A Tale of Two Stories With Common Facts

Conservatives are more and more mindful of media bias and we see it repeatedly on display when it comes to partisan politics, but it is worth highlighting just how pervasive it has become in the narrative storytelling of the American press.

Consider two stories with common facts. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are looking at the rise of partisan news sites that are masquerading as local, objective news outlets. These sites are surging as local media outlets shut down. Here is the Wall Street Journal story. Now here is the New York Times story.

As the Journal notes, “Their rise, which comes as many local news organizations are radically downsizing or shutting down, is adding to an already noisy news marketplace where determining the provenance and accuracy of information is increasingly difficult for consumers.”

But there is a major difference between how the Journal and the Times have chosen to cover the story. The Journal focuses on Metric Media, a Republican affiliated group, and Acronym, a Democrat group led by people with ties to the Clintons and progressive politics. In truth, Acronym is a more expansive effort with media operations tied to a bunch of swing states and local swing areas within swing states. Metric Media is growing, but not nearly as collaborative or expansive, and exists mostly on spam sites with recirculated content.

You would never know that at the Times. It chose to focus exclusively on Metric Media. There’s no mention of Acronym or the Democrats’ far more expansive and significant effort. By the way, that’s not just my opinion. It is objectively true in the data.

From the Journal:

Acronym has been on a quest to remake progressive politics, led by 34-year-old founder Tara McGowan, who has strong ties to the Democratic Party. Besides the Copper Courier, other news sites in its network include Up North News, serving Wisconsin, and Cardinal & Pine, in North Carolina. Both states are political battlegrounds.

When reaching out to donors and others in a newsletter, Acronym said it was developing “trusted news online to counter the rise of misinformation and shuttering of local news sources.” Funders include billionaire financier George Soros, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and movie producers, people familiar with the matter said.

Ms. McGowan, who had a top role in a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC in 2016, pitched Courier last year to a gathering of high-net-worth Democratic donors, saying that “the right is monopolizing” political-leaning news and Democrats need to have a counterweight, according to an attendee.

Acronym has around 60 reporters on the ground and about a dozen editors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Times takes a decidedly different approach by dismissing Acronym’s efforts and instead focusing on this data point that sounds compelling until you dig into it.

The network is one of a proliferation of partisan local-news sites funded by political groups associated with both parties. Liberal donors have poured millions of dollars into operations like Courier, a network of eight sites that began covering local news in swing states last year. Conservative activists are running similar sites, like the Star News group in Tennessee, Virginia and Minnesota.

But those operations run just several sites each, while Mr. Timpone’s network has more than twice as many sites as the nation’s largest newspaper chain, Gannett. And while political groups have helped finance networks like Courier, investors in news operations typically don’t weigh in on specific articles.

The difference is that the conservative sites are frequently just running pre-written PR pieces. The Acronym sites actually have reporters and editors, running as partisan news operations. They are actively digging dirt and churning stories to damage the GOP. Their efforts are not to facilitate truth, but to advance a leftwing narrative.

It is pretty easy to fire up a bunch of spammy sites with minimal traffic. The left, however, is invested in the deep infrastructure needed to shape stories that the mainstream media then picks up and circulates at truth.

The Times does not want to cover that because the Times will pick up a story by Acronym that it would never pick up from Metric Media. The Times will give legitimacy to the leftwing effort.

As an aside, conservatives need to take note on this. In the past, conservatives tried to do something similar to what Acronym is doing. Unfortunately, the donor structure on the right largely exists to make a profit and see a financial return on investment. Progressive donors want to affect change and see their return on investment based on narrative shaping and advancement of an agenda.

This is, frankly, why the left is so damn good at this. Its donors do not care about the profit. They care about the progress. They have media outlets like the Times willing to treat them legitimately and ignore what they are doing. The Times treats the massive spam sites of the right as effective while totally ignoring Acronym is building a farm team of future progressive reporters for the Times. Only the Journal wants to dive deep and be even handed.