The revolution won’t be televised and, if the Koch brothers have their way, it won’t even make it into print.
According to a new report by Media Matters For America, the Koch brothers have entered the local news market via the purchase and control of state news Web sites. They are doing this through a front called the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a multimillion-dollar organization whose Websites and affiliates provide free statehouse reporting to local newspapers and other media across the country.
The organization is funded by major conservative donors with deep ties to groups affiliated with the Koch brothers and brags about its ability to fill the void created by state newsroom layoffs. Of course, their presence alone raises a number of warnings for any citizen concerned with accurate and reliable reporting free from political slant.
MMFA examines the role the group played in the defeat in Idaho of a normally non-controversial measure that would have barred children under 18 from commercial tanning beds. According to the report, the Franklin Center’s IdahoReporter.com posted no less than six stories critical of the legislation, already in place in 38 other states.
The IdahoReporter.com failed to qualify for membership into the Capitol Correspondents Association, a professional organization for non-biased news reporting. “I think it’s viewed as something other than a regular news organization,” said Betsy Russell, president of the Capitol Correspondents Association of Idaho and a statehouse reporter for the Spokesman-Review of neighboring Spokane, Wash.”They report on their own organization’s activities and they reveal it, they give more play to stuff their organization is pushing.”
Russell says of IdahoReporter.com: “It was basically a lobbying organization that linked to a news arm. They very plainly don’t qualify and are not going to qualify” as a news organization.
As of today the Franklin Center claims to provide 10 percent of all state government news in the United States, with 55 news sites covering state government in 39 states. That’s a scary amount of influence in local opinion-shaping that is going undisclosed to citizens and illustrates the lengths the Koch brothers and their affiliates are willing to go in their battle to undo our democracy.
Photo from NS Newsflash via flickr.