Ink-stained delusions of grandeur

By The West Virginia Record | Jun 1, 2007

The U.S. government is investigating whether West Virginia willfully diverted federal Medicaid funds.

The U.S. government is investigating whether West Virginia willfully diverted federal Medicaid funds. If the charges prove true -- and the case looks like a slam dunk to us -- they will cost state taxpayers millions.

This news is more than two weeks old. Yet West Virginia's self-proclaimed "newspaper of record" hasn't yet mustered the energy to write a story about it.

That the Charleston Gazette doth protest too much, so often, aggressively avoiding so many major stories of consequence to West Virginians when they don't jibe with its politics, should color the people's judgment of the newspaper's alleged monopolist ambition.

If you haven't already heard, the U.S. Justice Department has accused the Gazette's owners of trying to corner Charleston's print daily newspaper market. In a federal lawsuit filed May 22, the government charged Daily Gazette Co. of buying its rival Daily Mail in 2004 with the expressed intent of bleeding it to death so as to become the only show in town.

To the casually business-savvy observer -- two daily newspapers cannot survive in Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, Phoenix, Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, Miami or Dallas, but they can in Charleston? -- these alleged designs seemed pretty obvious. The imminent threat they supposedly posed to we citizenry, however, proved less so.

To be sure, there was a time when unchecked dominant print dailies had a taste for the tyrannical, dominating free speech and making local retailers beg for ad rate mercy. But in this Internet Age, that's only a memory.

It goes without saying that news producers no longer need a printing press or a fleet of delivery trucks to reach the people. Competition is here. For fat and happy legacy media used to having their way, it's inflicting great pain.

So when the Gazette plays political favorites in its news coverage, aspiring to shape West Virginia public opinion with raw force like it's still 1985, it does so at the expense of its own franchise. Today, such journalistic arrogance has consequences.

Indeed, there will come a day when the Gazette is the only print daily newspaper in town. But that doesn't mean you'll have to read it. And at this rate, it's a good bet most of us won't.

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