Giving Ventures Podcast: Episode 64 – Watchdogs, Attack Dogs, and Investigations

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It’s well-known that mainstream media outlets are generally not friends nor promoters of conservative views. This is more than just an annoyance, though. People want to trust their news sources, and it isn’t always clear when bias is present, nor when conservative-friendly facts are simply left out of stories.

That’s why it is so important to have the watchdogs, attack dogs, and investigative journalists out there who are willing to expose bias and tell the stories that otherwise don’t get told.

In episode 64 of Giving Ventures, we dig into the media landscape by talking to three groups helping people to both make sense of the narratives that are out there as well as challenge those narratives when they stray from the truth. First is our watch dog, the Media Research Center. Then we hear from a group that has become a watchdog with teeth, Accuracy in Media. Finally, we explore investigative journalism from a more free-market perspective with Real Clear Foundation.

Watchdog

Media Research Center has been a conservative media watchdog since its founding by L. Brent Bozell III in 1987. Bozell, who still runs MRC, noted that the bias we see in the modern media environment is nothing new.

“The only way that conservatives were able to communicate in 1987 was either on the Paul Harvey show…or National Review to 100,000 every two weeks; Human Events to 30,000 people every week, and then putting a message in a bottle and throwing it in the ocean. We really had no way to communicate back then.”

The situation has improved, however. Then it was only a few outlets, but, he says, “You can multiply that by 100 today.”

Bozell explains that he can’t undo the bend of liberal media. “What I can do is have the American people understand what it is you’re doing, so [they] understand and take with a grain of salt anything you’re showing.”

To be successful in the end, Bozell suggests that, “The conservative movement has got to become a movement of storytellers.”

Attack Dog

Accuracy in Media similarly started as a watchdog group all the way back in 1969. Since Adam Gillette came in as president a few years ago, AIM has gone on the offensive. As Gillette describes it, “We use hidden camera investigative journalism and what I like to call cultural activism to hold bad public policy actors accountable.”

That it does. AIM wades into hot-button issues such as COVID mandates, critical race theory, and anti-Semitism on college campuses. Working alone and with state-based partners, AIM uses its investigations to highlight officials and leaders acting hypocritically or against the public interest.

Gillette is willing to take new approaches. “I think we’ve been fighting the fight in higher education incorrectly for decades,” he says, because too much attention was paid to professors, “whereas the real perpetrators of bad actions many times are the students, and they never face any accountability.”

Guillette described some of the ways he held students accountable on campuses, including roving billboard trucks to name and shame anti-Semites. He believes strongly in these and other investigative, action-oriented methods and promotes their use to other organizations. “There’s just no more effective tactic for advancing our ideas.”

Investigative Journalism

Investigative journalism has disappeared from many media outlets and increasingly has become the domain of nonprofit efforts such as ProPublica on the left and various think tanks on the right. RealClear Foundation has stepped into that void, extending the well-known RealClear brand into a non-profit outlet for investigative reporting that is otherwise going undone.

David DesRosiers, president of the Foundation, notes that the RealClear brand has always leaned into the idea of viewpoint diversity. So many of the deeper news pieces in the mainstream, however, tilt toward a progressive world-view. The philosophy of the RealClear Investigations done by the Foundation is to “hit them where they ain’t.”

One particular thing DesRosiers is proud of is the diversity in his own team. “Liberals and conservatives can both do real investigative journalism,” he says. “If you look [at our staff], they don’t have the homogenization that is characteristic of other people’s news department.”

The discussion also highlights other concerns, such as an increased tolerance for censorship and against free speech as well as so-called fact-checking services such as NewsGuard that bring their own biases to the table.

Listen to the entire episode with the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.

Author

  • Peter Lipsett

    Peter Lipsett is vice president at DonorsTrust. He also leads DonorsTrust’s Novus Society, a network of donors under 40 committed to growing their philanthropic know-how. He has a dual degree in political science and theater from Davidson College and finally got a practical credential with an MBA from George Mason University.

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