Every major network has made some questionable decisions, and god knows NBC has made its fair share. But it’s harder to imagine a more questionable decision than NBC choosing to partner with a Democratic firm ahead of the 2016 election.
Mediaite alum Eddie Scarry broke the news on the arrangement over at The Washington Examiner. NBC News has announced that they will partner with an organization called TargetSmart to “to perform nonpartisan analysis, research voting habits, and identify voting trends at the state and local levels.” The catch is that TargetSmart is a Democratic firm founded by Democratic operatives that exclusively works with Democratic campaigns. Its website boasts that in 2012 it was named the primary vendor of the DNC, “instantly distributing TargetSmart data to nearly every Democratic candidate campaign in America.”
You know, typical “nonpartisan” stuff.
NBC’s response to the Examiner’s inquiries was that “TargetSmart serves as an aggregator to provide public, nonpartisan voter data. Our election team will use it for our own independent analysis.” Again, this is an organization that explicitly exists to elect Democrats, to which NBC again responds that they give out “nonpartisan” data. Gotcha.
Typically, even when a partisan organization is known for giving out accurate data, reporters have a responsibility to their readers to name its affiliation. Public Policy Polling is a fairly respected polling firm, for example, but any respectable media outlets will cover it’s findings by noting that it’s a Democratic firm. Will NBC News tell their viewers before its election reporting that they’re relying on data from Democratic operatives? I sincerely doubt it.
Some, like Politico’s Glenn Thrush, just don’t see what the big deal is:
Alternative headline: ‘NBC partners with firm whose party gets voter modeling right’ https://t.co/1SYU66ylep
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) September 9, 2015
So partnering with the Democrats is okay because they’re just so damn better. And I’m sure a partnership between CBS and the research arm of the RNC would also be met with crickets, right?
But unfortunately, this wasn’t the only the questionable decision by NBC to partner itself with an openly partisan organization. More recently, NBC has dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into BuzzFeed and Vox Media, both online news sources that refuse to publish pieces that don’t conform to certain liberal beliefs.
BuzzFeed’s editor Ben Smith has said quite frankly that on some issues, BuzzFeed’s policy is that conservatives are simply wrong. Responding to criticism after his website unequivocally embraced gay marriage, Smith responded “We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”
Wading through the euphemisms (“LGBT equality”=same-sex marriage, “women’s rights”=abortion, “anti-racism”=#blacklivesmatters) what Smith essentially said is that BuzzFeed is an outlet where — for nearly all of the biggest issues of our time — the conservative view is so obviously wrong that their readers need to be shielded from its existence. NBC’s response? Cut a check.
Vox is trickier. As far as this writer can tell, they’ve never actually come out and said that they’re a liberal outlet. Instead, the story appears to be that they’re an objective, wonky “explainer” website that just happens to be run only by liberals like Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias and happens to only put out pieces that flatter the liberal perspective.
But a story broke last month that casts serious doubt on the objectivity of its editorial process. After Vox commissioned a highly respected professor of ethics to write an article, they suddenly spiked the piece after it was written. Why? Because according to editor Dylan Matthews, “the concern is that people will misinterpret it as implying opposition to abortion rights and birth control.”
So not only are pieces opposing abortion not welcome at Vox, pieces from a major philosophical figure that could be misconstrued to imply that maybe people shouldn’t support abortion are too hot to handle. Are you kidding me? How weak and unsupported do your beliefs have to be if the barest exposure to the other side is beyond the pale?
Vox never responded to the criticism over that move, or outlined how many other extremely common conservative beliefs are simply too evil to publish on their serious, objective website. Nor, for that matter, have they ever addressed the embarrassing amount of errors the site makes, or the constant theft of others’ work with no attribution.
NBC’s response? Cut a check.
Again, I have to assume that if a major network dumped millions of dollars into The Washington Free Beacon, IJ Review, or any of the other up-and-coming and widely-read conservative media outlets, there would be a lot more hand-wringing. Or for that matter, if they dumped money into Breitbart, a news organization that happens to be more trusted to accurately report the news than BuzzFeed.
Good Lord, I haven’t even touched MSNBC, a network that was near-openly in support of Barack Obama’s reelection. Or the nepotistic and embarrassing hiring of Chelsea Clinton. Or parent company Comcast’s toxic and questionable relationship with activist-cum-anchor Al Sharpton.
To clarify, I don’t believe NBC is part of some Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy and that they are actively rooting for liberals and against conservatives. I think the truth is, if anything, more damning: The minds behind Comcast and NBC simply live in a world where the notion of investing in nakedly liberal organizations and publications just isn’t seen as all that unusual. But doing the same for conservative publications is “controversial” and must be avoided.
The most persistent and pernicious biases are those we don’t realize even exist. And that’s the kind of bias at the heart of NBC.
[Image via screengrab]
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