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Friday, January 02, 2004

The bizarre ambitions of the New York Sun

The bizarre ambitions of the New York Sun

Kos had a couple of pieces about the New Republic over the last couple of days, and in passing he mentions the owners of the New Republic and New York Sun:

The answer may be best expressed not by Hertog, Steinhardt, or Peretz, but by Seth Lipsky, editor of the Sun and a man whose decade-long dream of starting a new New York daily is finally coming to fruition. "The right wing of the Democratic Party," Lipsky told me recently, "is a depressed stock." Interesting that it took a journalist to produce the apposite business metaphor. And though the reference to party label shouldn't be taken too literally, Lipsky is describing both the certain ideological niche of the Sun and a likely trajectory of the Hertog-Steinhardt New Republic with some precision. It's exactly on the right-most edge of the Democratic cliff -- where the DLC begins to morph into, say, the American Enterprise Institute; where neoliberalism and neoconservatism, each of which is a vestigial presence now in the twenty-first century, collapse into some new entity that doesn't yet have a fully formed identity, or a name -- that these four men meet, despite having arrived by vastly different paths.

It may be just an accident of history that Hertog and Steinhardt have chosen this moment to join forces in these two ventures. Hertog merged his longtime high-end investment firm, Sanford Bernstein and Company, with Alliance Capital Management two years ago; he's a vice-chairman at Alliance, but he's well beyond the point of being lean and hungry. They've known each other for 30 years. Steinhardt, who had a reputation as one of Wall Street's most brusque and aggressive managers, has retired from the hedge-fund business and now places his bets only for himself. Both have made their pile and are looking for something to do. It might be that simple.

But if the concurrence of these events has any larger meaning, it's that they give rise to a new and possibly influential strain in American political discourse. If one were to take Hertog, Steinhardt, Peretz, and Lipsky's politics and put them in a centrifuge, the substance that would emerge would be as follows: It would be explicitly neither Democratic nor Republican. It would be right of center, especially on foreign policy (and most especially on Israel). It would be right of center, too, on a good number of domestic questions. But because it would pay some obeisance to the New Deal and even (sometimes) to the Great Society, which neoconservatism refuted thoroughly, and because it would purport to care deeply about poor people of color -- Hertog is messianic on the topic of vouchers and calls urban education "the civil rights issue of this generation" -- it would stand quite apart from, say, the obstreperous conservatism of a Tom DeLay


The only problem is there has been no market for the Sun in it's year of publication and most Nerw Yorkers ignore it. Here we have a newspaper which is going after an increasingly shrinking demographic, white, conserevative Democrats. Giuliani and Pataki made it acceptable to be a Republican and the Post, long the paper with it's politics on its sleeve: before 1977 the liberal paper, after 1977, the conservative paper, loses $40m a year, has cornered that market. If you want a highbrow expression, you pick up the Wall Street Journal.

There is no niche for the Sun to flourish, because it's demographic no longer exists in the city. Even if it did, it's still a shriking demo in a city who's professional class is changing. The new New York middle class is black, latino, Asian and while they support Israel, the Sun is clearly not targeted to them. In fact, there has rarely been a mismatch of ambitions and times as the New York Sun and the current state of New York. After eight years of Giuliani, conservative politics leave the city's majority, and we're talking 60-40 here, cold.

False concern about public education is not an entry point in a community where the vast majority of educated professionals support public education. If you walk into any office in New York, public or private, you will see a mixed workforce. Only Wall Street remains a limited exception to that. Most of the professionals making day to day decisions in New York are women or minorities, often graduates of some of the most liberal universities in America. The Sun has zero appeal to them and always will.

It seems these people have not noticed the demographic power shift in the city, to the point that there are several, qualified, black and latino politicians who are poised to retake City Hall. Al Sharpton is a power broker because he has the ear ofd the population, not because he's funny on TV.

You really have to wonder why people would invest money and time in a project which appeals to a shrinking base, instead of publishing a newspaper which would appeal to minority, especiall middle-class minority concerns? It's not Irish guys buying up those new homes in Queens.

But this is just endemic of the way many in the media see New York. Their vision has not changed since the 1950's, when in reality New York's comspolitian nature is growing. Yet, little is done to market to these people. Here you have three investors about to sink millions into a doomed project, while anyone proposing to serve the real demographics of New York would have a hard time rasing cash. The real New York isn't interested in a Sun espousing conservative views they've already rejected. They might be interested in a paper which covered their interests and communities in a coherent way.

posted by Steve @ 9:14:00 PM

9:14:00 PM

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