In a piece for The Atlantic on how conservative media "failed the rank and file" with their coverage in the run-up to Mitt Romney's resounding loss last November, Conor Friedersdorf observed that "a lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption."
To wit, this week Cox Media Group has launched Rare, a new website which endorser Ted Nugent promises "will guarantee the red meat is delivered how real conservatives like it -- rare." Cox owns several daily newspapers including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, almost twenty TV stations, 87 radio stations, and boasted a 2012 revenue of nearly $2 billion. Rare will represent Cox's "first national news product."
Based on the recent history of Rare's Editor-in-Chief Brett Decker -- who served as editor for the toxic Washington Times editorial page during much of President Obama's first term -- and the largely aggregated content posted by the site so far, it's hard to escape the feeling that Rare will be just another megaphone in the conservative echo chamber, albeit one with slicker packaging.
Rare is the latest in an increasingly long line of conservatives sites promising to revolutionize online news, and it's already setting high expectations for itself. According to the lofty promises in promotional materials, Rare will be a "social content hub for modern conservatives" that represents a "real reinvention of the conservative news space" and one of the "few opportunities to actually redefine what news is today."
The results so far are not promising. In the few days since it has launched, Rare has been light on original content, largely aggregating a mix of straight news articles about the big events of the week; articles from established conservative sites like Weekly Standard and CNS News; snide dismissals of climate science; and celebrity gossip (sample headlines include "Amanda Bynes minute-long selfie"). Original content from Rare staff is largely limited to brief, sentence-long "Rare Take" comments on the stories they repost from other outlets.
Outside of those "Rare Takes," Rare is also publishing "Rare original content" op-eds from standard right-wing comentators and politicians. As of this writing, the top story on the site is a column from Ted Nugent, illustrated with a picture of the camo-clad NRA board member standing in front of an American flag with a rifle over his shoulder.
Aside from praise for Rare, the column is boilerplate Nugent, basically indistinguishable from any number of similar columns he has written for Washington Times and WND in recent years (liberals want to "erase the 2nd amendment," etc.).
This sort of reheated right-wing fare is a far cry from what Rare has promised. In a press release, Editor-in-Chief Decker positioned the outlet as a platform for the debate on how conservatism can "rebuild itself into a majority coalition."
In the months following the drubbing the GOP suffered in the 2012 presidential election, several conservatives have pondered the role messaging -- and in the words of David Frum, the "conservative entertainment complex" -- has played in the party's recent electoral woes.
Many of these complaints about the GOP's messaging problem apply directly to the editorial page of the Times during Decker's time as editor. (He resigned from the position in November.)
After President Obama's re-election, conservative media figures attacked New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for his praise of the president's leadership following Hurricane Sandy. Their attacks followed News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch's pre-election statement that Christie would be to blame if Obama won the election.
The conservative media are suggesting that former President Bush deserves more credit than President Obama for the death of Osama bin Laden. This is in stark contrast to their usual attacks that Obama is responsible for things that are happening during his presidency, including those tied to Bush-era policies like the Gulf oil spill, the weak economy, and the nation's deficit problems.
In an April 15 editorial, Washington Times editorial page editor Brett Decker wrote that Donald Trump has "gotten immense support for criticizing President Obama for his mysteriously missing birth certificate, an issue most Americans are talking about but which is considered taboo by the liberal establishment."
From Decker's column:
The Donald's popularity isn't an accident. Americans dissatisfied with lackluster leadership during a long economic crisis are responding to a man who talks straight and says what needs to be said. Such candor isn't the virtue of a career politician whose every word is tightly scripted based on persistent polling. Refreshingly, Mr. Trump just hangs it all out there. For example, he's gotten immense support for criticizing President Obama for his mysteriously missing birth certificate, an issue most Americans are talking about but which is considered taboo by the liberal establishment. He's taken similarly bold stands to the right on taxes, pro-life issues, gun rights, trade, China bashing and even ripping Jimmy Carter, the biggest loser to ever inhabit the White House.