Oregon’s fair & balanced?

Oregon has a new political news web site, the Oregon Politico.com; we’ll doubtless be checking in for news there.

Beyond that, a little note of perspective on it is warranted.

It presents itself as a straight-up news site, its listed staff includes a political reporter and an investigative reporter, and its mission statement says, “Oregon Politico is dedicated to reporting news from the state’s capitol and government bureaucracies in a fair and balanced manner whilst promoting an open and transparent government.”

Maybe the “fair and balanced” reference there should be a clue. Dig a little deeper and check out the “copyright and legal” page, and there’s this: “This Site and all of the information it contains (including, but not limited to, news articles, video, charts, graphs, graphics and photographs) is the property of Cascade Policy Institute, unless otherwise noted.”

Cascade is not a politically or philosophically neutral organization; its front web page notes it is “Promoting public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon” – a more subtle version of “free market solutions”, essentially libertarian in view, promoted by counterpart organizations in other states. (The most recent headline on its web site: “Unemployment Insurance Extensions Appeal to the Heart but Rob the Soul.”) Such descriptions show up in the Oregon Catalyst.

This approach – of seemingly dispassionate news sources cloaking the machinery run in fact by highly ideological organizations (see also the Idaho Reporter.com, a project of the Idaho Freedom Foundation) seems to be a growing trend: Illusory neutrality in news production, a la Fox, spreading now to the state and maybe local level.

If there’s a complaint here, it’s not with the existence of the sites, or the independent reporting – we need all of that we can get. There are plenty of overtly partisan sites that do a good deal of digging and reporting, and a good deal of it has real value. But those sites (ranging, say, from Blue Oregon to Idaho Conservative Blogger) generally are forthright about their biases and preferences, and don’t pretend they’re something they’re not.

There’s news, and there’s news. There are all kinds of filters for news. And if you’re running your news through a filter, best to be up front with everyone about what it is.

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