest. WGOP would be appropriate call letters for both.

    Avoid patronizing the advertisers who sponsor “Family Values” Sykes, his puppy dog Wagner and Belling (and all the others on WISN, day and night). Just spot check to determine who are the sponsors. You will also notice that all of them verbally goose-step with the same scripted talking points.

  14. M says:

    @John, it’s not so much that right-wing rants go unchallenged. It’s that those rants go on for about 10 hours every weekday with just local ranters alone. However, well-respected Eric Von is on WNOV (860 AM) 7-9 AM daily and addresses progressive issues including those relating to race. Some cities run shows by nationally syndicated progressive hosts, but that’s diminished since Air America folded.

    There are also well-reasoned perspectives presented in other local media. While Urban Milwaukee steers clear of most political advocacy, it presents varying viewpoints. The Wisconsin Gazette’s proud tagline is “Progressive. Alternative.” and they run in-depth stories on both local and statewide issues of interest to progressives (not just the LBGT community, which was their original audience). The Shepherd leans left but it would be great if they expanded their issues coverage.

    While the JS does run opinion pieces by both left and right, they exhibit a mostly corporatist bias in overall coverage, some of it to serve their own corporate goals–such as shameless shilling for a Bucks arena and whatever else the Bucks want. Of course, sports sells subs and daily papers, but I wish they’d try to pretend to look at what might serve the broader community. For example, now that MMAC is finally pushing for a cultural sales tax that could possibly include parks and transit, the JS has endorsed it. If MMAC finally realizes that decent parks and transit are important to a thriving metro area, that’s great, but it’s too bad that some media haven’t picked up on readily available research that has long shown that.

  15. Pat says:

    I am no fan of Sykes or Belling, but I have to agree with John H. that correlation is not causality. I worked in the print media for more than 30 years (never at MJS) and everywhere, newspapers and print media are losing circulation, ad revenue and cutting staff. For years I’ve been getting calls or emails from former colleagues asking if I know of any openings and will mention them or share a resume. They come from around the country. Failing to come up with a new business model as the old one became antiquated — a perhaps impossible task — is what’s really hurt print media. Sykes and Belling may have hurt the JS — but their stings were just a part of the newspaper’s problems.

  16. Jim says:

    The main reason why newspapers in General are failing is BECAUSE progressivism is way out of touch with society!! Common sense is increasingly being replaced with socialist propaganda. A perfect example is The Wall Street Journal is NOT showing signs of going under. They are sticking to their principals and not giving in to the leftist agenda.

    Another reason the Milwaukee Journal and Sentinel are bleeding is they are giving away way too much free material online. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free??

  17. Jonathan Rupprecht says:

    It’s interesting that you ID’d Janet Riordan only as “a sometime singer and actress in local shows”. How about the fact that she has for years been a major player with The Bradley Foundation? Even if you find them distasteful also, it would be only fair journalism to point out this much more distinguished aspect of her life than the much more irrelevant description you used. And it is impossible to even imagine that you were not aware of this fact.

  18. moh abatt says:

    Sykes/Belling ape papa Rush’s FUD – Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt to scare white folks.

    Added their own GED – Grossly Egregious Distortions.

    Wisconsin got FUDGED – and so did the Journal. RIP.

  19. jake says:

    Sykes has been a scrum sucking sore and cancer rightwing whore on the state for far to long. I hope Gannett sacks him and Wagner for the propaganda tools they are.

  20. jake says:

    Jim your opinion make no sense. It’s your white flight racism that has hurt this state for far to long that has made the region the most segregated in the country.

  21. Jeremy says:

    I do not agree with the author’s premise. The constant mention of the Journal Sentinel was to act as a foil to the views of Sykes/Wagner/Belling. If the paper was so terrible, why are they constantly mentioning it every day. The internet is killing the newspaper. The JS is providing self-inflicted wounds. Many of the stories in the Sunday edition are up on the website by Thursday giving readers no incentive to actually buy it. There is no fresh content by the time it reaches the doorstep.

  22. Tom D says:

    Progressive talk radio is available in Chicago.

    While driving through there in September, I stumbled upon WCPT (“Chicago Progressive Talk”) radio on AM at 820 kHz. Its also available on the web at http://www.chicagosprogressivetalk.com

  23. Bill Kurtz says:

    Jim, to the extent the Wall Street Journal thrives (many say Rupert Murdoch way overpaid for it), has nothing to do with its conservative editorial page. The Journal’s coverage is vital reading for business people, in fact many subscriptions are paid for by businesses. No other daily has this advantage.

