January 24, 2008

With all the focus on the presidential primaries, very little attention has been given to some major changes at the Washington Times even within the narrow world of conservative beltway politicos and journalists. Times editor in chief Wes Pruden has been expected to retire for quite some time, and it was assumed that he would be succeeded by managing editor Fran Coombs. Instead, the Times hired John Solomon from the Washington Post. After the decision, Coombs and assistant national editor Robert Stacy McCain immediately resigned. This decision bodes very poorly for the future of the Times.

While all newspapers have had to adjust to the internet, the Washington Times has faced an additional challenge.  While print papers still produce the bulk of actual news coverage, one of the the Times‘s biggest draws was its commentary pages, a great source for conservative opinion from both staff and syndicated columnists. The internet has made this section virtually obsolete.

Under the leadership of Fran Coombs, the Washington Times has done a lot of stellar reporting. Two of the last three recipients of the Center for Immigration Studies”€™ Eugene Katz Award for Excellence in the Coverage of Immigration have been Times reporters. In addition to reporting on immigration, the Times will occasionally write nice pieces on Robert E. Lee’s birthday and balanced pieces on the Confederate Flag. 

This has attracted negative attention from various left wingers beyond the usual banter from groups like Media Matters and FAIR.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has done multiple “€œexposés“€ and in October of 2006, The Nation published a cover piece by politically correct smear artist extraordinaire Max Blumenthal documenting the “€œracism”€ of Coombs, McCain, and Pruden.

As Alexander Hart noted at VDARE, most of these smears amounted to hearsay, unsubstantiated allegations by disgruntled former employees, and even speculations about the politics of Pruden’s father and Coomb’s wife. The extent of any “€œracism”€ in the Times‘s actual reporting was the fact that they occasionally wrote favorably about immigration restrictionists and Confederate generals. Furthermore, though most of the allegations of actual racial hatred or discrimination were unfounded, it is true that Coombs, McCain, and Pruden are proud Southerners. While Pruden ultimately was responsible for the firing of Sam Francis, they did run a very nice obituary about the man after his death, and Coombs made a nice blurb about Sam for a posthumous collection of his essays.  Stacy McCain has occasionally written for publications like Chronicles and The American Conservative

This is too much for the far Left, and perhaps many neoconservatives. Like any newspaper, there is a lot of internal politics at the Times and we have no way to know how much, if any, of the left-wing muckraking was responsible for the decision to chose Solomon over Coombs. 

This is not to say the Left will be happy with him. Solomon’s main claim to fame has been his sloppy and biased reporting at the Associated Press and Washington Post.

During the 2004 election, he published a number of pieces for the AP based on shoddy rumors against John Kerry.  A quick look at the complaints against him from Media Matters doesn”€™t show any concerns about him reporting favorably on conservative causes, but does have numerous headlines like:

“€¢ Wash. Post’s Solomon”€”whose “investigations” fuel right-wing attacks”€” suggested Clinton nonprofit is somehow corrupt
“€¢ Wash. Post baselessly linked Abramoff to Democratic fundraisers
“€¢ Wash. Post’s Solomon blamed editor for deletion about GOP fundraiser
“€¢ Even more serious flaws emerge in AP story about Reid’s attendance at boxing matches

In other words, the extent of Solomon’s “€œconservatism”€ is that he is a GOP hack.  Under his editorship we can expect the Times to turn into a Republican Party mouthpiece.  Insofar as subjects like immigration will be discussed, most likely they will either be slanted towards the left or else turned into a partisan issue.

With the 2008 election coming up, this will no doubt make the various Republican Party groupies who occupy the conservative movement thrilled, and groups like FAIR and Media Matters furious.  Real conservatives need to walk away from this pillow fighting and find new ways to get real news out without the help of the establishment media.


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