Sunday, July 31, 2011
Nonprofit with free-market views and secret givers opens more statehouse news bureaus
As many news organizations have cut back on statehouse reporters and coverage of state issues, the Franklin Center for Government and Integrity has started news bureaus in several states, most recently in Virginia, that deliver much needed information that is picked up by local news outlets and even by Stateline, the 12-year-old service of the Pew Center on the States.
The nonprofit, tax-exempt center says it is "dedicated to educating the public about corruption, incompetence, fraud, waste and abuse of public trust by elected officials," but it appears to seek reporters who have a free-market perspective that is not always transparent, much as the center does not reveal its contributors.
Jim Romenesko, who gathers news about the news media for the Poynter Institute, reports that he received an anonymous email from a journalist who applied for a job at the Franklin Institute's Wisconsin Reporter, left, and was asked questions that he said "seemed counterintuitive for a journalism job," such as "Do higher taxes lead to balanced budgets?" (Read more)
Also from Romenesko: The Wisconsin Reporter sometimes takes a slanted view, writes Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of the Capital Times, a liberal alternative paper in Madison, the state capital. He cites a story with a favorable spin for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and another saying “unions continued to funnel money to recall efforts” without mentioning money “from corporate PACs, right-wing anti-gay and pro-life fronts and other cultural war organizations that have made a habit of spending lavishly on Wisconsin races.” (Read more)
UPDATE, Aug. 8: A spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party told the Reporter that it could expect him to tell the dozen or so newspapers that publish Reporter stories about "our deep concern about the obviuous bias that permeates your entire oiperation. Then, we let our activists know which papers publish you, and they write the publisher and editor. Then, we contact that Capitol press room and let them know our concerns about your credentialing." (Read more)
While the Wisconsin site does seem to have a conservative or Republican slant, as indicated by the large GOP graphic illustrating a story on the screen grab above, my advice to editors and news directors would be to judge each of the stories individually, with a careful eye and a sharp edit, and use a tagline giving the source of the story and the center's background. Sometimes the best place for a story might be the opinion page. Local news outlets need more news on state issues, but it needs to be trustworthy.
Other state sites of the Franklin Center include Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Let us know what you think of them, via comments to this post. The center also operates Watchdog.org, which has sites in many of the same states as well as others, and has a list of them on its site. It emails headline digests of items from those sites and other libertarian- and conservative-oriented sites that focusing on states. UPDATE, Aug. 3: Readers of The Fix blog of The Washington Post voted Red Maryland and the center's Maryland Reporter the best political blogs in the state.