When I was making readers spill their morning coffee as a columnist at The Cincinnati Enquirer, I was also a repeat-offender speaker to Rotarians, Kiwanians and Optimists (who probably reconsidered their motto after one of my visits).

Some things were as predictable as linoleum in a church basement: a lunch that tasted like chicken; a kind introduction that made me sound like someone almost important; and sooner or later somebody would ask:

"Why are newspapers so liberal?"

I was paroled from newspaper Alcatraz a few years ago. Now I hear a new question: "What happened to the Enquirer?"

Look No Further

I think the first question answers the second.

In newsrooms, they blame poor circulation on Internet competition and a business model that looks more arthritic than Keith Richards after a 10th round knockout by Jose Cuervo.

Tossing a bag of dead trees in your driveway does not say "cutting edge." It says that no matter how they preach the PC gospel of global warming, newspapers are environmental heathens.

But one major cause remains taboo. The same mediacrats who worship "diversity" are stubbornly blind to their own political bigotry. There are two kinds of people in newsrooms: liberal and very liberal.

When I was editorial page editor, one Enquirer managing editor insisted we should not run opinions by conservatives because they were wrong. "Shut up," she explained. Full disclosure, she no longer works there.

When the Enquirer's PC police noticed that the "Most Wanted" mug shots were all minorities, they added white check-bouncers "” equally "most wanted" with those suspected of murder and rapes.

I worked with hundreds of editors and reporters in Michigan, Arizona and Ohio. I can count the conservatives on two hands with at least one finger left over. Surveys say 36 percent of Americans call themselves conservative (vs. 20 percent liberal). But only six percent of journalists say they're conservative.

"Where's the Beef?"

That's like Burger King run by vegetarians. They keep pushing tofu "” "it's good for you" "” while customers gag and ask, "Where's the beef?"

Maybe creative people are just bent that way (see Hollywood.) I was at first, until I broke away from the herd of independent thinkers. Maybe it's because all the "important" newspapers and networks are so liberal it hurts, and the incestuous prize racket loves liberal-agenda stories the way federal grants love offensive "art." Maybe it's because corporate management enforced liberal orthodoxy with affirmative action quotas, mandatory sensitivity training and dismissal of conservative readers as "cranks."

Who cares why? Old Media is capsized like an Italian cruise liner. The crew that ran it aground is forced to jump overboard. And they wonder why so many people abandoned ship.

The explanation can be found in any day's random headlines. Such as:

An Associated Press "news" story mocked anyone who calls President Obama a "socialist," pointing out that he certainly is not because"¦ well"¦ he says so. A real news story would cite his landmark push for socialized medicine, or his friends who are socialists, or his praise of European-style socialism. A real reporter might include documents proving that Obama joined the socialist New Party in Chicago in 1996, and that his own book bragged about the socialist meetings he attended. But AP did not report any of that. You had to find it in conservative media.

Delusional Spin?

Another AP report scolded anyone who thought the Wisconsin recall election had any national significance: "You'd be wrong." It warned. "Don't listen" to anyone who says a defeat of big labor is a big deal. The evidence for such delusional spin? Quotes from a Democratic Party strategist.

During the Bush administration, "Fast and Furious" would describe the media outrage over a scandal involving executive privilege, a murdered border agent and an attorney general cited for contempt of Congress. For Obama, it's chirping crickets.

Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts copyrighted the mental condition. He defended the value of newspapers by writing yet another installment of "I hate Sarah Palin." That's about as helpful to newspapers as trying to bring back Grand Funk Railroad with more cowbell.

Conservatives can get a little crazy about this. So let the record show there are many good reporters and editors who try hard to be objective. Not every story is contaminated. But too many are. Or check out the laughable PolitiFact stories from other Ohio newspapers that play referee while they root for Democrats and throw penalty flags at Republicans.

Squandering Public Trust

Once you know the umpire is in the tank, every call is suspect. Newspapers have driven away readers by squandering their public trust. Their echo chamber makes them deaf to complaints. They write stories for each other, and it would be a lot easier if those annoying readers would be quiet.

After a career in journalism, it's heartbreaking to see great newspapers waste away for a lot of reasons, but primarily political scurvy. It's sad that an exciting, once-respected profession is going dark. It's sad that our civic watchdog can't be trusted not to bite. Even TV news is not as sharp or competitive. While some of the best news interviews are on talk radio, they just as often treat news stories like slapstick.

I am not a member of the newspaper Optimists Club. I lost respect for a business that sold out its ethics and betrayed a noble calling in exchange for Jack Nicholson seats on the left side of the arena.

As the election approaches, the press will get more partisan "” and lose more customers. This election is a referendum on the media as much as on their chosen One. No matter how it comes out, it looks like more bad news for the news