Good Reads

Guestposter Mark Brunswick on journalists’ not-so-balanced political contributions

June 22nd, 2007 – 10:13 AM by D.J. Tice

State capitol reporter Brunswick links to an intriguing — if not exactly surprising — report on journalists putting their money where their mouths (most often) are not:

Confirming what many already believe about the leftward leanings of the so-called mainstream media, MSNBC investigative reporter Bill Dedman appears to have done a pretty exhaustive job of ferretting out 144 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign.

Dedman finds that 125 of the scribes gave to Democrats or liberal causes. Only 17 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

The almost casual justifications Dedman quotes for the contributions might be surprising to those long-accustomed to the concept of neutrality in journalism.

It’s certainly unsettling to read of a sympathetic 2004 profile of Teresa Heinz Kerry followed 10 days later by a $1,000 donation to the Democratic National Committee by the author of the story.

There are also local connections in Dedman’s report:

Not cited in the main story but listed in the report was part-time Star Tribune copy editor Barbara Haugen, who is listed as giving $250 in October 2006 to Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar.

Haugen did not return phone calls made by MSNBC seeking comment, and has yet to respond to the Big Question.

But Star Tribune managing editor Scott Gillespie told MSNBC: “We have a conflict of interest policy. We ask that people who are involved in political coverage – we dissuade them – we actually dissuade the entire staff. We haven’t banned it outright for the entire newsroom. Our policy says that people should avoid doing any partisan politics on their own, avoid any politics. It’s especially emphasized for people who do political coverage.”

In the main story, Dedman also writes:

“Several of the journalists reasoned that their activism is acceptable precisely because the public would not know – unless they go to the trouble to search the FEC records.

“‘A lot of us want to be politically active. But marching in a waralex_kendall.jpg protest isn’t an option, being a recognizable person, so we give with our checkbook,’ said Alix Kendall, the morning anchor for Fox station KMSP in Minneapolis, who gave $250 in September to the Midwest Values PAC, which passed the money on to Democratic candidates.

“‘I don’t think that working for a news organization I give up my rights. I interview plenty of people that I don’t agree with, but I also ask questions to get the other side.’”

Mark Brunswick

20 Responses to "

Good Reads

Guestposter Mark Brunswick on journalists’ not-so-balanced political contributions"

parthian says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 11:02 am

I assume no one is questioning the right of journalists and reporters to financially support political candidates and causes.

Reporters are highly educated, very informed about the issues of the day and have voluntarily entered an idealistic, relatively low-pay profession which is supposedly committed to informing citizens and challenging powerful people.

Those qualities are a recipe for progressive people, not backwards looking, wealth worshipping, militarist GOoPers. It’s one of the reasons there aren’t more “conservative” academics as well—people attracted to the profession are just too smart and literate to fall for the “conservative” hokum, nonsense and claptrap.

Mark the sequel says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 11:21 am

parthian says:

It’s one of the reasons there aren’t more “conservative” academics as well—people attracted to the profession are just too smart and literate to fall for the “conservative” hokum, nonsense and claptrap.


But they do like insults. Or is that just parthian? And by the way, help some of us stupid folks out and explain in detail the precise differences and distinctions among “hokum, nonsense and claptrap.” If you feel up to it, perhaps you can also offer a learned treatise on balderdash and flapdoodle as well.

As for who Alix Kendall supports, I couldn’t care less. And if she wants to throw her money away by supporting lefties, that’s her business. It would be better if she gave the money directly to the candidates she supports, rather than to a PAC that is specifically designed to mask such allegiances, but that’s just another of the glories of McCain/Feingold….

O.T. says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 11:27 am

I am positive that parthian and the rest of the libs would have no problem if I, a member of local law enforcement and actually somewhat well known in these circles, would, say, be the leader of the local klan or aryan nation groups? Right? Because it is on my own time and it is my own money so there isnt any compromise of my work, I am right, huh, parthian? Wrong, you and the media would eat me alive and roast me on the front page for as long as the story could be bled. This is the same thing- you cannot have devotion to one party and then be expected to be impartial, look at lopez’s bs story on norm alone.

jakenate says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 11:39 am


I feel it’s safe to assume that if you, as a member of local law enforcement and actually somewhat well known in these cities, would, says, contribute to a PAC which passed the money on to Republican candidates, no one would think anything of it; and, if Alix Kendall were the leader of the local klan or aryan nation groups, there would be an uproar. Somehow, I don’t think think equating one to the other is quite an apt comparison.

Bill Prendergast says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 11:40 am

Good analogy, OT–

law enforcement offical turns out to be KKK member::journalist turns out to be voting for DFL

Keep up the clear thinking and reasoned perspective that conservatives are famous for.

Ah, the biased liberal media. Yes, famed in conservative song and story. But they must wonder, twenty seven years after the Reagan era–why is it that people who actually go out and cover the news (as opposed to those who comment on it)–tend to become liberals? Why is it that the news gatherers, as opposed to the people who read the news or own the news companies, tend to turn into liberals? What is it that they’re seeing out there in the “real world” that keeps them supporting a liberal view, generation after generation?

One more thing: if the Strib is a “liberal rag” determined to push the liberal agenda–why did Tice and reporter Brunswick print this particular story? Aren’t they part of the “biased liberal media”? If so, why are they trying to prove to conservative readers that there *is* a liberal media bias?