  24. DI says:

    Pat starts with the wrong perspective about the MJS. It has been a moderately right wing paper (to the right of what might be called the old moderate Republicans) and plays good cop to the Sykes bad cop for at least the last decade, probably more. Pat implies that it has been evenhanded which drives Sykes’ minions to trash it, along with Sykes himself. Instead it is better to understand MJS to host a very conservative, anti-government, pro-privatization, cut taxes for the big boys and cut services for the little guys for quite a while. It does allow a progressive voice on occasion. , but that is cover for its basic position. Just look at its use of the “truthometer”

    No better case for this has been its coverage of Milwaukee Public Schools. Alan Borsuk, who can be critical of some voucher schools, has been their lead man. He and the paper has been in a process of destroying public education in Milwaukee for 25 years and fane surprise that Walker now wants to do the same across the state. Or take the recall. The Journal hammered on “is the recall legitimate since Walker was not convicted of a crime” day in a day out. [Actual historical reviews of the recall law was to remove politicians who destroyed the public trust by enacting radical legislation that was not part of the purpose of running] This then gave more credibility to Sykes who unsurprisingly helped Walker but used MJS’s arguments. The MJS is the discussion setter on issues– it then carries on most local TV and news services.

    Needless to say I dropped my subscription years ago.

  25. Pete Mingle says:

    In response to Jonathan Rupprecht: Janet Riordan’s job at the toxic Bradley Foundation is as sleazy as her pretense of being a “pundit” on Sykes’ show years ago . If not for her affair and eventual marriage to him, Charlie’s chanteuse would undoubtedly have remained “20 Feet From Stardom”–even in our mid-sized metropolis that Ozaukee County resident Sykes delights in maligning every day.

    Just how important is Riordan to the dystopian aims of the Bradley Foundation? Bear in mind, when she was “Liz Woodhouse” on Sunday morning talk-TV, she was incapable of memorable expression. The current Mrs. Sykes is obviously enjoying a secure sinecure position. Nice work if you marry the “Right Wisconsin” guy.

  26. kathy michael says:

    Janet Riordan better watch her back. Charlie’s 4th wife is in his sights. How else could you explain the footsies that go on every Sunday with Michele Litjens, a washed up cheerleader, 1 term assembly person with absolutely no credibility as she swings her long greasy hair across her shoulders. Oh and did I mention that she is another “family values” hypocrite who divorced her husband and left her 2 teenagers in the Fox Valley so she could whore around with Vos in Madison? SSDD.

  27. Pat Small says:

    @Jonathan Rupprecht: I was aware of Janet Riordan’s current position with the Bradley Foundation, which she took long after her marriage to Sykes. I only referred to her “role” at the time of her dubious involvement with his show because that was the only part relevant to this story. Now that you mention it, it is ironic that Sykes often promotes his wife’s employer but not his own.

    Thanks to all for the insightful comments. That is one of the best aspects of Urban Milwaukee. DI, your point is well taken about how right-wing the JS generally is. I agree that they sometimes “inoculate” themselves by airing more progressive views.

  28. Scott says:

    Ugh. If all progressive newspaper readers have to counter right-wing propaganda in this city is the mediocre Wisconsin Gazette, they’re in trouble.

    The last two covers were Adult Halloween Costumes (complete with a Scott Walker mask, which someone must have thought was clever (and might have been — 4 or 5 years ago)) and Lake Michigan Shipwrecks….

    Hard-hitting stuff.

  29. Tom says:

    What an absurd article.

    Talk radio was just exercising their First Amendment right to say whatever.

    Jeremy is right, the internet is killing newspapers.

    We have give up the evil right wing and find another reason to explain the failure of everything from newspapers to democratic candidates.

  30. tom bamberger says:

    “As one former Journal Sentinel staffer told me, reporters and editors at the paper were frequently incensed by Sykes’ attacks and outraged that the company’s executives allowed this. Why did Journal Communications executives look the other way for years as one arm of the company bashed the other? What corporation anywhere would condone such conduct?”

    In other words we are for corporate censorship of the media?

    Talk radio was just exercising their First Amendment right to say whatever.

  31. Marie says:

    There’s always been self-imposed “corporate censorship” within individual media–they are the gatekeepers of what they choose to print or air. People with countering views can sometimes cajole those gatekeepers into sharing their platform, but often other views and info are simply absent. Some important stories simply never get told.

