Repairing the Asbury Park Press’ Conservative Insufficiency

The Asbury Park Press is the only daily paper targeting two New Jersey counties.  If that sounds small, consider those two counties have a larger population than eight U.S. states. They double the population of Washington DC. That makes the AP Press important not only as a courier of news, but considering its monopoly, as a sculptor of opinion in our great national debate.

Owned by media giant Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in America and parent of USA Today, there exists available resources to publish a product that mirrors the Press’ considerable responsibility (if Gannett is willing to open the spigot on resources, that is).

While New Jersey is a blue state, Monmouth and Ocean counties are a Republican donut hole in the middle.   Both county governments are made up entirely of Republicans going back decades, with brief exception.  While Hillary Clinton won New Jersey by 13 points, Trump won Monmouth County 54-43 and Ocean County 65-31 (his largest margin of victory in the state).  On the municipal level, one study showed that of Trump’s 25 largest margins of victory, 15 of those towns were in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, including 10 of the top 12.

It’s clear that the target readership of Gannett’s Asbury Park Press is center/right, at least by voting pattern.

Recently, Asbury Park Press editor Hollis Towns has been holding meet and greets live on Facebook called “Ask the Editor,” a laudable exercise in public availability.  Editorial editor Randy Bergmann has joined him.

Inevitably during these chats, the editors face criticism that their paper is too far left.  Opinion and even news that is fair to the right is missing, or at least obscured, by a leftist motif.  That complaint is repeated often in the comments sections of the paper’s website and Facebook page.

The criticism about a lack of conservatism recently prompted Mr. Bergmann to retort that the Asbury Park Press does run syndicated opinion columnists who are associated with the American right.  That didn’t convince the participating readership.

The paper being one of great importance to a large community, I decided to conduct a study of the Asbury Park Press’ editorial and news reporting milieu for one week, beginning Sunday, May 21 and ending Saturday, May 27, 2017.  Each day I reviewed the AP Press’ own editorial, commentaries published, as well as political news reports filed.  Here’s what I found:

 

SUNDAY:

AP Press editorial:

  • Policemen make too much money in NJ (median salary $105,000.00).

Commentary:

  • The very left Catherine Rampell, syndicated from the very left Washington Post, whose most recent 9 out of 10 columns bashed the Republican President, wrote a piece calling him a catastrophe and unstable.

 

  • Octogenarian Pat Buchanan, a Nixon-era paleoconservative, wrote that Rod Rosenstein’s appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the Trump Campaign, has made the President’s agenda appear comatose.

 

  • Gina Genovese, a Democrat running as an Independent candidate for NJ Governor, wrote of her plan to consolidate schools.

Political news reports:

  • A heart-tugging piece about an illegal-immigrant activist who snuck across the border sans green card, who is fighting against Trump’s immigration policy.

 

  • A Jim McGreevy speech about bigotry against gays.

 

  • A criticism of the Republican governor’s payroll.

 

  • Global warming is causing birds to get lost.

 

  • 36 Syrian refugees smiling after getting free haircuts in South Jersey.

 

  • A column lamenting that it’s becoming a longer wait for refugees to get into New Jersey under Trump.

 

  • A story about Trump’s Saudi Arabia trip, with the byline “troubles mount at home” while calling the trip “highly choreographed.”

 

  • A story about Vice President Pence, positing that it is better for him to be an “out of the loop dupe” than “an in the loop conspirator.”

 

  • A Factcheck.org piece on Comey and Trump, with hidden sources and malevolent assumptions about the President.

 

  • A column criticizing the President for not yet reversing Obama’s Cuba policy, and predicting he won’t do it well if he ever does.

 

  • A column asserting the Israeli people don’t like Trump as much as Obama.

 

  • A column calling Iran’s President Rouhani a moderate (interesting moniker for a man who won’t admit the Holocaust occurred).

 

  • A pullout section on the legalization of marijuana that had opinions from both sides.

 

 

MONDAY:

AP Press Editorial:

  • Opposing the Republican Governor’s plans to rehabilitate the dilapidated statehouse.

Commentary:

  • An anti-Trump cartoon was run.

 

  • Robert Samuelson, syndicated from the leftist Washington Post, wrote an apolitical piece on computer virus and ransomware.

Political news reports:

  • Environmental groups are hoping to wait-out Republican Governor Christie to oppose gas pipelines.

 

  • A local GOP candidate once “almost” got arrested, but didn’t.

 

  • Trump called out Muslim leaders on terror, but the report opined he was softening his “anti-Muslim rhetoric,” exposing an underlying Press assumption that the President is “anti-Muslim.”

 

  • A story was run about the Military’s progress in accepting transgender troops.

 

  • Students at Notre Dame walked out on VP Pence.

 

  • Telephone calls including racial epithets were made to a Texas congressman who wants to impeach President Trump for firing Comey.

