Haner: Enough. This Partisan Bias Is Just Too Obvious.

By Stephen Haner

Look, we conservatives understand that as far as the media is concerned, we are second-class citizens.  But for giggles let’s just demonstrate the most recent case.  When I write about the new hemp bill on Bacon’s Rebellion last month, it gets good readership for Bacon’s Rebellion but of course there is no reference to it on the widely-circulated daily news summary for the Virginia Public Access Project.

Today Virginia Mercury publishes a very similar story, even using some of the same sources, and of course it makes the VPAP summary. Oh, give me a break. Why didn’t mine get used, again?

There is no possible explanation for this except partisan bias. None. If you think the folks at Virginia Mercury are more fair, better reporters than me and Jim Bacon, that is simple bias on your part. Jim and I, when we set out to write a news story from a news angle, can do so just fine (my first paid bylines were 47 years ago). And we both have high regard for facts and balance (as do the folks at Virginia Mercury in their news). Yes, Bacon’s Rebellion has a point of view but so does Virginia Mercury. Bacon and I were clearly marking our news and commentary efforts, and VPAP was using our news output for a while, and then it stopped.

The beginning of April marks the beginning of Year Two for me as a standing contributor to this on-line journal, having been an occasional contributor and constant comment-poster pretty much since it started.  Virginia Mercury is doing what we are doing and the disparate treatment by VPAP (which I have also supported since its founding) is flat wrong. On issue of taxes, energy regulation, and a dozen other matters one side is getting favorable treatment.  

Once you follow that hemp story link to Virginia Mercury, you will find all the partisan commentary in other stories you can imagine. There is Ivy Main’s very different take than mine on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and I read her all the time.  There is no difference between the two journals except one – we’re more likely to be conservative, they’re liberals.

This is the point. By promoting their news copy, VPAP drives people there to that outlet for more. By ignoring our news copy, fewer people may be led to spend more time with our output. This matters.  There is a “why” to this complaint.

This has turned out to be harder work than I anticipated, with more than 180 stories in that year. But on energy and tax issues in particular I think my reporting and commentary have filled a gap. Then simply being at the General Assembly day to day with no clients to tend to meant I saw and wrote about other stories being missed, mainly because there are so few reporters compared to when I started in the mid 1980s. It was gratifying to see some stories then copied by others, like this one by Virginia Mercury, and then picked up up on VPAP. Another good example was the story about surrogacy contracts.

But as bona fide news they should have made it to VPAP the first time around. If I knew they were eligible to, I’d work harder to get them in a news format. If you agree this is unfair, don’t tell me, tell you know who ([email protected])

Stephen D. Haner is Senior Fellow for State and Local Tax Policy with the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, and a contributor at Bacon’s Rebellion.