Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN


April 2, 2013

Washington loses another critical eye


It is not surprising as The Washington Examiner is only following the pack when it comes to orienting a publication to the desires of those who make a living either directly or indirectly from government. The niche it's entering is as crowded as Cancun beaches on spring break.

Politico is one of the most prominent publications in the genre that has cropped up in the past decade as Washington Gucci-fied and has been very successful gilding its brand on cable news.

But the fact that The Washington Examiner would turn that direction is ironic for a paper that prides itself on assailing big government, as the new business model takes for granted that the leviathan will prosper and special interests with it.

It is especially so as the original Examiner model was designed to hold state and local government across the country accountable to the people.

The company registered the Examiner name in dozens of locations to make it possible to open papers in many cities and still operates Examiner.com, a network of local bloggers (Full disclosure: I worked for The Baltimore Examiner as editorial page editor from 2006 to '09, the three years the paper existed.)

But those plans were made before the recession hit and before Washington solidified its status as the end all be all. The shift of money to Washington has been fast: In 2000, four counties around D.C. were the wealthiest in the country. Today, seven of the 10 make that exclusive list.

I don't begrudge Clarity for wanting to make money. But I wonder how one more publication targeting Washington's elite, even one impugning the Capitol's ways, will help to shrink government when the target audience depends on it growing. Meanwhile, the number of reporters covering state houses around the country has dropped precipitously and made it easier for those in power to sculpt the news. It won't be long before governors and other officials around the country launch their own portal like Vice President Joe Biden did with "Being Biden" at http://www.whitehouse.gov/being-biden. According to the site, "In this audio series Vice President Biden will tell the story behind a photo - of where he was, why it matters to him, and how the experience fits into the broader narrative of this administration."

The website is funny in an absurd way, but it won't be laughable if his and others like it become the "news." America needs more accountability, not more public relations, which is why those from all political stripes should worry when another paper stops the presses.

- Marta H. Mossburg is an independent columnist. Contact her at marta@martamossburg.com.

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