Word is out that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is on the verge of selling its conservative political magazine, The Weekly Standard, to the publishing company owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz. If the deal goes through, it does not bode well for The Standard, founded and edited by William Kristol and Fred Barnes.
More than any other conservative paper, The Standard has been able to find and develop new and original talent.
The list of writers of real ability who have passed through the portals of The Standard, located on 17th Street in Northwest Washington, includes David Brooks of The New York Times; broadcaster and writer Tucker Carlson; and Christopher Caldwell, Matt Labash and Matt Continetti, who still write for the magazine.
By comparison Anschutz’s current Washington property, The Examiner, a free daily newspaper, is home to some old standards like Michael Barone, Byron York and Mark Tapscott, who came to the paper from The Heritage Foundation. No one pioneering or fresh. The Examiner is the exemplar of your father’s conservatism.
But worse, leaving aside the politics, which is why The Examiner and The Standard exist, is the basic newspapering of The Examiner. It needs work–just to make it more of a plausible newspaper. The headlines are too small. It covers national politics, but in all other respects, it is a local newspaper with wobbly news judgment.
If any of these weaknesses are to infect The Standard, an important voice of erudite conservatism will be lost. Scintillating new writers will not get a start. Bashing liberals is not enough.
At 10th birthday party for The Standard (founded it in 1995, when Irwin Stelzer, a News Corp adviser, persuaded Murdoch `that the United States needed a magazine of opinion and literary comment like the venerable Spectator in England), Brooks said The Standard was a magazine conceived to serve a government in power not to whine in opposition, which by implication is what Human Events, The American Spectator and National Review do. Even in opposition, it has kept its optimistic tenor and its book reviewing is of a high order.
Sadly, The Standard has never been able to totally learn from its English cousin. American conservatives want just conservative views in their political magazines, not the occasional piece of amusing heresy.
There is a third player is Washington conservative journalism: The Washington Times, a respectable daily with a definite rightward slant, sometimes in its coverage as well as on its opinion pages. It is the home to old-line conservative writers and some liberal ones, including Pat Buchanan and Larry Kudlow on the right, and Nat Hentoff and Clarence Page on the center-left.
The quality of the newspaper craft in The Times dwarfs The Examiner. But those two papers and The Standard are the toy things of rich men with a political point of view. The Times is owned by the Unification Church, led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. You could say that all three are vanity publications: They lose money, lots of it.
But this is not new. The late great New York Herald Tribune was bought by oil billionaire Jock Whitney to counter the liberal New York Times, and to save an important conservative voice in New York at a time of liberal ascendancy.
Earlier, during World War I, Max Aitken, a Canadian, bought the London Daily Express, at the behest of the Conservative Party, to keep a conservative voice in Fleet Street. The Tories were so grateful that they elevated Aitken to the Peerage, as Lord Beaverbrook. Both Beaverbrook and Tories lived to rue the day. Beaverbrook because he realized his chances of being prime minister had evaporated with the honor and the Tories because Beaverbrook was a maverick. Also, Beaverbrook soon started making money–lots of it–off his newspaper and did not have to worry about conservative orthodoxy anymore. Neither Murdoch nor Anschutz nor Moon is ever likely to make any money out of their publishing properties.
Amazing how unbusinesslike conservatives can be when it comes to defending the faith. –for North Star Writers Group