USA Today Is Jumping on the 'We Have to Pander to Conservatives' Bandwagon

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The 2016 election supposedly proved that the press needed to rediscover America. Media careers have been made and remade from this exploration of the country, with national outlets running up expense reports at endless Midwestern diners while filing dispatches from Trump Country.

The USA Today Network—the fancy name for the media conglomerate Gannett’s nationwide web of more than 100 newspapers—would seem to have a head-start on this race to understand the middle of the country. And a job posting for a staffer who will help launch an email newsletter would seem to shed some light on how one of the country’s largest media companies is approaching the task.

“There are angry shouts on the far end of both sides, but those in the center of the country – literally and figuratively – have no one to speak to their everyday concerns on jobs and taxes, safety and security, and their children’s futures,” the posting reads. “That’s where you come in.”


A new product for political news that avoids the media culture war, Donald Trump’s eating habits, and the 45 MOST ASTONISHING lines from the president’s latest rally? Please, content gods, I beg of thee: Deliver me updates on how the GOP tax cuts affect American workers instead of behind-the-curtain scoops on the latest Oval Office hissy fit.

But then the listing goes on (emphasis mine, and don’t bother with the incorrect numbering):

We’re looking for a talented writer/producer who can do four key things:

* Build a loyal and passionate, national audience, of center-right conservatives

* Identify and compile the smartest conservative commentary from across the country

* Deliver those intelligent takes via an email newsletter with a conversational tone

* Recognize when a trending topic needs a conservative voice

* Advocate for, curate and then deliver smart commentary in the moment

To be clear here: The USA Today Network is seeking a young writer and editor whose primary job seems to be putting out a newsletter; Kevin Williamson or Bret Stephens this hire is not.


But who’s to say that only conservatives can speak to “everyday concerns” in Middle America? Bernie Sanders won many states in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains in the 2016 Democratic primary—states where Gannett happens to own newspapers. Also: Doesn’t the emphasis on conservatism conflict with the hire’s supposed appeal to the “figurative” center of the country?

I put these questions to Allison Carter, assistant digital editor at the Indianapolis Star, where this position will be based. Her response:

Conservatives aren’t the only voice in the middle of the country – as we well know in Indianapolis, which is a blue dot in a red state — but we do believe there is a vacuum right now for center-right political opinion that does appeal to many in the heartland.


I’d counter that center-right views likely appeal to just as many or more folks in New York or California as well. Why not just sell such efforts as a straight play for conservatives—without the heartland-soothsayer language—in the first place?

I bugged Carter again about whether the USA Today Network is also launching an analogous lefty newsletter targeted at blue-collar autoworkers in Michigan and public employee unions in Wisconsin, and I’ll update this post if she pings me back.