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CORDER: Non-profit media bias alive and...

CORDER: Non-profit media bias alive and well in Mississippi

By: Frank Corder - April 21, 2020

Pat Cross Cartoons 2018

Every one has a bias, even (and probably especially) news outlets.

You often hear President Trump aggressively call out CNN, MSNBC, and other national media as “fake news.”  The implication is that these left-leaning news organizations are agenda setting, attempting to determine which issues become the focus of public attention by what and how they cover the news of the day.

Of course, for-profit journalism enterprises are much more free to espouse their opinions, either through editorials or the delivery of the news itself.  They pay for the privilege.

But with the rise of non-profit media essentially replacing for profit newsrooms, those well funded organizations are more limited in how they can try and sway political issues.  They are not supposed to use their publication to advocate for policy positions, so their play is to endeavor to create stories (storytelling, in their parlance) that cover the partisan issues they want to advance.

Nowhere was this on better display than last week at the non-profit Mississippi Today.

Mississippi Today once worked awfully hard to present themselves as non-partisan.  Now their former quasi-plausible claims of being non-partisan have even been whitewashed from their “About Us” page.  The reality is they are now what they always were covertly designed to be: a left of center, agenda-driven media outlet backed by buckets of money from millionaires that dole out tax deductions a non-profit corporation provides to attempt to have a political impact that it is otherwise not supposed to have.

Two recent stories come to mind to highlight Mississippi Today’s obvious agenda setting, one on expanded mail-in voting and the other on Medicaid expansion.

Medicaid Expansion

On April 13, Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau hosted a podcast with State Rep. Jarvis Dortch (D).  The article was entitled Ep. 101: Medicaid expansion talks broaden as coronavirus exposes wide health care disparities.”

The main problem is that there are not “broadening talks of Medicaid expansion” in the Legislature or in any political leadership faction in the state.  It may have been broadening among the 35% of the Legislature that has no chance of moving the issue forward, but this was clearly deceptive in intent.  This was essentially an issue made up out of whole cloth.

Y’all Politics immediately got comments from the Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker, all of whom confirmed that there were absolutely no such plans on the horizon.  None.  Zero.

In fact, on Medicaid expansion, Speaker Philip Gunn gave Y’all Politics a one word response when asked if it was being considered: “No.”  Governor Tate Reeves has been equally as firm in his position on the topic, campaigning against expansion in 2019 and then in his first 90 days as the state’s top executive.

Mail-In Voting

A few days later, the highly deceptive headline of “Legislators could grapple with expanded early voting when session resumes” was run by Mississippi Today.  The article, written by Bobby Harrison, was at best an aspirational article about mail-in voting.

It may have quoted Governor Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann and Speaker Gunn, but no one in leadership is quoted with a definitive answer on the issue.  The article only presents pat answers in a manner as to leave the distinct impression that mail-in voting in Mississippi would get serious play when the session resumes.

It won’t.

Again, Y’all Politics did the work of talking to the people in leadership on those issues to provide the correct context.

In a webcast, Secretary of State Michael Watson portrayed mail-in voting as a replacement of in-person voting as extremely unlikely given the poor state of affairs of voting rolls in some counties in Mississippi.  He also noted how costly such an undertaking would be, which makes it an unrealistic consideration.  Governor Reeves has also been reluctant to expand mail-in voting for similar reasons.

However, Watson did open the door to online voter registration.  In a tweet reply Tuesday morning, Watson reiterated his position.

Peddling Partisan Policy

Claiming ignorance would be one possible explanation for the obvious agenda setting but they cannot make such an argument.  Ganucheau and Harrison are smart.  The far more likely explanation is that they are partisan, just as is the non-profit news organization they work for.  Clearly so.

Overtly advocating policy (political facts be damned) would be fine if they still worked for media that was for-profit.  They could espouse whatever positions on policy and politics their editors and owners would allow.  But both have clearly engaged in peddling an inaccurate and aspirational state of public policy in Mississippi to stir public sentiment in a less than transparent way.

Call it “fake news” if you will, but the lengths the vast majority of media outlets are going to push the Democrat agenda in this state is on par with that of the national media.  While it has a little more “bless your heart” hidden behind it, their disdain for average Mississippi voters remains palpable.

Mississippi Today has clearly sold a vision of something that they seem to be having seller’s remorse over now, or it was all just a ruse in the first place.

At the end of the day, you cannot be partisan and non-partisan at the same time.  We all have a bias based on our opinions on public policy and the politics that surround them.  That is not a bad thing.  But being a hypocrite is, which is why owning the values that form our bias and being honest about those propositions matter when entrusted with reporting to the public.

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications such as the Daily Caller. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father.