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Wisconsin Reporter Letter

Wisconsin Reporter Letter

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Published by: Chris Capper Liebenthal on Feb 19, 2012
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07/10/2013

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 Feb. 17, 2012Hello ± I am Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.This note is to let you know our Party's deep concerns about the Wisconsin Reporter and itsdishonest efforts to portray itself as an unbiased news organization and a wire service. Your  paper or news organization has published or aired its work and we write to let you knowabout our belief that this is not an even-handed organization that supports good journalistic practices and principles.The organization hasdirect tiesto a top Scott Walker fundraiser, and we do not expect fair or  balanced treatment from them ± and neither should you.When they first moved into Wisconsin with an avowed "free market" ideological point-of-view,their initial articles appeared to be free of much bias. Knowing their funding sources, we weresurprised by this ± pleasantly surprised. But over the past several months that began to slowlychange. They sent away reporters who had gained some respect in the Capitol. They brought inreporters with an agenda. And gradually, over time, their ³news´ stories have become more andmore pro-Scott Walker opinion and less news.We find now that their content is very one-sided in its slant, selective in its use of some factswhile ignoring others, biased in its incendiary words and its approach to issues, and absent theethics and norms that should guide any news organization. By a generous stretch, thei"product" may have a place on an editorial page, but certainly not as it is trying to disguise itself as balanced news. Many elected Democrats have chosen not to respond to press requests fromthe Wisconsin Reporter, because they have had their words twisted or their points ignored, whileextreme conservatives and Republicans are portrayed in glowing terms.At the state Party, we do not deal with them whatsoever, after being lied to directly, andsubjected to the shoddiest of journalistic practices, and we have advised our Party leaders not todeal with them.Just this week, our chairman was engaged in an off-the-record conversation with another reporter that Wisconsin Reporter attempted to record.A few months back one of their reporters attended a training session meant for electionvolunteers put on by the Democratic Party. You can read the misleading and inaccurate portrayal by the reporter here. Wisconsin Reporter made no effort to contact us beforehand and
 
 afterward penned a misleading, one-sided portrayal of the events that followed, and actually stolethat material was intended for volunteers and not for the press. They misled volunteers abouttheir identity and only confessed after they were confronted. We have never seen any efforts likethis visited upon Republicans, for whom they routinely lift headlines directly, including Gov.Walker's press releases. This is not news.Their stories about the recall have been hysterical and used frequently by Scott Walker and hisallies as supposed proof of problems with the effort. Last week, they suggested a"gap"in recallfigures when a cursory review found that they had not counted several pages of petitions. Thistotally erroneous report was picked up by several news organizations and trumpeted in right-wing radio, a repeated pattern that shows their true intent.They have attempted to obtain media credentials and used them as a straight-news reporter by aright-wing blogger named Kevin Binversie, who actually is a Republican activist who blogsfrequently in opposition to Democrats and for the Scott Walker administration. He recentlywrote that Democrats "would shoot their children in the head" to become governor. This is totally out-of-bounds.Our volunteers and our candidates have found plenty of disturbing evidence of partisan bias intheir product, their methods and their content. After having communicated our repeatedconcerns directly to the Wisconsin Reporter, we have been ignored and excoriated. So we feel itnecessary to instead communicate directly with reputable news outlets that, at times, use their content.If you look here, you will see the questions raised by Dave Zweifel, editor emeritus of TheCapital Times, about the underlying agenda of the Wisconsin Reporter, a project of the right-wing Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. That center, which receives significantfunding from the Bradley Foundation, chaired by Walker campaign chairman Michael Grebe,has been linked with "Tea Party" groups supportive of Scott Walker.Disturbingly, the Wisconsin Reporter has confirmed that it subjects reporters it hires to anideological litmus test that violates the norms and traditions of journalism.I am sure you and your readers expect all your news content not on the editorial page to be balanced with a critique of all sides and parties. I know you work hard to maintain thatapproach.We are advising our members about the Wisconsin Reporter and similar groups, such as "MediaTrackers" and the "MacIver Institute," all funded by organizations that directly support ScottWalker and the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

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