Who is Watchdog really looking out for?
Wind Works VT is committed to correcting inaccuracies and misinformation that appears in Vermont’s media. We considered doing so for VT Watchdog’s recent post on the proposed Stiles Brook wind project but found it so biased and riddled with inaccuracies that we instead decided to focus on where that bias is coming from.
Watchdog is not a news organization. Watchdog is a shadowy outfit run by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. The Franklin Center is a multimillion-dollar conservative organization whose affiliates, like VT Watchdog, provide free reporting to local newspapers and other media. The Franklin Center is funded by corporate and conservative interests, staffed by people affiliated with the Koch brothers, and regularly hosts right-wing events.
In 2011, the Franklin Center received 95% of its funding from the Donors Trust, a group that has been called “the dark-money ATM of the conservative movement” for driving half a billion dollars anonymously from wealthy conservative donors to groups that deny climate change like the Heartland Institute. More recently it has been revealed that Peabody Energy, America’s largest coalmining company, has been funding at least two-dozen groups that question climate change and oppose environmental regulations. The Franklin Center is one of these groups.
As a result, it’s not terribly surprising that this conservative, right wing funding does not result in unbiased journalism but rather uses journalism as a cover to advance an anti-science agenda.
Laura McGann, assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, wrote in 2010, "As often as not, their reporting is thin and missing important context, which occasionally leads to gross distortions."
As newspapers struggle in the modern era of the Internet to survive, the cash strapped organizations increasingly lean on Watchdog to help fill the demand for content. This has led to once credible news organizations relying on reporting that had a paid bias.
The only thing that Watchdog Vermont is looking out for is the profits of the fossil fuel industry.
For further reading check out:
Some info on where the Franklin Center for Government Public Integrity comes from: