Heritage Foundation’s news site doesn’t have ad or traffic constraints

When the Daily Signal launches on June 3, it will have to prove a news site from a conservative think tank can do real, fair journalism.

And the people behind Daily Signal know that.

“That is the No. 1 challenge that we face,” said Geoffrey Lysaught, vice president of strategic communications at the Heritage Foundation and the new site’s publisher, in a phone interview with Poynter. “But I think it’s a challenge we’re well-positioned to face.”

Daily Signal is a news vertical created by Heritage, and it will also feature conservative commentary and analysis. Joshua Green reported on the site Thursday for Bloomberg Businessweek. 

A wall between opinion and news is up, said Robert Bluey, director of digital media and editor-in-chief of The Foundry, Heritage’s conservative policy news blog. Bluey will be Daily Signal’s editor-in-chief, and in a phone interview with Poynter he pointed to a recent 5,000 word piece on the Common Core debate in Indiana. Foundry sent a reporter to Indiana to talk with people on both sides of the story, he said.

“Obviously the Heritage Foundation has a position on Common Core and we quoted experts on that,” Bluey said. “But we took into perspective the full debate that was playing out.”

Daily Signal has another challenge — reaching an audience that may not go to Heritage for information. That’s why it was important to establish a separate brand, Lysaught said.

But Daily Signal also has a few advantages that legacy media organizations don’t. They’re launching as mobile and digital first. There aren’t the traditional ad targets that news sites face, since the Heritage Foundation funds the site, and they’re not setting traffic goals for reporters. That gets in the way of good reporting, Lysaught said.

“We’re not manically focused on traffic.”

They’ll know they’ve succeeded with the audience challenge, he said, if they can reach people where they are, through Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, and if those people start to see Daily Signal as something they can trust.

Current staffers include managing editor Katrina Trinko, news director Ken McIntyre, and Amy Payne, editor-at-large. All three currently work in those roles for The Foundry.

Daily Signal doesn’t want to be a place that’s seen as reporting from a conservative perspective, Lysaught said, but a place where people can learn the policy and political issues of the day.

And what they’re planning isn’t impossible, said Kelly McBride, Poynter’s media ethicist, in a phone interview.

Daily Signal will have to be dedicated to reporting that’s both accurate and fair and also present a diversity of facts, not just the ones that work within a certain framework.

“I would expect that if they have good journalists and they are trained to do this work then they could become part of the fifth estate that is creating information that plays big in the marketplace of ideas,” she said.

“They will never be a credible source for liberals, but what I suspect they would like to do is become more credible for people who are undecided on current issues,” McBride said, “and that’s completely doable if you stay focused on facts and not a political agenda.”

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  • ljatlanta

    I’ve always been skeptical of the assertion that lack of bias is possible within journalism. I think the best we can hope for is that journalists and editors are aware of their own biases, and take conscious steps to circumvent them when they are deciding what to report and how to report it. My own criticism of Fox News has never been that they are biased. It’s that the bias is exhibited in a crude and strident manner, and that despite assertions to the contrary, it does bleed out into their hard news coverage. I feel the same about MSNBC.

    That said, what possible reason could an explicitly, and often stridently, ideological organization like the Heritage Foundation have for setting up a news organization other than to advocate for their agenda? I look forward to seeing their site, but I’m doubtful that balanced explanatory journalism on policy issues is what they’ll present.

    I hope they prove me wrong.

    Larry Felton Johnson

  • Lafollette

    Why would anybody be suspicious of a news organization with a history of ideological lean that is funded by filthy rich reactionaries?