WPWG and TMS React to Media Matters Column Survey Numbers

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By: E&P Staff

A Washington Post Writers Group executive agrees with Media Matters that conservatives do better than liberals on Op-Ed pages, but feels the MM study’s numbers are low.

“The Media Matters report on the play of syndicated columnists in American daily newspapers confirmed what everybody in the business already knows — that, statistically, newspapers publish more syndicated conservatives than liberals,” WPWG Executive Director/General Manager Alan Shearer wrote on the blog of his syndicate, which had several writers in MM’s top 10.

Shearer added: “Everybody, of course, immediately said the numbers are too low. In our case, they range about 15 percent to 18 percent below our sales numbers. Examples: George F. Will, 429 (MM: 368, the highest number of all). Kathleen Parker, 378 (MM: 328). Ellen Goodman, 347 (MM: 285). David S. Broder, 295 (MM: 256).”

Discussing possible reasons for MM’s lower figures, Shearer noted that the survey “didn’t count weeklies, non-newspaper Web sites, or Spanish-language publications, and relied heavily on the responses of editors, some of whom didn’t answer repeated messages, leaving researchers to survey those publications by other means.”

Shearer also talked about how the survey made it obvious that some client numbers are inflated: “We couldn’t help notice [that] MM researchers found huge discrepancies from the client lists that certain writers or syndicates claim. It is a standing joke in the business that you never believe numbers given by a syndicate. If all were true, there would have to be 15,000 U.S. daily newspapers.” (E&P’s Year Book lists 1,437.)

“The Writers Group quotes actual numbers,” continued Shearer. “When an AP writer called me to ask about the Media Matters report, I told him he could visit my office and review the books. I’ve made a similar offers to other prominent media writers. We have nothing to hide.”

Not everyone agrees that George Will has the most newspapers among Op-Ed columnists. Tribune Media Services, which usually doesn’t reveal client numbers, said TMS writer Cal Thomas has more than 500 papers. But it’s not known how many of Thomas’ papers are non-dailies not surveyed by MM.

A story about MM’s study can be seen here. Shearer’s entire blog post can be seen here.

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