Friday, April 10, 2009

BeyondChron: Five years of PC progressivism

The progressive website BeyondChron is noting its fifth year of publishing with a peculiar retrospective essay, What We've Learned:

For all the talk about how the Chronicle’s demise will endanger San Francisco by allegedly diminishing resident’s access to local news, the fact---and Chronicle editors have clearly long known this---is that the demand for such news is not broad. And many of the same people are intensely interested in multiple local issues, while the pool of people attracted to a news source focusing on such issues does not grow...

One of the great advantages of Internet journalism is that we get a good sense of which articles are actually read; in contrast, one knows the circulation of a print publication but, absent word of mouth, not how much of its subscriber base paid any attention to a particular piece. Some of what we’ve learned about reader interest surprises us, and helps explain why we run the stories we do.

This is an odd claim for an internet publication to make. Take for example the SF Chronicle's website, where we can now witness how interested its readers are in specific articles and issues by reading the readers' comments. When C.W. Nevius writes about quality-of-life issues in San Francisco or Rachel Gordon writes about traffic, Critical Mass, or the Bicycle Plan, they often get hundreds of comments.

BeyondChron festoons its home page with an endorsement by the SF Bay Guardian: "Best Local Website," which isn't surprising, since the political perspective of the two publications is nearly identical and entirely predictable.

Except for a few pieces by Randy Shaw disagreeing with city progressives on city homeless policy, there hasn't been a dimesworth of difference in the coverage of BeyondChron and the Guardian on these local issues: the underground garage in Golden Gate Park; the San Francisco Peoples' Organization, which, as I predicted, quickly disappeared down the city's memory hole; the injunction against the city's Bicycle Plan, which Casey Mills, as per prog doctrine, called a "totally unnecessary roadblock in the path of the Bike Coalition's normal work," implying that the SF Bicycle Coalition is a city agency whose operation was being hindered by obstructionists; the flakey attempt at boycotting Muni back in 2005 when it raised fares a mere 25 cents to deal with a $57 million deficit; Supervisor Mirkarimi's legislation regulating the pot clubs, where Shaw seemed to be channeling Chris Daly's untenable rejectionist perspective; 

BeyondChron played the race card against those concerned about illegal immigration; Chris Daly's dog-and-pony show question time proposal, which city voters finally laid to rest by rejecting it; like the Guardian, BeyondChron had nothing to say about the successful attempt by the Islamic bullyboys to intimidate the Western media after the Danish Mohammed cartoons; Paul Hogarth endorsed Supervisor Mirkarimi's shameful surrender to UC on its ripoff of the extension property, which had been zoned for "public use" for 150 years; and the Market/Octavia Plan, which rezones thousands of properties in the heart of the city to encourage population density---including 40-story highrises at Market and Van Ness---is all about "affordable housing," not about the fashionable but false "transit corridors" theory, which tells us the city can build as much housing as it wants anywhere near a major Muni line. And of course BeyondChron endorsed Chris Daly's deal with developers on the Rincon Hill luxury highrise condos, which he claimed, implausibly, was somehow a great victory for progressive housing policy in San Francisco.

BeyondChron thinks there aren't a lot of people interested in local issues, but it might learn otherwise if it published perspectives outside the narrow, "progressive" political parameters that are already precisely delineated by the Bay Guardian. BeyondChron thinks it's going beyond the SF Chronicle, but it's not even going beyond the utterly predictable Bay Guardian.

My critique of BeyondChron on its first anniversary.

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For opponents of JROTC, it's about ideology

Fine piece by Lauren Smiley on JROTC in the current SF Weekly, one of the rare occasions when it diverges politically from the competing weekly, the Politically Correct SF Bay Guardian, which of course supports the ban. The differences between the two weeklies are usually purely commercial.

The anti-JROTC website admits that the main motivation for opponents of the program is anti-Pentagon ideology: "The battle is far from over, and we are definitely giving the Pentagon a run for its money." Sure enough there are a number of fringe leftists listed as supporters of the JROTC ban on the site, including Cindy Sheehan, Medea Benjamin, and h. Brown. And, like a number of local "progressive" blogs, there are no names on the site to tell us who's putting it together. Local progs are often timid and like to run in packs.

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