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Mainstream media outrage over conservative-sponsored news outlets

Mainstream media outrage over conservative-sponsored news outlets

Wayne Hoffman
April 20, 2010
Wayne Hoffman
Author Image
April 20, 2010

The ghost of Herbert Morrison has returned. Morrison was the pioneer radio reporter who, in 1937, summed up the horrific crash of the Hindenburg with the now-immortal words, "Oh, the humanity." Reporters and editors in the media are pretending to leap from flames and bellow "Oh, the humanity" once again after an Associated Press story described how conservative organizations, such as the Idaho Freedom Foundation, are busy with their own upstart news operations.

IFF has two reporters dedicated to coverage of state government issues at IdahoReporter.com. IFF also has its own investigative reporter. All are committed to the tenets of journalism.

The reason for this new approach to journalism is the mainstream media's increasing abandonment of state government news. I spent 18 years in journalism and can safely say some in the mainstream media have given up on daily coverage of the government. The AP's story contained typical laments from the press and academia about whether an organization, which advocates a conservative position, can run a new outlet and whether the news will be biased, either in the presentation of stories or in the story selection.

Over at the Missoulian, an editor sums up the hysteria with a critique that describes IdahoReporter.com and similar news operations as "agenda-driven." Pot, meet kettle. While fretting about the possibility of agenda-driving at IdahoReporter.com, the Missoulian editorial board voiced support for a Missoula, Montana land deal, opined on behalf of a drunken driving ordinance and blasted a ban on congressional pork barrel spending.

The Spokesman-Review newspaper's Idaho state government reporter leads the Capitol Correspondents Association, which said IFF's issue advocacy makes IdahoReporter.com's newsmen unable to hold Statehouse news credentials. That's interesting, since the Spokesman-Review isn't bashful about having an opinion on any number of topics, from supporting Spokane's proposed downtown alcohol ordinance to criticizing lawmakers for worrying about state sovereignty. In fact, most newspapers do as much opining as IFF does.

Of course, newspaper editors will argue that there's a bright line between their news gathering and editorials. But most newspapers will also concede that many of the people on their editorial boards -- managing editors, executive editors and copy editors -- are the same people directly involved in the day-to-day story selection and editing decisions.

Every day we're bombarded with headlines in the traditional media about the need to grow one government program or another. Whether the traditional media like it or not, whether intentional or not, many in the media promote, solicit and support statism.

The most important, and perhaps only, measure for a news organization is content: Following the tea party events on Thursday, the Idaho Statesman's front page story was on Democrat Walt Minnick's endorsement by a tea party group that has nothing to do with Idaho. The newspaper gave a mere three paragraphs to the actual Boise event, as well as some pictures. That's it. The Idaho Falls Post Register and Pocatello's Idaho State Journal carried a made-up nonsense story about how the eastern Idaho ea party was just a Republican affair. The only thing good about the story was that some people who read it knew enough to not believe it.

Over at IdahoReporter.com, there were five stories on the Boise tea party protest, including a story on the opposing "coffee party" crowd as well as Minnick's endorsement. One story examined the costs associated with such events. And there were plenty of pictures and comments from participants. By any journalistic standard, IdahoReporter.com did a superior job covering the day's events.

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