    A major force in the rise of right-wing radio and TV was the killing of the Fairness Doctrine in the ’80s, as it applied to giving equal time to opposing points of view, especially on public airwaves. It opened the floodgates to overt shilling for candidates–unpaid advertising–as well as all the invective. The rise of Scott Walker and others was made easier–or at least less costly for their campaigns–with all that daily free airtime.

    And yes, we are all debating this issue on an Internet-only site. But Sykes et al are a 50,000-watt megahorn connecting people who fled to the suburbs and are fine with hearing the city being ridiculed nonstop.

    People who care about Milwaukee thriving can well tune out the “haters.” However, some suburbanites (such as Darling, Kooyenga and San Fellippo) are also trying to wrest control of the city and county from those of us who live here. That’s the “censorship,” media domination and plutocratic takeovers we should really be worried about. It’s all of a piece.

  32. John Kaufman says:

    Let’s face it– the stale air of conservative radio in the Milwaukee area was an integral part of Journal Communications’ generally conservative bent. The newspaper can counter the radio “entertainers” with a more forceful, distinct alternative, but choses instead to play it safe, throwing its liberal, cultural voices overboard and even refusing to make candidate endorsements.

    If newspapers (and good journalism) are going to prosper, they will have to risk resisting the corporate, digitally-trending dumbing-down of American media. Becoming a subsidiary of Gannett is not likely to help. But one can hope that editorially the paper wakes up and starts fighting back.

  33. David Blaska says:

    Or maybe the Journal Sentinel should have listened to Sykes, Wagner & Co. instead of ignoring them. Ever thought of that?

  34. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes the daily newspaper really would have benefited from taking advice from right-wing talk radio bomb throwers who constantly refer to it in a puerile, derogatory manner.

  35. David Blaska says:

    Vincent Hanna says, “Yes the daily newspaper really would have benefited from taking advice from right-wing talk radio bomb throwers who constantly refer to it in a puerile, derogatory manner.”

    O.K., then the Journal Sentinel is doing just fine and doesn’t need to take advice from its critics. Just keep on doin’ the same ol’ same old. Move along, nothing to see here folks.

  36. Vincent Hanna says:

    Ah but I didn’t say everything is fine and that they shouldn’t listen to anyone. You put those words in my mouth. I just said they shouldn’t listen to right-wing talk radio bomb throwers who call them names. Do you see the difference there? If not I can slow down for you.

  37. John Kaufman says:

    Excuse me, meant “chooses instead to play it safe”

    To David Blaska: No, it never occurred to me.

    Journal Communications created the online publication “Right Wisconsin” to cater to the “liberal media” haters who can’t stomach accurate and responsible journalism, the sort of folks that take Sykes, etc. seriously. The JS could hold itself, despite twice endorsing Walker and hiring columnist Schneider, to a higher standard.

  38. Marie says:

    “But one can hope that editorially the paper wakes up and starts fighting back.”

    @John Kaufman, I wish I could feel hopeful that the repackaged JS could assert itself as you suggest…I think Gannett bigwigs will do the steering, probably not the local editors, etc. Gannett is all about bite-sized info. But it’s possible that their stance will actually be more moderate. In any case, in-depth journalism will likely be sacrificed, as Bruce Murphy recently predicted.

    But nature abhors a vacuum–so maybe something will emerge to fill that void. And perhaps UM can grow in its coverage of hard news.

  39. M.H. Drew says:

    Fascinating topic and comments.
    Media watchers can only hope that when Gannett takes over the sadly underfunded Journal Sentinel it will mount one last important investigation. To uncover what percentage of Sykes’s income has come from right-wing foundations, specifically his fourth wife’s employer? The move from funding his books to underwriting his bigoted “entertainment,” posing as facts, has been easy, Especially so with his latest wife on the Bradley Foundation payroll.
    Journal Communications presumably encouraged this because its conservative board chairman was loyal mostly to the broadcast properties where he started making the fortune to fund a lavish retirement.
    Nowhere has greed and right-wing perfidy more clearly superseded the conscience-driven mandate to report truth in the public interest. The Journal Sentinel’s remarkable recent award-winning has been a staff- driven anomaly during the sad demise of an employee owned newspaper once consistently ranked in the naton’s top 10.
    Wisconsin’s loss, and the poor’s, has been rich Republicans’ gain.
    It is, alas, the American way.

    Please sign this just M.

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