By Matt A. Mayer
The national liberal media bias has been well documented over the years. Less explored is the liberal media bias at the state level. In Ohio, that bias is alive and well. Jason Hart at Media Trackers Ohio did amazing work over the last two months exposing this bias. In two key pieces, Hart reported on the person behind Ohio’s PolitiFact operations at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and how other Ohio newspapers enable that bias to spread across Ohio.
In his piece “Liberal ‘Fact Checkers’ Crushes PolitiFact Ohio’s Credibility,” Hart wrote:
Voter registration records and social media posts expose Tom Feran, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and PolitiFact Ohio, as a liberal Democrat. While PolitiFact Ohio presents itself as an above-the-fray judge of objective truth, Feran’s bias is hardly obscured in his work: PolitiFact Ohio editors Robert Higgs and Jane Kahoun are both registered Democrats according to Board of Elections records.
Hart also released a tweet from Feran from 2008 where Feran pushes President Obama’s candidacy. Hart’s piece on Feran contains lots of evidence of Feran’s liberal bias. In the second piece, “Newspapers Enable PolitiFact Ohio’s Liberal Bias,” Hart details how other Ohio newspapers use “findings” by PolitiFact Ohio to hit Republican candidates.
The problem is far worse than an election year tool used by the media to judge campaign statements. In my book, Taxpayers Don’t Stand a Chance, I spend an entire chapter making the case against Ohio’s liberal media. I refer to them as JINOs — Journalists in Name Only. In the book, I wrote:
These JINOs give the impression that they present both sides of the story, and you’ll find conservatives quoted in many stories. Conservative quotes, however, typically appear at the very end of the story. Many readers never make to the end of most stories and thus miss the other side of the story. This end of the story treatment is used only to provide a thin veneer of presenting “both sides.” Naturally, these stories were selected by the JINOs based on their priorities and not on the work done by conservative groups like the Buckeye Institute.
Under my leadership, my think tank released ten major reports (and countless smaller pieces) on the big challenges facing Ohio. These reports covered collective bargaining, criminal justice, Medicaid, government pensions, government consolidation, jobs and the economy, and property taxes. As detailed below, these reports significantly influenced policy makers in Ohio.
We also undertook a major redesign of the website that resulted in over 6,000,000 searches of government salary data in just 18 months. We created several first-in-the-nation tools for taxpayers to use to educate themselves on their total tax burdens (the Tax Calculator tool), on compensation differences between the public and private sectors (the Job Comparison tool), and the gold-plated nature of government pensions compared to their own retirement plans (the Retirement Comparison tool). Over 1,000,000 visitors have used these innovative tools. As an independent validation of this innovation, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is using the Tax Calculator as the model to replicate in the other 49 states.
We even commissioned a groundbreaking poll on the big issues in July 2010. The poll, conducted by Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies on July 19, 2010, surveyed 1,800 registered voters in Ohio. Because of the large sample, the poll’s margin of error was only 2.31 percent. The poll asked Ohioans how they would solve Ohio’s estimated $8 billion deficit and provided these three choices: reduce government compensation packages, cut government services, or increase taxes. Fifty percent chose reducing government compensation packages and only 16 percent selected higher taxes. More interestingly, 85 percent of Ohioans, including Democrats and labor union members supported giving workers the freedom to choose whether to join labor unions. The top-line results, cross-tabs, and polling presentation were all provided to the media.
Yet, other than two stories on the release of government salary data on the website by Laura Bischoff in the Dayton Daily News, not one other journalist covered any of the major reports we did, our website innovations, or the stunning poll. If you count each report and the poll and each outlet as an “at bat,” we went 0-66 for the game. It is impossible to ignore liberal media bias in the newsrooms after such a statistically shocking outcome.
Interestingly, like Ohioans who showed great interest in our work and website, the editorial side of the newspapers found our work highly relevant by citing us more than 20 times during my tenure. Moreover, actual events showed just how relevant our work was, as that work led to legislative reforms in Ohio.
I conclude the discussion on the liberal media bias in Ohio by noting: “I don’t begrudge left-wing groups the coverage they get. My concern is that conservatives did not get any, let alone equal, coverage. This failure on the part of those entrusted with the responsibility to fairly and accurately provide readers with news important to them puts taxpayers at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to making informed decisions.” This discussion on JINOs in the book covered from September 2009 to June 2009.
Over the last few months, the media blackout of conservative work continued. In July, my new think tank Opportunity Ohio released a statewide survey on Ohio by Magellan Strategies, including the Presidential and U.S. Senate races. While Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and PoliticalWire picked up the survey, not a single Ohio media outlet reported on the survey. In both August and October, we released an analysis of Ohio’s unemployment rate that analyzed Ohio’s unique decline in the labor force that exceeded the increase in those officially on unemployment to show that Ohio’s unemployment rate was likely closer to 9.3 percent. The media ignored those items, too.
Finally, in September, we released a comprehensive report on Ohio’s energy resources, “Leveraging Our Natural Resources: Ohio’s Opportunity to Lead the World Again,” that detailed the impact President Obama’s war on coal and Governor Kasich’s proposed tax hike on oil and gas would have on Ohio. Again, not a peep from the media.
Most Ohioans don’t get their news from the New York Times or Washington Post. They get their news from state-based media sources. If those sources are biased in favor of liberals, it should be no surprise that Republican candidates in top races struggle to get fair coverage of their campaigns. With the issue of jobs and coal at the forefront of the debate in Ohio, biased coverage certainly made it harder for Governor Romney to make his case to Ohioans.