The Texas Tribune Becomes a Uniter, Not a Divider
February 20, 2014 - 3:42 pm
As a media critic, I’ve taken a few posts to critique some of the Texas Tribune’s work. Most recently, I accurately predicted how it would soft-peddle the Project Veritas video showing Battleground Texas scooping up voter information from its registration drives.
But criticizing the Trib has become a bipartisan activity. Prominent and respected Texas liberal Jim Moore has written a pair of powerful posts on how, in his words, the Tribune has become corrupted via the donations it accepts.
In the first, The Trouble with the Trib, Moore highlights a glaring conflict of interest.
While seeking contributors for their live stream technology, Tribune editors and reporters ran Twitter campaigns. The arrival of one particular gift caught the attention of editor Emily Ramshaw. Jade Chang Sheppard tweeted that she had “just backed live streaming the 2014 race for governor.” Although the amount was not mentioned, Ramshaw responded to Sheppard by saying, “Thank you for your unbelievably generous gift to our Kickstarter campaign.” The amount of Sheppard’s donation is not the only valuable information missing from their exchange, however. Neither Ramshaw nor Sheppard mentioned that the donor was a candidate in a special election for District 50 of the Texas House of Representatives. If she had won her race, Sheppard would have just given money to the news organization that would have been assigning reporters to write about her votes and policies as a state representative.
Which might have been the start of a sweet, cooperative relationship.
Ramshaw may not have known she was talking to a candidate in a district only seven miles from the Tribune’s office, or she simply did not care. Either of those possibilities, however, is not acceptable to anyone who might believe the Tribune can do meaningful reporting on Texas politics and government. One suggests incompetence; the other points toward collusion.
Read the rest. He concludes on a strong note.
In his second piece, The Times, it is a Changin’, Moore details the syndication relationship between the Trib, which is a tax-exempt non-profit, and the New York Times, which is a taxed, for-profit entity. Moore zeroes in on a piece written by the Tribune’s Ross Ramsey, whom I know and personally respect, that ran in the Times, on the subject of money in politics.
Just this month, February 1, 2014, Ross Ramsey, an executive editor of the Trib wrote an NYT column about campaign finance in Texas, illuminating, at least partially, the way things work down here under the Lone Star. Ramsey, a fine writer, turned a lovely phrase that explained how candidates preferred to talk about all the little guys offering their campaigns small contributions, and how candidates were “counting the number of open wallets rather than the dollars falling out of them.”
“Having thousands of donors ready to spend even a little money is terrific,” Ramsey wrote. “But do not be fooled. The millionaires’ and billionaires’ club is thriving in Texas politics.”
In a standard pattern of behavior for the Texas Tribune, Ramsey did not mention that the millionaires and billionaires that he wrote about giving money to campaigns are also generously contributing to the Trib. How can the news outlet expect to sustain credibility when it is also taking huge gifts from the wealthy people who are also financing the political dreams of the people the Texas Tribune covers?
Read the rest. It’s a money story, and an important one. Having done all the original research and written the definitive piece on how the left networks its Texas money to maximize its results, it’s especially alarming to me to see some of that network also funding the Texas Tribune. Some of the GOP’s big money is in there too, along with funding from the massive Ford Foundation and the Soros network. With all of these players putting skin in the game, it’s fair to wonder what they think they might gain.
Moore gleaned this financial information from examining publicly available financial records. The Times, Moore writes, is picking up a major credibility problem by failing to make sure that the Trib discloses its own donor arrangements while it reports on the stink of money in politics. If the big money going to politicians and campaigns carries a stench, why does the big money funding a huge, tax-exempt, non-profit covering those politicians also not stink?
Beyond the dollars and cents lurks another question. The Texas Tribune is a tax-exempt non-profit which is not supposed to compete with commercial entities. By syndicating to the NYT it is undoubtedly competing with the other media outlets in Texas, perhaps including the Austin American-Statesman, the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, the Dallas Morning News, etc. Such competition has already stirred up a war, with the Tribune ending up on the side of the Wendy Davis campaign and the Texas Democrats against the rest of the Texas media. Shouldn’t the IRS, which pays so much attention to the minutiae of little Tea Party groups and their voluntary leaders, find that interesting?