Can two news Web sites by conservatives challenge Huffington Post's ground?
Conservative pundit Tucker Carlson seems to be hedging his words on whether the new Web site he debuted today, The Daily Caller, is going to be the right wing's answer to the liberal-friendly news aggregator The Huffingrton Post.
As Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz points out in a feature today, Carlson told him the site would focus on covering government, though he announced last year it would oppose Democratic President Barack Obama.
"We see our core job as straightforward," Carlson writes in a brief editor's note tagged "Letter From Tucker": Find out what’s happening and tell you about it. We plan to be accurate, both in the facts we assert and in the conclusions we imply. If we’re not, tell us. We’ll fix it immediately.
A look at the site's debut page today shows an interesting way of pressing opposition to a Democratic Party-dominated government without hysterical exaggerations or an aggressively partisan tone.
For example, there are links to about two dozen stories down the center of the home page, including a number of pieces labeled "DC Exclusive" which seems to be the product of original reporting. Almost all these stories (one exception: a piece featuring a former South Carolina GOP chair denying he plans a coup against Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele), are critical of government or Democratic lawmakers.
The pieces themselves are on subjects you would expect -- a look at Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid's recently-revealed controversial comments about Obama's skin color and lack of "Negro dialect" helping him during the 2008 election; a look at $340-million in spending on publicity by the U.S. Census; an analysis of how Massachusetts' heath care system, which provided a model for Dems efforts to change health care nationally, is straining the state's budget.
But besides the Steele story, I saw no critical pieces on Republican politicos on the home page yet. And the centerpiece story, Carlson's look at latest White House party crasher Carlos Allen, is another highly embarrassing incident for the Democratic administration.
Online publisher Andrew Breitbart's site BigJournalism is more obvious in its focus, featuring posts on conservative-friendly topics such as doubts about global warming, the ethical shortcomings of Democratic politicians and allegations the mainstream media is demonizing conservatives.
"To deny that New York-based magazines and newspapers, other than those few openly conservative ones, are anything but liberal in their mindset is 'crazy,'" wrote Breitbart in a post criticizing a story about him on the site BusinessInsider.com he termed a "hit piece."
Both these sites seem to try creating right-friendly areas of cyberspace to mirror the ground covered by the Huffington Post, the sprawling aggregation of liberal-friendly bloggers and reporters which has become a huge success for liberal pundit Arianna Huffington, who provides a commentary for Carlson's site (full disclosure: I occasionally write blog posts for the Huffington Post, usually copying political/media pieces I write here).
I find it interesting to see Huffington's commentary accusing mainstream media of imposing a left-right lens on all political issues, when much of the site's criticism of Obama centers on issues where he isn't left-wing enough for some liberals, including ramping up war in Afghanistan and allegations he hasn't challenges Wall Street's establishment enough during the financial crisis.
At least the Huffington Post has broken news stories embarrassing to Democratic figures, including Obama's campaign comments about some blue collar Pennsylvania voters clinging to guns and religion; something Carlson will have to do regarding important GOP figures to truly be seen as the honest broker he says he is.
I've always thought different ideologies worked better in different media because of the different audiences. Conservatives do well in talk radio, books and cable TV because the audiences there are older and more conservative; liberals seem to do better in cyberspace, documentary filmmaking and entertainment TV because the audience is younger and more liberal.
But there are plenty of conservative-oriented Web sites working to disprove that theory.
And the key, especially for Carlson, may be in echoing partisan values without explicitly referencing party or ideological lines.