If you’re aware of them at all, you can’t help but immediately notice the right-wing tilt and highly suspect funding of Virginia Statehouse News, but this great piece from Media Matters highlights the conservative ideological nonprofit that’s supporting organizations like this one and biasing their news coverage.
The Franklin Center is a multimillion-dollar organization whose websites and affiliates provide free statehouse reporting to local newspapers and other media across the country. Funded by major conservative donors, staffed by veterans of groups affiliated with the Koch brothers, and maintaining a regular presence hosting right-wing events, the organization boasts of its ability to fill the void created by state newsroom layoffs.
The group’s editors claim that their “professional journalism” work is walled off from the organization’s more nakedly political operations and say that their “pro-taxpayer, pro-liberty, free market perspective” doesn’t compromise their accuracy or independence. But many journalism professionals – even newspaper editors who reprint the work of Franklin Center affiliates in their own pages – speak warily of the group’s ideological bent.
Unfortunately, more and more small-town newspapers, strapped for resources to cover stories themselves, are using sites like Statehouse News essentially as a wire service for their state capitol coverage. For instance, here in Virginia:
Cort Kirkwood, managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Virginia, said he uses the Franklin-affiliated Virginia Statehouse News because it is in the state capital and he cannot staff the legislative beat completely.
For “a lot of these small papers around Virginia, it is very, very difficult to station someone down in Richmond for the entire session, it does require a substantial financial commitment,” Kirkwood said.
This means, of course, that folks in small communities around Virginia are getting incredibly slanted coverage with no disclosure about the agenda of the organization. So where’s the progressive pushback against the right wing’s efforts at spreading misinformation and distortions around Virginia? Where’s the funding for progressive outlets to report the truth, uncover the right wing’s lies, etc? So far, mostly what I’ve been hearing is the quiet sound of crickets chirping. Major, major #FAIL!