For Conservatives Online, Plenty of Commentary But Not Enough News

December 13th, 2009 3:54 PM
A number of the conservative movement's prominent online figures are battling to be the right's equivalent of Talking Points Memo or Huffington Post--political organizations that report hard news. Many believe that to truly harness the power of the Web, political organizations must report their own news, rather than comment on reporitng from traditional outlets.

"The left needs Daily Kos, but they also need the Huffington Post," Politics Daily columnist Matt Lewis told Politico. He praised the roles of activists and opinion commentators on the right such as Red State's Erick Erickson, but noted that the conservatives have not yet matched the left's capability for original reporting.

Though HuffPo, TPM, and other politcally stilted but journalism-oriented sites, liberals "have the ability to amplify stories into the mainstream media conversation," according to Politico. Conservatives have a large void to fill when it comes to producing original content, rather than solely commenting on what is already out there. There are conservative sites providing original reporting, but there are so far no center-right equivalents to the left's powerhouse online news operations.

Enter Andrew Breitbart and Tucker Carlson, both of whom plan to fill that void. Breitbart announced last week the January launch of the latest addition to his prominent network of sites. Big Journalism, as the new blog is titled, will be devoted to battling what Breitbart has dubbed the "Democrat-media complex" by reporting news that the mainstream media refuses to touch.

Breitbart's Big Government--which hosted the groundbreaking ACORN sting videos--is a hub of investigative reporting, devoted to exposing malfeasance by major players in the administration and the liberal power structure.

Tucker Carlson has been less forthcoming about his new web project, the Daily Caller, but he told Politico that it "will be defined by its reporting, by the new facts it adds." Politico predicts that the the site will likely cater to "an audience within the Washington- New York media establishment," in contrast to Breitbart's more populist political appeal.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the Republican Party's relegation to minority status and the omnipresence of doom-and-gloom predictions as to the viability of the conservative movement have spawned numerous innovative center-right online powerhouses. Politico reports,
The surge in conservative media is partially the result of being in the opposition after eight years of the Bush administration. That was an impetus for liberal and left-wing sites such as Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo, which made their names during the Bush administration and are now established enough to be building their own reporting staffs. Conservatives see them as models for their own plans to build online news organizations with a point of view.

“There was more of a niche media on the right for many years, and then Huffington Post and TPM" — as Talking Point Memo is commonly referred to — "took it to a new professional level that in some ways kind of leapfrogged over what the conservatives were doing,” [Heritage's Conn] Carroll said. “Now, I think [conservatives] are reevaluating and responding to the market.”
Sites such as Newsmax, WorldNetDaily, Pajamas Media, and sister site of NewsBusters--have all been working towards providing more original reporting content. Though Breitbart and Carlson are perhaps the most high-profile personalities to expand conservative news-gathering, these sites will also be on the cutting edge, and will not sit on their laurels while Big Journalism and the Daily Caller eat up market share.

Conservative commentary sites already enjoy a prominent web presence. As Politico notes, Technorati recently ranked six center-rights sites in its top 30 most influential blogs: National Review’s The Corner (7); NewsBusters (14); Pajamas Media (17); Big Government (22); Michelle Malkin (26); and Power Line (29).

But if conservatives wish to overcome their historical disadvantages in traditional newsrooms, they will have to adopt a more news-centric approach to augment the opinion coverage that currently dominates the center-right blogosphere.