Dora says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 12:10 pm

So I wonder if the 144 surveyed would be a representative enough sample to even be able to make that claim?

I laughed out loud at this:

“I don’t make campaign contributions,” said Jean A. Briggs, who gave a total of $2,000 to the Republican Party and Republican candidates, most recently this March. “I’m the assistant managing editor of Forbes magazine.”

When asked about the Republican National Committee donations, she replied, “You call that a campaign contribution? It’s not putting money into anyone’s campaign.”

For the record: The RNC gave $25 million to the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004.)”

grad says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 12:57 pm

O.T., what a great new question for next year’s SAT!

________ is to Republicans as Midwest Values PAC is to Democrats.

A. Every Republican is Crucial PAC
B. Freedom Project
D. 21st Century PAC
E. Straight Talk America

O.T. says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 1:25 pm

it is the same because as a law enforcer, i am expected to not have conflict of interest affiliations outside of work the same as journalists.

swschrad says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 1:38 pm

hmph. why, sonny, back in my day, reporters didn’t HAVE any extra money to give to any silly politicians.

grad says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 1:39 pm

Does the Midwest Values PAC have a history of violence?

D.J. Tice says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 4:14 pm

This post has been updated to include new information — the editor.

O.T. says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 4:28 pm

ok, ok, the kkk is an extreme end of the spectrum. lets ponder this then, I am a little league coach or boy scout leader and whenever I come across another coach or scout affiliate, I never give them a ticket or arrest them. This is close to the “blue wall of silence”. This is tantamount to a dem journalist writing fluff pieces on dem candidates, which is a part of this story above.

Cash N. Carey says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 5:41 pm

The MSM has a liberal slant!? Someone call the Star Tribune. Good thing we have Fox News to give us the real story.

The good news out of this story: the libs don’t spend much money unless it is someone else’s. The conservatives won’t spend to support a liberal rag. I hear that revenue is 20% below plan at Avista. Hmmmmm

6th district Jim says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 6:58 pm

CNC, yet again, is a laugh riot.

Part of the genius pool–
Bill and Dora–are left to post
pointless drivel on this subject.
That’s even funnier.

John E Iacono says:

June 22nd, 2007 at 10:55 pm

The press slants to the left, because so many of those composing the words personally lean that way…

How, then account for EB?

It is pretty nearly always easily possible to detect the slant in any one article, and the way it slants is tipped by whose ox is bawling the loudest.

Sometimes it’s to the right; given the makeup of the products of our journalism schools as indicated by the contributions, it’s not surprising that often it’s to the left.

What I look for is the writer who can take up a very partisan issue and leave one wondering at the end which side s/he is on. A few — a very few — of those articles have appeared in the Strib in the past few years — apart from those by EB.

If its any comfort, “yellow” journalism is in the grand American tradition.

Dora says:

June 23rd, 2007 at 8:42 am

And here’s EB’s take on it from Minnesota Monitor: Question: Are Most Journalists Liberal? Answer: Yes.

Dora says:

June 23rd, 2007 at 8:46 am

Here’s EB’s bottom line:

“During my 900-plus years of being accused of smuggling into my work various biases (both left and right, but more often left) I found that bias critics were often among the most biased people I encountered. For example, such critics often focus on a fact in a story that is bad for their side, take it to be incontrovertible evidence of bias, and fail to notice, or at least to credit or remark upon, another fact that is good for their side in the same story.

Selective perception is a powerful and unhelpful force in human nature. Liberal reporters perceive the world differently than conservative reporters do. This is bound to come across in their work in some way. But they try to rise above their biases and they generally make considerable progress – generally a heckuva lot more than is selectively perceived by their critics, who often make no effort to rise above their biases.”

john sherman says:

June 23rd, 2007 at 8:41 pm

A couple of days ago Eric Alterman in his blog Altercation disassembled Dedman’s story making three basic points: (1) it’s based on the assumption that journalists are solely responsible for the presentation of news and ignores the politics of editors, publishers and owners (A.J. Liebling made a similar response to similar complaint about 60 years ago); (2) the sample is simply too small to provide reliable inferences since the vast majority of journalists apparently didn’t give money to any candidates, and (3) it was a hit piece.

There seems to be a general agreement that reporters, like the rest of the better educated and better informed, are socially liberal. There’s a dispute as to whether they are economically liberal or conservative; I suspect that the better paid are conservative.

john sherman says:

June 23rd, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Or you might want to go to the piece Jamison Foser put up recently on Media Matters. He makes the point that with more than 116,000 professional journalists, 144 is beneath statistically insignificant; furthermore, many of Dedman’s gotchas are people like sports statisticians and assistant copy editors. Even the local catch is a part-time copy editor; explain to me how a part-time copy editor makes policy at the strib. She may have turned some of EB’s long sentences into a series of shorter ones, but I imagine that’s pretty the extent of her influence.

John E Iacono says:

June 24th, 2007 at 12:01 pm

It’s certainly true that “ink stained noble wretches” have to have an eye on what the publishers and editors will tolerate. If their background is in journalism, however, they probably share the reporters worldviews.

Business, on the other hand, affects all decisionmakers in newspapers, because it signs the checks for advertising which makes the paper go, just like the sponsors on TV.

“Money makes the world go ’round…”

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