 

  • A prediction markets could become unstable if President Trump is removed, but may be made stable again when Mike Pence takes over.

 

TUESDAY:

AP Press Editorial:

  • They oppose two Republican Senators’ plan to end lifetime tenure of judges.

Commentary:

  • An anti-Trump cartoon was run.

 

  • Congressman Chris Smith (R, NJ) wrote a piece lamenting that protest groups have been shouting obscenities at his staff including high school interns, disparaging religious symbols, and wishing that he gets cancer and be raped. This, the Asbury Park Press counterbalanced on the same page, with a letter to the editor stating Smith doesn’t value feedback (I wish I were making that up but I’m not).

Political news reports:

  • Governor Christie asserts he would not have let Gen. Flynn into the Whitehouse were he in charge instead of Priebus.

 

  • A criticism of Governor Christie for how he is handling financing of statehouse repairs.

 

  • A story about Trump’s visit to Israel was run, that was not critical of the President.

 

  • A prediction lawmakers would not pass Trump’s budget plan.

 

  • A story ran about Trump’s budget proposal, which had the administration’s position, and criticism from a left-wing policy group.

 

  • A story was run about 600,000 foreigners overstaying their Visas, and the administration’s attempts to catch them.

 

  • A story was run about Betsy DeVos streamlining student loan vendors, with predictions of success and failure by supporters and critics.

WEDNESDAY

AP Press Editorial:

  • While hopefully entitled “Saudi Speech More Like It,” the piece accused the President of fanning xenophobic hatred, being visceral and preferring bombs. It accuses him of flip-flopping.  There was a point the Press liked:  The editorial board’s perception that Trump had claimed that terror was not Islamic but “barbaric criminals.”

Commentary:

  • A cartoon critical of the Republican governor was run.

 

  • A Doonesbury cartoon was run, a segment in a series on reality TV births.

 

  • The very left Catherine Rampell was run again, slamming Trump’s healthcare, and somehow blaming it instead of ObamaCare for Iowa’s sad shape, even though TrumpCare doesn’t exist yet.

Political news reports:

  • On the front page, “Food bank fears Trump budget Cuts.”

 

  • The Democrats want to expand Family leave, but are waiting for the Republican governor to leave, even though they think he might be receptive to it.

 

  • A column listing all the bad things Trump’s budget might mean for New Jersey’s beach communities, supported by a Democrat Congressman, with one contrary sentence from someone calling herself a “Tea Party Patriot.”

 

  • A column entitled “Trump’s budget plan seen as unrealistic.”

 

  • A column about the difficulty of fighting terror in Great Britain.

 

  • A praising critique of Democrat Al Franken’s new book.

 

  • A story looking at differing jail sentences for adults when unsecured guns are used to kill children.

 

  • A story entitled “Trump’s budget reflects his major priorities,” with half the space being criticisms of the Republican budget.

 

  • A story headlined that Trump’s budget “targets students.”

 

  • A column was run critical of Amtrak and repairs at Penn Station.

THURSDAY

AP Press Editorial:

  • The Press opines on who should be the next Democratic house speaker in NJ, without a meaningful discouraging word about any participant, citing change ranging from “harmless” to “potentially something better.”

Commentary:

  • A cartoon was run reminding of the dangers of North Korea.

 

  • Kathleen Parker was given a column. She is from the leftist Washington Post and describes herself as “mostly right of center.” She is well known for her vociferous opposition to Sarah Palin’s candidacy and more recently made headlines for urging electors to be “unfaithful” to Donald Trump to stop him from becoming President. Her column was critical of President Trump, but called Melania and Ivanka “classy,” which somehow was the headline.

Political news reports:

  • A column about a poll that says voters believe Trump is “not draining the swamp.”

 

  • A story about a township having to pay a mosque for zoning violations.

 

  • A story entitled “Democrats attack Trump for ‘taking the fifth’ comment.”

 

  • A story claiming the size of whales will be affected by man-made climate change, and they will have a hard time surviving.

 

  • A story claiming 26 million people will lose health insurance under Republican health plans.

 

  • One article downplayed the Islamic motivations of the Ariana Grande bomber saying he is a “mixed portrait,” while another questioned any ISIS link.

 

  • A report about the DEA misleading Congress over Honduras violence in 2013.

 

  • There was an apolitical account of Trump’s meeting with the Pope.

 

  • A story ran about the increase in US bombing strikes against ISIS.

FRIDAY

AP Press Editorial:

  • In a letter to the class of 2017, they are warned against jingoism, xenophobia and being distracted by wi-fi and selfies. They are encouraged to reach out to other people.

Commentary:

  • An anti-Trump cartoon showing Trump as a vampire.

 

  • A Doonesbury cartoon is run, still stuck on a reality TV birth theme.

