‘If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Buy ‘Em: Free Enterprise and the Media

Earlier this week, I was contacted by a person with some financial clout.  Like the 49 percent (those who voted against re-electing President Obama) he was extremely disappointed with the election’s outcome.  To his credit, however, instead of griping about the ‘economic illiterates’ that voted for high unemployment and $6 trillion in new federal debt, this individual is actively encouraging  those who advocate for limited government and the free enterprise system to put their money where they mouths are.  Instead of donating billions of dollars to Super Pac organizations, he argues, those who still believe in our nation’s founding principles need to use their savvy investment skills to purchase media outlets, especially newspapers, and turn them around by creating a product the makers, not the takers, might actually read.

The “maker-class,” as he describes it, consists of able-bodied Americans willing to pull their own weight free of government subsidies, such as food stamps, SSI, heat assistance, rent assistance, and free cellular telephones.  For the first time in our nation’s history, he believes, last week’s election made one thing clear: the mainstream media is in the tank for the Democrat Party, as the press has given a free pass to President Obama on several debacles.

During Operation Fast and Furious, ATF agents made high-powered firearms available to Mexican drug cartels. When one of the guns was later used to kill a U.S. Border Patrol agent, the scandal broke and the president simply claimed he was unaware of the operation.

The mainstream press, including the New York Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, simply swept any significant coverage of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya under the rug until after the election.  With drones sending real time video to the White House situation room, the administration’s national security team watched as an Al-Qaeda affiliated organization attacked the consulate with rocket propelled grenades, started the building on fire, and dragged the U.S. ambassador through the streets.  Those in the White House stood idle as four Americans died.  Once again, President Obama claimed to have little real-time knowledge of the event, but then, for over the course of the next two weeks, claimed the attack was a spontaneous demonstration sparked by a YouTube video, even though his own CIA director alleges, that within 24 hours, the government was fully aware that a terrorist organization perpetrated the murders.

Last week, after CIA Director David Patraeus resigned due to an extra-marital affair, the Wall Street Journal reported that the FBI uncovered the affair in May, but the administration permitted Patraeus to stay on the job until after the election. Once again, President Obama claims he had no knowledge of the matter, even though Patraeus’ mistress was alleged to have classified documents in her possession.

Obviously, there is a pattern here, but those in the mainstream media, still feeling the tingling running-down their legs, are once again giving the President the benefit of the doubt.  Just look at all the softball questions lobbed to Obama at last week’s so-called press conference.

In the interim, the federal deficit just for the month of October was up 22 percent; Boeing is slated to lay-off 25 percent of its management team; Hostess has laid-off 18,000 employees; and GE Medical, with a sizeable presence in Pewaukee, will let 125 highly-paid employees go at the end of the year.  With third quarter corporate profits flat or on the decline, the stock market—an indicator of what the economy will look like six months to a year down the road—is down almost four percent since Election Day.  To make matters worse, some respected analysts, such as Marc Faber, predict a 20 percent decrease in overall stock values will soon occur.

Yet a lead story in the November 17, 2012, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (JS) is that one major reason Americans voted to reelect the President was the overall performance of the economy—not the checks or the subsidies that the “taker-class” receives. This JS article illustrates how out-of-touch the media and many consumers of the mainstream press are about economics, finances, and the state-of-the nation.  In a sense, though, a lack of financial acumen by such a large percentage of the American populace should not come as a surprise, since a recent survey, conducted by CreditDonkey.com, indicates that over 45 percent of American adults have less than $500 in total savings.

So, what would it take for the “maker-class” to procure a piece of Wisconsin’s mainstream press? The crew at SF spent the better part of a week crunching the data.  The research team discovered that just two newspapers dominate the southeastern and northwestern portions of the state: the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the privately-held Eau Claire Reader-Telegram.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is owned by the publicly traded Journal Broadcast Group (Stock symbol: JRN), which operates 35 radio stations and 14 television stations in 12 states, but only one major newspaper—the one component that is bleeding the group dry.  To date, the desks’ of reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel are growing increasingly fewer with another round of employee buyouts.  Moreover, the local news section is so lean that reports of homicides receive just a paragraph of coverage. The what, how, and why questions—standard fodder to note when writing an article—are rarely answered, unless it is explained by a government bureaucrat.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is bound to fail because its business model is extremely flawed.  The paper seems intent on targeting city dwellers—the so-called ‘urban demographic’ of younger, supposedly upwardly mobile-types, as well as inner-city readers. The problem is that those under 30-years-of-age rarely read newspapers. They get their information from social networking sites or Web sites operated by People or US magazines. This is precisely why the Obama campaign dispatched the president to cable network shows and radio stations that target younger voters.  Moreover, one-out-of- three of the JS’s other target audience, inner-city residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, have incomes below the poverty line, making it difficult to attract substantial advertisers.

The JS’s other mistake is giving much of its content away for free at its Web site, www.jsonline.com Simply displaying a headline and then charging per-article or offering the alternative of an annual subscription would raise revenue.  That being said the only way the JS will become profitable is targeting an audience that is interested in its content and has the resources to purchase its advertisers’ products. Hence, targeting suburban readers, focusing on matters of finance, and establishing an editorial page that champions free enterprise and constitutionally limited government, are the keys to success.

Looking at the numbers, SF believes, that sometime in the near future, the Journal Broadcast Group will quietly shop its newspaper operation.  Eventually, shareholders will demand that the company do so.  With the stock market set to tank, SF predicts that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel could be had for a charm within the next five years.

So how long will it be before Wisconsin’s version of Rupert Murdoch opens his or her check, purchases the JS, and then uses their business and marketing skills to make the operation profitable? Only time will tell.


Steve Spingola is an author and retired Milwaukee Police Department homicide detective. His book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. I, is available at Amazon.com

Spingola’s soon-to-be-released book, Best of the Spingola Files, Vol. II: Here’s Looking at You, is set for release in December 2012.

If your group is in need of a fascinating guest speaker, consider the Spingola Files’ Psychology of Homicide presentation.

For more information, please visit:


© Steven Spingola, Wales, WI, 2012

3 Responses

  1. John V.

    Outstanding post! Reading biased articles by the union member reporters at the JS is enough to make me barf. There are a few people in this state that Luke make it happen. One is Diane Hendricks. She was ripped by the JS becaused he contributions to charities and depreciation deductions resulted in zero state tax liability.

    November 17, 2012 at 9:20 pm

  2. Red State

    No one I know subscribes to the JS. I am under 30. I read newspapers. I have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal online. The WSJ actually is worth the price it is filled with info. What I read in the JS is lots of goofy urban ideas. Support for a trolley that is outrageously expensive. The usual racial columnist bad mouthing the white man. Very little local news coverage. It is a rag. I am sure it could be had for next to nothing after the Obama crash.

    November 18, 2012 at 3:39 pm

  3. Nathan

    The JS needs to focus on local news. Right now they are cutting back on local news. That is why people are not buying the paper. The wire articles from the front page can be viewed for free online from other sources. Targeting the suburban market and turning the editorial page into an advocate for free markets would immediately increase readership and boost revenue. How many ads will Home Depot buy when most of their readers are renters, live in condos, or in the hood?

    November 18, 2012 at 5:05 pm

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