Editor: ‘Opportunistic conservatives’ are behind WisconsinReporter.com

Madison Capital Times
Madison Capital Times editor emeritus Dave Zweifel recently noticed that stories from WisconsinReporter.com were showing up in weekly newspapers around the state. “What is this new wire service-like provider of news to local papers?” he asked. “Turns out it’s a new service concocted by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a conservative nonprofit that has had its hands in the tea party movement and the pro-Scott Walker rallies.” Launched in January, WisconsinReporter.com is “yet another endeavor by opportunistic conservatives to jump in to fill a void created by the economic woes of traditional media,” writes Zweifel. “Media that want to use the stories can do so for free.”

You have to take your hat off to conservatives for being creative in spreading their message and masking their true identity. Still, this effort represents yet another dangerous blow to the traditions of objective news reporting and, I’m afraid, the future of America’s democratic discourse.

A reader sends this email about Wisconsin Reporter:

I think it’d be best if I remained anonymous (as I now have a reporter job in the area), but I just wanted to forward this along to you…

I applied for the Wisconsin Reporter investigative and capitol bureau reporter positions late last year, when the site was launching. I thought something was off when they asked me to answer these policy-based questions (see below).

Seemed counterintuitive for a journalism job.

Subject: RE: Investigative and capitol bureau reporter positions
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 2010 09:06:53 -0400

Thanks, [name redacted].

The next step is for you to provide brief, 1-2 sentence answers to the following questions:

1. How do free markets help the poor? How do government programs help the poor?

2. How does government policy sometimes lead to unintended consequences?

3. Name a good education reform idea that Wisconsin should consider.

4. What is the best way to turn Wisconsin’s economy around?

5. Do higher taxes lead to balanced budgets?

Thanks and have a great week!

Claire Kittle
Executive Director
Talent Market
703.835.9933 office

Mailing Address
2868 Tradewind Drive
Mount Pleasant, SC 29466
Business Address
109 North Henry Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

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  • John Hilton

    I too had a very strange job interview process with the Franklin Center. I was asked a series of questions about my political leanings and the headhunter they used as a liaison kept coaching me to be “more right of center” if I were to be questioned about it. So come the day of the phone interview, Scott Reeder just blew me off. About 45 minutes later he called to let me know he was finally available. OK. Stuff happens. That went well and led to a second, face-to-face interview with the other reporter in the Harrisburg office who I would be working with. Nice kid and we had a good lunch.
    Never heard anything more from them. They couldn’t be bothered to let me know I didn’t get the job, not that I wanted it anyway. Something seemed off about the whole thing and I have no doubt this group is nothing but a front for the Tea Party people. If not, make public who your backers are, Jason.

    A real classless group who acted just the way people would act if they had a secret agenda.

  • Anonymous

    In the media world, there is an old expression, there is no such thing as bad publicity. The Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, appreciates Madison Capitol Times as well as Poynter, for noticing our hard work. The more people that find out about Wisconsin Reporter, the more people realize the terrific, objective and accurate news they are producing every day and make WisconsinReporter.com a daily news destination.
    However, as every good journalist should know, you shouldn’t print fabrication and call it news. So let’s clear up a few of the many misconceptions about the Franklin Center and WisconsinReporter.com printed in these articles.
    Fact: Wisconsin Reporter is an independent news service that more than a dozen local and national media outlets uses their content regularly. If they were any of the things that these articles claim then Wisconsin Reporter wouldn’t be the fastest growing news organization in the state.
    Fact: Franklin Center is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to educating the public about corruption, incompetence, fraud, waste and abuse of public trust by elected officials.
    In short, at the Franklin Center we are proud of the work that we do and know that our reporting teams located throughout the country are making the difference when our country needs it most.
    We sincerely hope that we are read by liberals, conservatives, independents and nonpolitical individuals, because our audience is American taxpayers, not a specific political party. Asking tough questions of the government is not restricted to one political party or the other.  Demanding accountability of our elected officials is not a conservative ideal.  It should be an American ideal.
    We urge anyone with questions about the Franklin Center or any of our news bureaus, including Wisconsin Reporter to check out our sites. What you will find is that our reporters are accurate, and relentlessly in pursuit to expose the truth and keep our government officials accountable to the people they represent.

    Jason Stverak
    President of the Franklin Center

  • The Wall

    Freakonomics tells us why:

    We show how the prevailing majority opinion in a population can be rapidly reversed by a small fraction p of randomly distributed committed agents who consistently proselytize the opposing opinion and are immune to influence. Specifically, we show that when the committed fraction grows beyond a critical value pc=10%, there is a dramatic decrease in the time Tc taken for the entire population to adopt the committed opinion. In particular, for complete graphs we show that when ppc, Tc~lnN. We conclude with simulation results for Erdos-Rényi random graphs and scale-free networks which show qualitatively similar behavior.

    Whatever Walker in going to try will not be best for Wisconsin. It will be best for his political backers, and I don’t mean those who voted for him – that is no assurance he is going to sign the legislation you wrote at your corporate headquarters… for that level of service you need to donate CA$H and much more that is your pocket right now.

    Wisconsin’s Temporary Governor Scott Walker will not be a “one term governor” he will be a less than one term governor as he will be recalled and his entire line of policies will be annulled. The result is Walker will be a zero term governor and the bulwarks against another Republican “trifecta” will become a permanent part of the landscape.

  • Anonymous

    Opportunisitic! Scott Walker!

    This story left out other Mother Jones-type dog whistles, including, “Koch Brothers!” “ALEC!” and my favorite, “laissez faire!”