 

  • The Catherine Rampell fetish continues, with the young leftist’s third appearance in six days. This time she claims Trump aims to make the poor even poorer.

 

Political news reports:

  • A story about NJ Mosques hosting dinners for non-Muslims during Ramadan, to show they are good neighbors. The story repeatedly cites CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), who claims that Trump has caused Islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims.  The story DOES NOT mention that CAIR has been designated a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates and were unindicted co-conspirators in the largest terror funding trial in American history.

 

  • A story about the Press itself being part of a panel put together by Republican Assemblywoman Amy Handlin to discuss fraud against seniors.

 

  • Johnson and Johnson to pay States $33 million in a Tylenol settlement.

 

  • A story about two Democrat Congresspersons’ attempt to pass a bill that would let Indonesian refugees stay longer, citing four Christian refugees who were detained. President Trump is criticized in the article.

 

  • A positive story was run about the Republican Governor’s drug court program.

 

  • A story that was critical of Trump and Betsy DeVos school funding budget.

 

  • New Jersey lawmakers are concerned they are collecting increased cigarette tax, but the blame might be Pennsylvania raising their tax, so people aren’t crossing the border to buy smokes.

 

  • NJ might legalize some fireworks in time for Independence Day.

 

  • A story about Robert Mueller deciding what documents and witnesses the Senate can see during their investigations.

 

  • A story about the Debt Ceiling needing raising in August to $20 trillion, with Republicans calling for spending cuts, opposed by Democrats.

 

  • Great Britain has stopped sharing intel with America after leaks regarding the Manchester bombing; Trump promises prosecutions.

 

  • A report of the 4th Circuit deciding 10-3 (all 10 were Democrat appointees) against President Trump’s travel ban, with quotes from Amnesty International, but no quotes from groups favoring the ban.

 

Saturday

AP Press Editorial:

  • The Press is afraid Flood Insurance will be unaffordable under President Trump.

Commentary:

  • A cartoon about robots taking human jobs.

 

  • Doonesbury won’t move off the reality TV birth theme.

 

  • Recall Congressman Smith’s editorial on Tuesday about protestors calling for his getting cancer and being raped? They gave a member of an organized Smith protesting group a commentary.  He denied the remarks, followed by a series of “when did you stop beating your wife” questions.

 

Political news reports:

  • Chris Christie takes a walk on the boardwalk.

 

  • A story about Trump and G-7 clashing on Trade, Climate

 

  • A story claiming Climate Change is causing loss of sleep.

 

  • A story predicting Trump will cause future problems in NATO.

 

  • A report about a Hillary Clinton speech “scorching” President Trump.

 

  • A report critical of the Trump/DeVos plan to move the FSA from the Dept. of Education to the Dept. of Treasury.

 

RESULTS

AP Press Editorials:

Anti-Right 5
Anti-Left 0
Pro-Right 0
Pro-Left 1
Neutral 1

 

COMMENTARY

Anti-Right 6
Anti-Left 0
Pro-Right 0
Pro-Left 0
Neutral 1
Politician(R) 1
Politician(D) 1

 

About the commentators:  The Left had 4 (3 Rampell and the Smith Protestor), there were two “represented” as Right (Buchanan and Parker), there were two politicians (Smith, R and Genovese, D) and one neutral (Samuelson).

But look at those on the “right.”  Buchanan called Trump’s agenda “comatose” and Parker, who hasn’t liked a Republican in a decade, eviscerated Trump.  So, was there really any conservative opinion, or is the Press relying upon outdated labels to make the claim?

Cartoons:

Anti-Right 4
Anti-Left 0
Pro-Right 0
Pro-Left 0
Neutral 2

 

Doonesbury is not represented above, as it had no point, let alone a political point.

Climate Change:

Accepting: 3
Skeptical: 0

 

Political News Reporting:

Anti-Right 37
Anti-Left 0
Pro-Right 2
Pro-left 1
Neutral 22

 

Considering all representations, The Asbury Park Press looked like this for the week:

Anti-Right 55 62%
Anti-Left 0 0%
Pro-Right 3 3%
Pro-Left 5 6%
Neutral 26 29%

 

There are three ways Gannett can take this report.

  1. The worst way would be defensive, hackles up and efforts at misdirection.

 

  1. The best way would be to heed the readership. Hire a true center/right conservative pundit; a throwback to the “classical liberals” of the Enlightenment who birthed liberty, conservatism, libertarianism, tradition and American exceptionalism. Someone local, who can opine on State and Local news like a Buchanan or a Parker cannot. I’ve often encouraged them to hire this guy, because this guy has promised if they don’t see an appreciable increase in clicks or circulation, they won’t have to pay him.

 

What’s the most likely way Gannett will respond?  They won’t.  They’ll ignore it.  They’ll ignore their own readership, because monopolies can.

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