Franklin Center Exec Criticizes Media Matters For Highlighting Group's Ideology, Funding

FranklinA top executive at a conservative non-profit that oversees a nationwide network of state news websites is criticizing Media Matters for reporting on the group's deep right-wing ties and funding.

Steven Greenhut, vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, offered the criticism in a March 12 piece for The Huffington Post. The Center has launched more than 50 news sites covering state government in 39 states from an avowed free-market perspective and allows other state news outlets to republish their work for free; they claim to provide 10 percent of all state government news in the United States.

Greenhut writes that while in the past he has downplayed the idea that the media has a “liberal bias,” his “recent experience on the receiving end of a series of supposed exposes has left me rethinking my tendency to cut fellow journalists some slack” due to the “shoddy reporting techniques used to try to embarrass the organization where I work.”

He explains:

For some reason, journalism enterprises that are funded in much the same way that we are seem bothered by this. We've been so open with them that even the reporter for the left-wing Media Matters praised me for our openness. Not that it seeped into his reporting: His final piece on us last year could have been written without the months of research and interviews given that it ignored our best arguments, made connections that didn't exist and, basically, concluded that conservatives fund and work for conservative-oriented groups. No big deal.

But in mid-February, the game started again. Another left-wing, foundation-funded journalism group, the Center for Public Integrity, released a report about our funding. Media Matters wrote about us yet again, and its headline captured the gist of all these stories: “Franklin Center Top Donor Is Right-Wing's 'Dark Money ATM.'”

Greenhut is apparently upset that our reports, while providing himself and other Franklin Center leaders with the opportunity to defend the group, revealed that the organization is funded by a massive right-wing donor organization; staffed by former employees of groups backed by the Koch brothers; makes even editors who use the outlet's reports uneasy due to its ideological bent; and has had its affiliates denied credentials by some statehouse reporters associations.

While Greenhut downplays the story as concluding “that conservatives fund and work for conservative-oriented groups,” which he terms “no big deal,” the fact that such “conservative-oriented” journalism is explicitly designed to be reprinted in local and state papers and fill the void caused by the slashing of statehouse reporting staffs in recent years is very much a point of interest.